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The White House said President Joe Biden is watching the turmoil on Capitol Hill on the opening day of the new Congress, as Republican leader Kevin McCarthy spars with right-flank colleagues who are refusing to vote for him for House speaker, but insisted the president “will not insert himself into that process.”
Watch the briefing in the player above.
“The president served as a U.S. senator for 34 years and he understands how this process works,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at the first briefing of the year. “This is something that the Republican conference has to figure out on their on their own, and they will do so.”
The future of House leadership remained unclear Tuesday as McCarthy failed in two rounds of voting to become House speaker, a historic defeat with no clear way out as House Republicans dug in for a long, messy start for the new Congress.
WATCH: House of Representatives votes on new speaker as Republicans assume majority
Needing 218 votes in the full House, McCarthy got just 203 in both rounds — less even than Democrat Hakeem Jeffries in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Jean-Pierre also addressed the visit by an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister to a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site for the first time since taking office in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government.
Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the site known to the Jewish people as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound on Tuesday, flanked by a large contingent of police officers. The hilltop site in Jerusalem’s Old City is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jean-Pierre said the White House has “been very clear for preservation of the status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem. Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable, and we will continue to be steadfast on that.”
On Beijing’s threats to hit back at the U.S. and several other nations which have recently imposed COVID-19 testing requirements on passengers coming from China, Jean-Pierre said there is “no cause for retaliation.”
“This decision is based on public health and science,” she said.
WATCH: House Republicans spar over Speaker decision as McCarthy fights to secure votes
Australia and Canada this week joined a growing list of countries requiring travelers from China to take a COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight, as China battles a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus after abruptly easing restrictions that were in place for much of the pandemic.
Other countries including the U.S., UK, India, Japan and several European nations have announced tougher COVID-19 measures on travelers from China amid concerns over a lack of data on infections in China and fears of the possibility that new variants may emerge.
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