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Wednesday US briefing: Senate to vote on bills that could end shutdown

Wednesday US briefing: Senate to vote on bills that could end shutdown

Top story: Two duelling bills to face Senate vote on Thursday

The US Senate will vote on two bills designed to end the partial government shutdown on Thursday. A Republican-backed measure would include the $5.7bn in funding for a southern border wall demanded by Donald Trump, while a bill brought by Democrats would extend funding for government agencies until 8 February to allow further time for negotiations. Whether either bill can pass remains to be seen, but their introduction marks the first sign of legislative movement amid the shutdown, now in its 33rd day.

  • Vote numbers. Democrats probably have enough votes to block any proposal that funds Trump’s wall, and they would need at least 13 Republicans to back their bill to reach the necessary 60-vote threshold. So neither bill seems likely to pass.
  • A Guardian investigation has revealed that more than 100 free-market thinktanks on several continents are supporting cigarette manufacturers by taking favourable positions against tobacco control policies or accepting donations from the tobacco industry. Major firms including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco have made donations, while leading US thinktanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute are among those in the Guardian’s database who have accepted them and gone on to comment on tobacco policy.
    • Cancer links. One Africa-based thinktank questioned whether the link between cancer and smoking “was yet to be empirically established” before walking the claim back.
    • Malaysia deaths. An influential thinktank helped quash a World Health Organization recommendation to increase cigarette taxes in Malaysia, where smoking kills more than 27,200 people every year
    • Ron DeSantis, the new Republican governor of Florida, is facing the first challenge to his fresh environmental approach after trying to wrest control of state water policy from industry interests, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Rick Scott. DeSantis has demanded the mass resignation of Scott’s water management team, after they refused to delay a lease extension for a sugar corporation on land in the Everglades wetlands, which DeSantis wants earmarked for a clean-water storage reservoir.
      • Green governor. DeSantis recently unveiled a $2.5bn environmental package, partly in response to the “red tide” of toxic algae that afflicted Florida in 2018, and which DeSantis said had “devastated our local economies and threatened the health of our communities”
      • Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has declared the demise of South America’s “Bolivarian” left in his first appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, insisting the region is entering an era of uncorrupted governance under conservative leadership such as his. But his international debut was eclipsed by domestic scandal as his son Flávio, a recently elected senator, was linked to a violent organised crime group in Rio de Janeiro in a report by one of the country’s leading newspapers.

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