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LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Kevin McCarthy is out as House speaker after Democrats joined eight rebellious Republicans in voting to remove him.
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KEVIN MCCARTHY: You need 218. Unfortunately, 4% of our conference can join all the Democrats and dictate who can be the Republican speaker in this House.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Congress now enters uncharted territory, and it's still unclear who the next long-term leader of the chamber will be.
FADEL: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales has been following the turmoil from the Capitol and joins me now. Hi, Claudia.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.
FADEL: Good morning. So what happened yesterday?
GRISALES: So we saw Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz lead this rebellion of eight Republicans you mentioned who voted with Democrats to claim a majority of the votes to oust McCarthy from his speakership. It was a stunning scene in the chamber last night. McCarthy vacillated between a frozen look on his face and laughing, and it ended in this very historic moment.
FADEL: A historic moment in the sense that we've never seen anything like this before. Can we talk about how we got here? I mean, you've been in the Capitol for all of this drama, and Kevin McCarthy has had a difficult path since the beginning of his speakership not even a year ago. Tell us how he got here.
GRISALES: Right. In January, it took 15 rounds for his own party to elect him speaker. He came into the role as one of the weakest speakers in modern times. But despite this, McCarthy did avert a national crisis with two key bipartisan votes in the House this year - the debt limit deal earlier this year and then a bill this past weekend to keep the government open to avert a shutdown. But in the end, it was that last deal that was too much for many hard-liners in his conference who moved to end his speakership.
FADEL: Did McCarthy fight to keep his job?
GRISALES: He argues he did, but truly, this time was marked by a series of unforced errors. A lot of those who voted against him said that he reached out, and when he did, he only solidified their plans to vote against him. One member described his conversation with McCarthy before the vote as condescending. And then in extended remarks to reporters last night, McCarthy was defiant. He attacked everyone who voted against him. But Democrats, for example, who voted to oust him said he did not try to negotiate with them in any way. And this was a culmination of what they saw as a long list of betrayals, from the January 6 attack and his actions that followed to the impeachment inquiry into President Biden today.
FADEL: So now what happens next? I mean, North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry was named as the interim speaker. What do we know about him?
GRISALES: He was formerly in leadership. He left because of chaos. He now chairs the House Financial Services Committee. He's a longtime McCarthy ally. But he has a good relationship with members. That said, he doesn't appear to be interested in holding on to the gavel permanently. But he played a very key role during the debt limit deal, and many trust him.
FADEL: OK, so how do they pick their next person? I mean, this is a really important time in Congress. What do we know about what happens in the future?
GRISALES: Right. This is unchartered territory. And we should note that we're - now we're facing a new government shutdown deadline, November 17. So they have a lot of work to do. So committees can work, but, for example, the House floor is frozen until a speaker is chosen.
I'm told by members there's going to be a candidate forum for the next speaker Tuesday evening, and they'll try to hold a vote on Wednesday. But the list of candidates to replace McCarthy is growing long. And as we heard from McCarthy, 218 is the magic number that may need to be reached for the new speaker. And there's a big if - if they can get to 218.
FADEL: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thanks so much, Claudia.
GRISALES: Thank you.
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MARTÍNEZ: Roman Catholic leaders are meeting at the Vatican starting today to discuss the future of the church.
FADEL: Yeah. Among the topics on the agenda, being more responsive to laity's concerns, women in ministry and being more welcoming of divorced and LGBTQ Catholics.
MARTÍNEZ: Joining us to discuss the meeting is NPR religion correspondent Jason DeRose. Jason, so help us understand what this meeting is actually about.
JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: Well, the term the Vatican is using is a Synod on Synodality, which is a big term which essentially means it's a series of conversations about how the church conceives of itself, listens to itself. This month's meeting is part of a several-yearlong process of listening. Local Catholic parishes began holding listening sessions back in 2021 and 2022, and then reports from those listening sessions went to dioceses and archdioceses and then on to the Vatican. And the report that summarized those sessions came out this summer. It was called "Making The Tent Bigger" (ph).
MARTÍNEZ: OK, so the church did a lot of listening. What did they wind up hearing?
DEROSE: Well, laity said they wanted a church that takes them seriously, a more responsive church, a more bottom-up than top-down approach. I spoke with Professor Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, who says that sentiment matches a metaphor Pope Francis has used during his time leading Roman Catholics.
MASSIMO FAGGIOLI: It's a church as a mother who makes no differences between their children. Whether they are sinners or saints, gay or straight, it makes no difference.
DEROSE: And that's an image that has resonated with so many during Francis' papacy - mother, rather than stern father. Still, there are some conservatives in the church who aren't happy with the direction or the tone that Francis has set. They say all these conversations, all this openness and possibility of change only confuses the faithful.
MARTÍNEZ: OK, so then what were the topics lay Catholics said they specifically wanted the church to think about differently?
DEROSE: Well, the first and one that's been given a lot of attention is the role of women in ministry. This synod at the Vatican will discuss the possibility of allowing women to become deacons in the Catholic Church. Right now, that's a role restricted only to men. Now, deacons can preach and teach and baptize, but unlike priests, they aren't allowed to preside at Communion or hear confession. It's important to note that at this synod, for the first time, there will be women taking part. About 10% of the delegates are women.
Another issue that came out during these listening sessions was that the laity want the church to be more welcoming of all Catholics, especially divorced Catholics and LGBTQ Catholics. Many priests still deny Communion to those who've divorced and remarried. And the official Catholic teaching is that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, which is not exactly welcoming for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Other topics that could be on the table - married priests and the possibility of blessing same-sex couples.
MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, any decisions expected to come out from this synod?
DEROSE: Well, nothing right away. This is a process that moves at the speed of church, which is to say slowly.
DEROSE: The meeting starting today continues until the end of October. And then the Synod on Synodality is actually continuing next October, when delegates will go back to the Vatican and vote on some sort of official document. That would then go up to Vatican hierarchy and the pope himself. Any actual change would come down after that. So it'll be a while, but what comes of it could be defining for Francis' legacy.
MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR religion correspondent Jason DeRose. Jason, thanks.
DEROSE: You're welcome.
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FADEL: China is in the middle of an eight-day nationwide holiday to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day.
MARTÍNEZ: The government is hoping it'll give a big boost to the economy. And tourists have, indeed, been flocking to sites such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and this shopping district in Beijing.
FADEL: NPR China correspondent John Ruwitch stopped by there the other day to take the pulse, and he joins us now. Hi, John.
JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: Good morning.
FADEL: Good morning. So give us a sense of how people are spending their Golden Week holiday.
RUWITCH: Well, they're hitting the road. The government expects nearly 900 million domestic trips to be made during this week.
RUWITCH: Those are journeys on trains, planes, boats and so forth. And analysts expect that to generate more than $100 billion worth of revenue, all told. We'll have the final tally in a few days. Those numbers would actually be improvements on recent years and are pretty decent compared with pre-pandemic numbers.
But on the street, you know, some people say it still feels like something's missing. We talked with a guy named Wang Xinglong. He sells these kind of hand-blown glasslike sculptures that are made of melted sugar that hardens. You can eat them. Kids really dig them. But he's a little bit concerned.
WANG XINGLONG: (Non-English language spoken).
RUWITCH: He's saying here that he thinks people are being conservative about what they spend. He says there's a ton of people out and about, and it was crowded there, but they aren't spending like they used to. He's not selling as much as before. And he points out that fewer people are actually carrying shopping bags, meaning that they hadn't bought anything and they're just there for the experience.
FADEL: So despite the crowds, it sounds like the economy hasn't quite turned a corner yet, right, John?
RUWITCH: Yeah, it kind of feels that way. Look; people expected that when the government dropped its tough COVID restrictions almost a year ago that the rebound would be a lot stronger than it has been. When that didn't happen, analysts and economists started to worry. There's been a lot of hand-wringing.
But I talked to Andy Rothman about this. He's an investment strategist at Matthews Asia, which is a fund management company. He says he thinks that the pessimism has been overdone. The data does show that the economy's weak, but it's improving and certainly not approaching a crisis. He points to things like household income, which is up compared with 2019. Retail sales, EV sales have been soaring.
ANDY ROTHMAN: I think the biggest problem facing the Chinese economy right now is a lack of confidence in government policies on the part of entrepreneurs - the small businesses that drive the Chinese economy, that employ 90% of the urban workforce and create all the new jobs.
RUWITCH: Right. And that's been a real issue. He thinks policy's starting to shift to address it. But, you know, that's created a wariness about making investments, which impacts the future health of the economy. It sort of underpins this weak consumer sentiment that we saw in Beijing, too.
FADEL: And there's another big problem out there - the real estate sector, right?
RUWITCH: Correct. It's a sector that accounts for about a quarter of the Chinese economy. It's where about three-quarters of all households in China park their wealth. The government's been trying to deflate this massive real estate bubble without doing major damage to the economy. But there's a lot of nervousness around it. And it's recently centered around this company called China Evergrande. It's one of the biggest property developers in China. It's been teetering sort of under the weight of more than $300 billion in liabilities. And last week, it said its chairman is under investigation - is the subject of a criminal investigation. That got a lot of people's attention, and it's sort of taken some of the luster off Golden Week.
FADEL: NPR's John Ruwitch in Beijing. Thanks for that update.
RUWITCH: You're welcome.
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