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Congress Returns From Thanksgiving Break


This week's news reminds us that in Congress, everything is connected. The same 535 lawmakers vote on everything, so they link one issue to another. Right now Republicans are pondering how to respond to an action by President Obama. The president took unilateral action on immigration. Republicans are looking for ways to answer that IN how they act on other issues. All this happens as funding to keep the government going runs out on December 11. Cokie Roberts is here with us as she is most Mondays. Hi, Cokie.


INSKEEP: So could the government shut down?

ROBERTS: Sure, it could. I don't think it will, but it could. People in the Congress - Republicans who feel strongly that they want to show the president that they are very displeased with his actions on immigration. And this is the way the out-of-power party uses its power in the Congress is to - on spending bills. And this Congress has taken it to the fare thee well. So they want to keep the option open all the time of shutting down the government if they don't like something. So instead of passing a bill that kept the government going until the end of the fiscal year, which is next October, they did it just till December 11.

So now Republicans are saying, well, maybe we'll fund some of the government, or maybe we'll do it on a month-by-month basis just to show the president how upset we are. Or maybe we'll fund everything but the Department of Homeland Security, which deals with immigration. Now other people in the party have said, wait a minute, first of all most of these immigration plans are paid for by fees not appropriations. But secondly, do you really want to give short shrift to the Department of Homeland Security when 72 percent of the voters told exit pollsters they're worried about a terrorist threat? So that's probably not a politically wise idea. But, you know, Mitch McConnell said when he first was - realized the Republicans would take the Senate...


ROBERTS: ...Said no government shutdown, but others in the party don't want to hear that.

INSKEEP: Possible that lawmakers could block President Obama's nominees to secretary of defense and attorney general?

ROBERTS: That's entirely possible. We don't even know who the secretary of defense nominee's going to be.


ROBERTS: So the chances of that happening before the new Congress is pretty slim. The attorney general hearings are likely to turn into an immigration hearing. And maybe now some questions about Ferguson, Missouri, although Congress has been pretty silent on that question. And then there's Antonio Weiss, who is the nominee for undersecretary of the treasury. And his problem is with Democrats in the Senate, and mainly Elizabeth Warren who opposes the fact that he is - represents Wall Street.

INSKEEP: Isn't there also a divide among Democrats when it comes to taxes? There were some tax extenders, as they're called, that are supposed to be voted on this month.

ROBERTS: Absolutely, and that's what we're seeing. A big rift is showing up in the Democratic Party between the people like Elizabeth Warren and her allies who are saying enough for the rich, we have to be much more cognizant of people who are hurting in the country, and others in the party who are saying, wait a minute, we have to be very clear that we are not hurting any jobs by keeping these corporate taxes high, and we have to pay attention to middle-class workers. It's interesting on Friday - the Friday after Thanksgiving, Steve - late at night a new member of the Senate Leadership Team, Mark Warner, balancing off Elizabeth Warren who got one of those leadership positions, Mark Warner much more moderate.

INSKEEP: Cokie, thanks as always. That's Cokie Roberts on this Monday morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.