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Congress Wraps Up Spending Measure Before Holiday Recess


For some more analysis on this and political events the come in the weeks ahead, we're joined now - as we are most Mondays - by Cokie Roberts. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: All right, we just heard Senator Warren say - very emphatically and repeatedly - she's not running for president. But there are so many people in the Democratic Party who seem to want her to. So what do you think? One last time - is she running for president?

ROBERTS: Look, it's my view, Renee, that the whole Senate is always running for president. You know, that the guys in the Senate paint the seal of the presidency of the United States on their shaving mirrors just so they can get used to it. But look, most don't get the kind of encouragement she has. Those 300 former Obama staffers and campaign workers, the liberal organization MoveOn have all asked her to run for president.

So it makes it impossible not to think about it more - but much more important how to act on it. Would she have made the stand she did over the issue on banking changes, where almost every Democrat in the House had voted for a bill that that did go through the House of Representatives to do just - to make those changes - would she have done that if she didn't have presidential ambitions? That's just very hard to know.

It's Christmastime. Colleagues are never happy when you throw up obstacles to keeping the government going and getting out of town, and she did it anyway. Why? So it's not lost on anybody in Congress that the other person who played that role of keeping Congress in town was Ted Cruz, the Republican of Texas, who wanted to sink the bill over the president's actions on immigration. He made no friends on his side of the aisle over this either. But neither he nor Elizabeth Warren cares much about alienating colleagues, which leads you to believe that they don't see the Senate as their long-term home, the place they plan to spend much time. That's a very different approach from the people who are there actually trying get things done.

MONTAGNE: But of course, Senator Cruz failed to get his Republican colleagues to support a measure defunding Obama's immigration initiatives in the spending bill. And Republicans also did not include language about tackling Obamacare as they have in the past. But even with that, Democrats in the House voted overwhelmingly against the bill, despite...


MONTAGNE: ...The White House lobbying hard enough.

ROBERTS: Right. Yes, well, there's a lot going on here. The Democrats don't want to be ignored, and they're not feeling the same need to compromise because they are really, really in the minority now. And the people that Nancy Pelosi at one point called her majority makers - that is moderate Democrats - are gone for the most part. So now the Democrats can play a minority role with - with Democrats in the Senate also in the minority - of just say no. Except the problem is it's their president in the White House and it harms him, and ultimately the party. I mean, it's really something, Renee, that the White House chief of staff had to come personally to the Capitol and beg for votes on this bill and it still didn't convince the majority of Democrats.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, so this is it? This is a new Congress - Democrats bucking their president, Republicans bucking their leaders?

ROBERTS: Probably, which is ironic because for the first time we have some somewhat moderate Republicans ready to cross the aisle in the Congress, but it's going to be hard for them to find Democrats to meet on the other side.

MONTAGNE: Thanks as always. That's Cokie Roberts.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Renee. 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.
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