Susan Davis

Producer, The State of Things

The most important political issues of the past year will be on display Tuesday night, not only in what President Trump says in his State of the Union address but in who will be in the audience.

Furloughed federal workers, Border Patrol agents, immigrants, school shooting survivors and the first inmate to benefit from a new criminal justice law will be among those to gather in the chamber of the U.S. House.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

A formal committee of congressional negotiators held its first, and maybe only, public meeting on Wednesday to kick off talks to reach a border security deal that President Trump will support.

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

After an at-times heated debate, the Senate on Thursday, as expected, failed to approve either of the competing measures that would have ended the standoff over border wall funding.

If nothing else, the votes seemed to spur a flurry of efforts to find a way to end the standoff. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., announced on the Senate floor after the measures failed that he spoke with President Trump about a three-week stopgap bill to reopen the government.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

Pressure mounted on Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King on Tuesday as a top House Republican leader called on him to resign over his recent comments to The New York Times on white supremacy.

"We do not support it or agree with it, and as I said I think he should find another line of work," House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., told reporters Tuesday morning.

Updated at 2:11 a.m. ET Tuesday

House Republican leaders moved Monday to remove Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, from two committees as a punishment for his recent comments in a New York Times interview where he was quoted questioning why the terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" are considered offensive.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

President Trump abruptly halted spending talks at the White House on Wednesday, after congressional Democrats again rejected his demand for a $5.7 billion border wall.

On Twitter, Trump dismissed the negotiations as a "total waste of time," as a partial government shutdown stretched into its 19th day. He added, "I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

Updated at 6:29 p.m. ET

The new House Democratic majority is promising to do something the party avoided when it last controlled the levers of power in Washington: pass gun legislation enhancing background check requirements for all gun purchases.

Top Democrats announced late Sunday a series of changes to House rules that could eliminate causes of major instability during the previous eight years of Republican rule in Congress.

"We are proposing historic changes that will modernize Congress, restore regular order and bring integrity back to this institution," said incoming House Rules Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass., in a statement explaining the changes.

Within sight of the U.S. Capitol dome, a new dome is about to open. It's on the playground of a new day care facility exclusively for U.S. House employees, and the playground is designed in part to look like a kid-sized National Mall.

"This is the only Washington Monument in D.C. that you can climb up," joked House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who helped inspire the playground's design.

The House of Representatives will vote on a funding bill to end the partial government shutdown on Thursday, the first day of the new Congress when Democrats will take control of the chamber and are expected to elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as speaker.

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President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to move swiftly to confirm the justice to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy before the court reconvenes on October 1.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan's office announced late Tuesday a vote on two immigration bills next week to address the legal status of people brought to the U.S. as children.

Specific details of the two bills will be released Wednesday morning. They are aimed at appeasing the ideological wings of the House GOP. One is expected to be a more conservative measure preferred by the House Freedom Caucus, and the other a more moderate one supported by more centrist Republicans.

Speaker Paul Ryan disputed President Trump's attacks on the Justice Department and their handling of an ongoing investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign, telling reporters he's seen "no evidence" to back up Trump's claims that his operation was spied on by the federal government.

Ryan said he concurs with House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy's assessment that the FBI acted properly and within the law when it used an informant to meet with Trump campaign operatives in 2016.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday he is canceling the annual August recess to deal with a legislative backlog he blamed on the chamber's Democratic minority.

"Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president's nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled," McConnell said in a statement that made official a decision that had been anticipated for weeks.

Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week to confront an unplanned and unpredictable immigration debate. Republicans and Democrats alike believe the outcome could be a decisive factor for voters in elections this November that will determine control of Congress.

A divided House GOP Conference will hold a closed-door session on Thursday to build a strategy around immigration legislation scheduled for the floor the third week of June — a deal promised to the rank-and-file by reluctant GOP leaders before the Memorial Day break.

For Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 2018 could be defined by one word: judges.

More than any other issue or cause in this midterm election year, the Kentucky Republican says he is focusing the chamber's agenda on confirming as many of President Trump's lifetime judicial appointments as possible before the end of the year.

At a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., urged House Republicans to resist the urge to sign on to a discharge petition to force the House to vote on contentious immigration legislation.

Even 2,000 miles away from Washington, D.C., Sen. John McCain can still make news.

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The final Indiana Senate Republican debate ahead of Tuesday's primary election was not exactly a battle of ideas because, as the moderator noted at the top, there isn't much ideological diversity between the three candidates in the race.

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New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez escaped federal criminal prosecution. But he couldn't escape the judgment of his Senate colleagues.

The bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee unanimously issued a rare rebuke on Thursday, formally admonishing the senator for his conduct over a six-year period with his longtime friend and political ally Dr. Salomon Melgen.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

Mike Pompeo is on track to become secretary of state after a key Republican senator gave a last-minute endorsement of the CIA director.

The secretary of state-designate's nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Monday night on a party-line vote. The vote was 10 Republicans for Pompeo, nine Democrats against. One Democrat voted present.

Politics isn't always red or blue. Lately, it has been green.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level, adding a high-profile advocate in the effort to decriminalize, legalize and normalize marijuana use in America.

Schumer's legislation would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under a 1970 law that classifies marijuana as dangerous as heroin for legal and regulatory purposes.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will not seek re-election in the fall.

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Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election and will retire in January.

"You all know I did not seek this job," Ryan said, addressing reporters. "I took it reluctantly. ... I have no regrets."

Ryan, 48, cited wanting to be around his adolescent children more often.

"My kids aren't getting any younger," Ryan said, "and if I stay, they'll only know me as a weekend dad. That's it right there."

The latest flash point in the nation's gun debate sent millions of Americans marching into the streets over the weekend in cities like Denver to call for stricter gun laws.

"I've never, until this year I haven't contributed a dime in my entire life to anybody's campaign. This year? I've given more money than I ever thought I would do," said David Frieder, a retiree who attended Saturday's gun march in downtown Denver.

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