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Back In Session, Congress Faces Budget Bill, ISIS Threat

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

After a five week summer recess, Congress is back to business.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The House will be in order.

The House will be in order, for two weeks, before taking off until after the November elections. There is a lot to do in those two weeks - pass a bill so the government doesn't shut down again, decide the fate of the agency that helps businesses finance U.S. exports and also figure out what to do about the terrorist threat of ISIS. NPR senior correspondent Ron Elving joins us. And Ron, it sounds like a tall order for two weeks.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Tall, indeed. But, given the track record of this Congress, the order of business might seem tall at any height.

SIEGEL: Let's start with spending. Congress needs to pass a temporary spending measure so that the government doesn't shut down as it did last fall. Will they make that deadline?

ELVING: Yes. This is the one thing we can predict with some confidence. Both the House and Senate will pass temporary spending measures, they call them continuing resolutions, before the deadline of September 30. That will keep the federal show on the road, at least until December. Most Republicans, you know Robert, feel pretty good right now about their prospects in the November elections. So they don't want another political setback like they suffered with the partial shutdown we had last fall.

SIEGEL: Then we have the future of the Export-Import Bank. Remind people what that is and what has to be decided.

ELVING: This is a federal agency that helps private companies get financing and do business and compete in other countries. And the company with the biggest beneficiary really is Boeing and they say they need the Ex-Im to help them battle with Airbus around the world.

And you know, the Ex-Im Bank has had a lot of critics. People call it corporate welfare on both the right and the left. But it also has a lot of corporate support - many friends in both parties. So right now, it appears there will be a short-term extension of their authority to exist and it will be included either in the temporary spending measure we mentioned a moment ago, or possibly pass as a freestanding bill and then issue will be back after the November election.

SIEGEL: Now, overshadowing these things is what to do about the extremists who now call themselves the Islamic State. President Obama says he's going to seek congressional support tomorrow and then describe the game plan on Wednesday in a speech.

ELVING: Yes, we heard the president say yesterday he would like to have the support of Congress for airstrikes and other measures against this group. Here's a little bit of what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do think it's important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy-in, to debate it and that's why we've been consulting with Congress throughout. And this speech will allow Congress, I think, to understand very clearly and very specifically what it is that we are doing, but also what we're not doing.

ELVING: You know, right about now Robert, I think it'd be a good time for the president to have united support in this Congress for just about anything. I think he would be up for that. And especially something as thorny and thankless as what the U.S. is doing in Iraq, after extricating ourselves from that country after a long period of time. So the key question is whether the president will go forward if he doesn't get a specific authority from Congress, which some people feel he needs, or a fresh chunk of cash. He might ask for one or the other, or both. But you also hear people in both the administration and on the Hill saying that the president already has enough authority for the kind of airstrikes he's already ordered and there's enough money in what's called the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund - money the Pentagon already has - so that the president could proceed. You know, he'd love a big slap on the back from Congress right now, but he doesn't absolutely think he needs it to proceed.

SIEGEL: Yes. He hasn't specifically asked either for that big chunk of cash or for a special authorization, but he has used the phrase, buy-in. He wants some congressional buy-in.

ELVING: He'd love to have them have some skin in the game. He would love to have them express the kind of support they have for presidents in the past. But the White House is wary of asking for it too directly, lest the Congress, in some sense or another, failed to supply.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's senior correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks.

ELVING: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Siegel is senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel is still at it hosting the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reporting on stories and happenings all over the globe. As a host, Siegel has reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.