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Politics In The News: Trump And Congress


President Trump made some highly anticipated decisions this week when he decertified the nuclear deal with Iran and ended subsidies to insurance companies that help some low-income people afford insurance. The president's actions throw these issues back to Congress, but Congress hasn't been able to do much about priorities like health care and taxes. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is in our studios. Susan, thanks so much for being with us.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: So is there - is there cause to think putting more items on what's already been called the to-do list of a can't-do Congress will get more things done?

DAVIS: You know, they say Congress tends to have two speeds - lightning fast and glacially slow. It has certainly been a glacially slow year so far in terms of legislative achievements. What the president is doing, though, is adding items to a to-do list that party leaders don't really want. They would like to right now be almost singularly focused on tax cut legislation. And remember, the House is only scheduled to be in session 28 more days this year. So it's leading up to be a very jampacked end of the year, although I would say Congress often does tend to do a lot of things...

SIMON: Right.

DAVIS: ...In very short periods of time.

SIMON: Yeah, in those last few days. But if Republicans have had a hard time getting stuff done on their own, might they turn to Democrats, as the president has invited a couple of times in tweets in recent days?

DAVIS: They will absolutely need Democrats to reach a deal to keep the government open. They've always needed Democrats to do that. And that is where Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this week indicated. Democrats will have leverage, particularly on this question of health care subsidies and whether Congress will decide to fund them. He said he believes they will cut a deal and that they will continue to be funded.

SIMON: Sue, you have been at the Values Voter Summit. That's a conservative Christian gathering in Washington, D.C. The president spoke there yesterday. Now, a few Republican senators have been outspoken to the point of pugnacious. They criticized President Trump's judgment, his deportment, his maturity, even the oath he took to defend the Constitution when he talked about perhaps not relicensing broadcast networks. How are this group of Republican faithful feeling about President Trump today?

DAVIS: I think it may still surprise people that conservative, evangelical Christians remain one of President Trump's strongest bases of support. They voted overwhelming for him - overwhelmingly for him in the election. And he is still hugely popular. Speaking to people there, they are completely behind President Trump, and any frustration they have at politics is almost directly geared at what they consider the Washington establishment and party leaders like Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who they see as impediments to the president. And they would like to just work harder for him. There was almost no frustration, I heard, from the president. Occasionally, you get the I wish he would tweet less, but that was the harshest thing you would hear.

SIMON: So the term may not be party faithful but president faithful.

DAVIS: Absolutely. That's a good way to put it.

SIMON: Yeah. Steve Bannon is going to speak to the Values Voters Summit today, I gather. He's been waging in in Republican primaries, most recently the Alabama Senator - Senate primary where he backed the winning candidate; President Trump didn't. Are party leaders concerned about Steve Bannon now that he's outside of the tent?

DAVIS: These insurgent kind of campaigns have not had a great success rate in defeating incumbents. But I think this year, or in the 2018 midterms, there is reason to be concerned. One of the interesting narratives we're seeing are these candidates are running primary campaigns not against Democrats, not against the president, but against Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. And if these primaries become referendums on party leadership, we could see a lot of disruption in the Republican Party next year.

SIMON: NPR's Susan Davis, thanks so much for being with us.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.