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Week In Politics: It's All About The Shutdown


The 115th Congress is having a heck of a finale - a government shutdown that has now stretched through Christmas and is headed into the new year. There are footsteps under the Capitol dome, but they're from tourists. Elected officials have mostly slunk home.

Thankfully, Ron Elving is still working. He's our senior Washington correspondent and editor. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So is there even any pretense that Congress is, at least, trying to solve this and get this partial government shutdown over with?

ELVING: Debbie, the current Congress is, as you say, basically over and done. They could have come back and tried to do something this week, but the two sides are just too far apart. And by the two sides, I mean the two parties, the two chambers - House and Senate - and the president and the Congress.

The Senate did pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government open into February, and that was unanimous in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike - no dissent. But on the House side, the lame-duck Republican majority decided to make this their last stand by backing the president on his demand for a wall.

ELLIOTT: Meanwhile, the president is pretty much dug in and continues to raise the stakes on Twitter, even threatening to close the Southern border.

ELVING: He's threatened that before without following through. And, look; the two countries do hundreds of billions in trade every year, so any border closure would cause enormous economic disruption, as well as human disruption. And that would just be raising the stakes still further. And the president is not gaining right now by raising the stakes. Polls show him getting the blame for the shutdown. And most of the country doesn't think the wall is all that important, and that's the easiest explanation for why this government shutdown happened in the first place.

There had been a deal to avoid it, but the president was suddenly in trouble with many conservatives over his pullout from Syria, among other things. And he needs his base behind him, with all these investigations going on into his business and his campaign and his charities and everything else that says, Trump. So Democrats see all of that and just lick their chops.

ELLIOTT: So both sides not giving an inch, right? So how is this going to end?

ELVING: The Democrats will be in charge in the House as of next week. They're going to pass something like the temporary funding bill that we mentioned the Senate approved last month. Then the Senate is going to be hard-pressed to reject what they had unanimously approved. And if they do pass it, it goes to the president's desk. And at that point, does the president veto it and keep the government shut down? If so, that's when the real negotiations begin.

And perhaps the House and Senate can find a way to give the president a little more money or more accommodating language about fencing so he can declare victory and say he's got his wall at long last. And if he can do that, perhaps, then the government can reopen.

ELLIOTT: So other than the effect on people's pocketbooks, which is real and we shouldn't understate, is there other collateral damage here for Trump with Senate Republicans?

ELVING: He has put them in a very difficult situation. He's put every Republican senator on the hot seat. Lots of them are on the ballot in 2020. And we haven't even begun to see Robert Mueller's final report or the outcome of the other probes of the president's various affairs, be they business or political or personal.

ELLIOTT: And quickly, I'd like to ask about this race in North Carolina we've been following where there've been allegations of election fraud. And the North Carolina State Elections Board dissolved yesterday. How does that story end?

ELVING: The governor of North Carolina is trying to reconstitute that elections board, deal with the evidence of fraud. But right now, there is no board, and no winner has been declared.

Mark Harris, the Republican candidate, has claimed victory, but it seems a number of absentee ballots were improperly collected by someone associated with his campaign. So no one will be seated from this district when Congress convenes this week, and there may have to be a new election in the new year.

ELLIOTT: Well, that's NPR's Ron Elving. Thank you, Ron.

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

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