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One Of The First Votes Of The New Congress Will Be A Democratic Effort To End Shutdown


Democrats now officially control the House of Representatives, and Nancy Pelosi is once again speaker of the House. The transfer of power on the Capitol comes in the middle of an increasingly drawn-out shutdown of a quarter of the federal government. Later tonight, some of the first votes of the new Congress will be a Democratic effort to end that shutdown. It's expected to pass the House, but Senate Republicans and President Trump say they won't take it seriously. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is on the Capitol. He joins us now, and let's start with this big shift. How much of a difference will the new majority make?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: A big difference. Democrats already have the votes to block or approve a funding deal since the Senate needs 60 votes. And Republicans don't have that. But Democrats never had the power to do what they'll do later today. And that's write bills with what they want in them and call for a vote on them when they want. They can now set the agenda, and that's a big difference. So today after winning her election to become speaker of the House again, Nancy Pelosi stuck to big themes talking about broader Democratic priorities. But she did briefly address the funding bill in her speech.


NANCY PELOSI: We will do so...


PELOSI: We will do so to meet the needs of the American people, to protect our borders and to respect our workers.

CORNISH: What exactly is in the House bill?

DETROW: So there are going to be two different measures. The first one is a short-term funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. That's a funding area that's the focal point of this dispute, right? President Trump wants that $5 billion for a border wall. The Democratic bill does not include it, and it would go into early February and give more time for negotiations. The second bill would fund the rest of the unfunded departments through September. That's the rest of the fiscal year. Pelosi is calling this a Republican bill because it passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled Senate last month. Of course that was before President Trump reversed course and decided he wouldn't sign a measure that did not include wall funding. He is sticking to that - and because of that, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate says he would not call this Democratic bill - these bills to the floor in the Senate.

CORNISH: We're now nearly two weeks into this shutdown. Any signs that either side is seeing any political fallout?

DETROW: You know, for the most part, no. Neither side is acting like it. That's such a big difference from previous shutdowns. Go to the Democratic-forced shutdown from about a year ago which Senate Democrats did in order to try and force some action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In that case just days into it, Democrats realized they were getting the blame for the shutdown. And they reversed course. Here, both sides mostly feel confident. But the longer it goes on, the more real-world repercussions there will be. Federal employees will start to actually hit paydays and not get paychecks. More services will shut down. Here in Washington, the Smithsonian museums closed a few days ago. They had been using reserved money up until that point. Most of Republicans are confident. Here's something that Republican Minority Whip Liz Cheney said at the beginning of the congressional session today.


LIZ CHENEY: Leader McCarthy led us in passing legislation to secure our borders, keep our nation safe, end the devastating practice of sanctuary cities and - yes, madam clerk - build the wall.


DETROW: But we are starting to see little, tiny cracks on the Republican side, and that's notable. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Maine Senator Susan Collins both told news outlets today they want to see a resolution even without the wall funding. And that matters because they are both up for re-election next year in more moderate states.

CORNISH: What happens next?

DETROW: Next thing to look for - there's a meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning at the White House with the president and legislative leaders from both parties.

CORNISH: That's NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow. Scott, thank you.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.