What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

An ‘extraordinary’ day in Washington as shutdown looms over new Congress

On the first day of the new Congress and 13th of the partial government shutdown, political posturing distracted from progress on policy. Newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised bipartisanship, while President Trump reiterated his belief that a border wall would keep Americans safer. For more on Washington's big day, Judy Woodruff is joined by Lisa Desjardins.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This has been a day of political pageantry, and real change in the U.S. Congress. But the partial government shutdown goes on, at 13 days and counting.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage of this day's events.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As instructed by the Constitution, at noon, the new Congress convened, sweeping in one of the largest turnovers in the Capitol in recent history, with nearly 100 new lawmakers, a generational shift captured by selfies.

    In the House, a change in power as enthusiastic Democrats gained control.

  • Man:

    House Democrats are down with NDP.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And NDP, or Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi, proved her vote-counting ability, winning back her old job as speaker with 220 votes, three more than she needed for a majority.

    In the end, just 12 Democrats voted for others, with three voting present.

    Following tradition, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy introduced Pelosi.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.:

    I extend to you this gavel.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Pelosi pointed to change, starting with the new faces in the chamber.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    Our Congress will be refreshed, and our democracy will be strengthened by their optimism, idealism and patriotism of this transformative freshman class.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As she ushered in a new era of divided government, Pelosi tried to straddle politics, outlining an agenda for the left, tackling income disparity and climate change, with a message for the middle.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan and unifying.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As the House moved left…

  • Man:

    The Senate will come to order.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    … the Senate moved right, with Republicans increasing their majority to 53 votes. Seven of nine new senators sworn in are Republicans, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

    It is a divided day for democracy as well, a peaceful transition of power, but as government has failed at a basic function, keeping itself funded. The partial government shutdown has frozen or cut pay for hundreds of thousands of workers, who have no time for the ceremony of a new Congress.

  • Tresha Taylor:

    I have lost a full, almost a full paycheck's — a full paycheck worth of income because of the shutdown already.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And you won't get it back?

  • Tresha Taylor:

    And I will not get that back. No.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tresha Taylor is a federal contractor who works for a private company with a contract at the State Department. So, both she and her company are out of work during the shutdown and won't get repaid. We met her yesterday at one of many Washington-area restaurants offering a free meal or drink to cheer up furloughed workers.

  • Tresha Taylor:

    This looks so good. Happy new year to you, too. Thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So far, she says she's getting by OK by putting off big groceries for her and her son. She's worried about rent. But mostly she's angry at Congress and the White House for seeming to ignore the real people affected by this fight.

  • Tresha Taylor:

    It's not like everyone is making beaucoup bucks in the government and we're all living large and we have these big houses and things like that.

    There are people that have worked for the government for years and they still live paycheck to paycheck. So they rely on that money. Yes, if the government opens, yes, they may get a paycheck next week, but it may be a month from now. It may be two months from now. It may be longer.

  • Donald Trump:

    So, happy new year. Happy new year.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Adding to the unusual events, late today, President Trump took to the podium in the White House press room for the first time, surrounded by Border Patrol and immigration officers, but he began with a nod to the new speaker.

  • Donald Trump:

    I just want to start by congratulating Nancy Pelosi on being elected speaker of the House. It's a very, very great achievement. And, hopefully, we're going to work together, and we're going to get lots of things done.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president went on to say that he needs barrier funding for the border.

    It is a bifurcated moment. The House and Senate are the most diverse in history, including the first Muslim women and first Native American women in Congress. The Capitol has opened to younger lawmakers and more female members than ever before.

    But this Congress starts as doors are closed to a quarter of government for federal workers and for the American public. And there's no indication of how long that could last.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now.

    So, Lisa, we know the Democrats have their own ideas about funding. Tell us a little bit about that. And with this change in power in the House, is there a shift in thinking about the shutdown?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    First to the Democrats' plans. We have talked about this before.

    We do expect them to pass two bills tonight, one in the House only. Democrats would pass a bill that would reopen most of the shut-down government and fund them for the rest of the year. A separate bill would fund the Department of Homeland Security for one month with no wall funding. And that would just be that temporary funding.

    Now, we expect these to pass the House, as I said, but go nowhere in the Senate at this point. Also, it's worth pointing out that I have just received a note from Nancy Pelosi's office that she is expected to come speak to cameras not long from now and to respond, I think, to some of what President Trump and others on his behalf has said today about the shutdown.

    And to answer your bigger question, Judy, what has this new Congress meant for the shutdown situation, right now, Judy, it feels like it's actually meant that it has gotten worse, even more than yesterday. Today, I felt such a sense of everyone giving up control over the situation.

    For example, I saw — I heard Republican — I confirmed with Republican Senator Shelby, the head of the Appropriations Committee, he has said that it is possible this shutdown could go months and months.

    When you ask Democrats about that on the House side, some of them got back to me and said, jokingly, what is the longest shutdown we have ever had? I said it was 21 days in 1995. And they laughed. They said, looks like we're going to get there.

    So there's a real sort of nonchalance up here that is really hard to parse with the fact that real people are having their lives put on hold at the least and some of them overturned because of this, or having — facing upheaval.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And as we as we heard from that woman you were speaking with.

    So, Lisa, if that's what the Democrats are saying, what about the Republicans? What are they saying about the shutdown right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is interesting. There's a divide there.

    I talked to a Republican, Jim Jordan, who is the only other Republicans you get votes for speaker today, head of the Freedom Caucus at one point. He used to be a founder of the Freedom Caucus, and he told me that he doesn't expect the president to change at all. He is telling the president keep dug in and to demand the money for the wall.

    He thinks this is the moment. On the other hand, we saw two senators today. Cory Gardner of Colorado came out and said he would support a bill to reopen most of government. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine intimated the same. She didn't go quite as far. But she basically got across the idea that she wants to reopen as much of government as possible.

    So Republicans themselves are split, significant that some Republicans are breaking with the president's strategy right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then, meanwhile, the White House appears to be doubling down. As you pointed out, the president came out into the press Briefing Room. He'd never done that before, brought border agents with them. They issued a — he tweeted both an — or I guess did an Instagram post and was tweeting a video.

    How are you reading all that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. Extraordinary, all of this.

    So, first, that Instagram post sort of was a reference to "Game of Thrones" the president saying a wall is coming. And that's obviously a feudal society on HBO. It's kind of a get-tough look, I think, from the president.

    But, moreover, let's talk a little bit about what the president said. At one point, he said that there is the greatest number of people crossing illegally now that we have ever seen.

    Judy, that doesn't comport with the government's own facts. We know that, in fact, for decades, the numbers have been going down. And Border Patrol apprehensions have gone down — went down 80 percent since the year 2000, about 300,000 people in 2017.

    So it's important to keep in mind the facts as this political debate seems to be freezing our politicians from taking any action at the moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Absolutely important to keep — keep track of the facts. And, Lisa, we're going to have to come back to you later to find out what Speaker Pelosi had to say.

    Lisa, thank you.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest