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Congress scrambles to wrap up legislation before the holiday

With the holidays and a deadline to avoid a government shutdown fast approaching, Senate Republicans are working on a short-term funding deal as a compromise on the president’s demand for border wall funding. But some wonder if the timing of the plan would deliver a “gift” to the newly Democratic House. Judy Woodruff turns to Lisa Desjardins for an update from a busy Capitol Hill.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn now to Congress.

    It was a busy day for the U.S. House and Senate, as they negotiate a deal to fund the government before a Friday deadline.

    To bring us up to speed on where things stand, I'm joined by our own Lisa Desjardins.

    Hello, Lisa.

    So, two days away. They were supposed to vote, we were told, on some sort of funding measure today. It didn't happen. What happened?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, it looked like it was on the fast track this morning. There are a few holdups.

    One of them is a series of public lands bills that Republican senators, especially from rural states, like, say, Republican Steve Daines in Montana, want passed. They include something called the Lands, Water and Conservation Fund. That's something that Republicans like because it is funding for easements, so loggers can get to public lands. But it also has some restrictions on mining, say, outside of Yellowstone Park.

    They're saying this has to go in the C.R. And they're trying to work this out right now at this late hour.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    C.R. being the continuing resolution.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The jargon.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I'm too much in my head, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have spent too much time on the Hill. We're glad you're here.

    So, if this — if this is resolved, what would be in this short-term agreement that they would come together on?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So they're talking about — let's look at the calendar here and how this might work.

    They're talking about February 8, extending funding for these unfunded agencies until February 8. But here's the politics involved, Judy. Of course, on January 3, that is when Democrats are scheduled to take over the House of Representatives.

    And then, a couple weeks after that, that's when we expect President Trump to announce his State of the Union. So some Republicans now — and this is the other problem tonight — think this timeline is terrible for them, especially conservatives.

    Mark Meadow, the head — Mark Meadows, the head of the Freedom Caucus, tweeted out that he thinks this is a Valentine's Day gift to Democrats and that this scenario would mean no chance for wall funding, at least for the next two years.

    So, tonight, those conservatives are taking to the House floor and calling for a shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Huh. So, a lot of action right now.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A lot of action.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, just a few hours left in this Congress, apparently.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What else are they looking at? Because we know, you have told us, a lot can happen at the last minute.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    There's a large bill about extending some other tax cuts. That's a normal process. But we're going to watch what's in that. But I want to call attention to one bill in particular called Savanna's Act. This is something that passed the Senate unanimously, and it deals with Native American women and the violence against them.

    Judy, they have 10 times the likelihood of being murdered; 82 percent of Native American women have experienced violence. The Senate passed this unanimously just to help agencies coordinate and track violence against them.

    But one House member, Republican Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has said he will not let it go on a fast track through the House. And right now, they're trying to work out language. But it looks like this one Republican is going to hold up this bill.

    They're negotiating, but just now, I got some information from sources that say they are not sure they can work out a deal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But one person in that — in a position like that can make — can — has so much power.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. That's right, at this last minute, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And when we're in this situation.

    And just quickly, finally, Speaker the House Paul Ryan, retiring after some 20 years, farewell message today.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, he talked about things that he hadn't achieved.

    And I think that's why his legacy is so interesting. He's very proud of his once-in-a-generation tax cuts, but he wanted them to be more sweeping. And he also wanted to do entitlement reform, things he didn't get done.

    Also, he leaves with more debt and a much higher deficit than when he came into office. It's fascinating, Judy, talking to Republican members. He has around him a core of true believers who really think he is a true public servant.

    But most Republicans, Judy, neither love nor hate Paul Ryan as he's on his way out. And so that's an interesting statement about a top leader.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Huh. Well, we will continue to maybe look back at his legacy.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And see what he does next.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And see what he does next.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, we're glad you're here.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

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