Government shutdown, Build Back Better bill, bigotry and other issues at stake in Congress

Congress is back and facing a high stakes December on Capitol Hill. Funding for the government runs out on Friday, and lawmakers are scrambling to avoid a shutdown. On top of that, Senate Democrats have a long to-do list of items to pass before the holidays, including President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Judy Woodruff is joined by Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins with more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congress is back and facing a high-stakes December on Capitol Hill. Funding for the federal government runs out on Friday, and lawmakers are scrambling to avoid a shutdown.

    On top of that, Senate Democrats have a long to-do list of items to pass before the holidays, including President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

    For more on all of this. I'm joined by our congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins.

    So, Lisa, a lot to keep track of here.

    So, let's start with the deadlines, government funding, the debt ceiling. Is the government going to run out of money?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    OK, short version here, we are back again at a crisis point, but, this time, it does feel like off-ramps are being built.

    Let me talk to you about the longer version, what I mean here. Let's look at a graphic. Now, what — the first deadline is — you're talking about is government funding running out on Friday. What's going on with that now? Talks are under way. And I can report there is a likely deal to extend a temporary funding bill into mid-January, maybe early February.

    They're just working out that date. We expect action that as soon as tomorrow. The other deadline, the debt ceiling, that could hit middle or late December. Depends on a little bit what they do with some Highway Trust Fund money, what's going on with that.

    Here's something we haven't seen in a while. Senators Schumer and McConnell, the two leaders of their party, are talking quietly. They are saying they are making progress. This is a change from McConnell's very defiant stance just a few months ago, when he said Republicans would not help raise the debt ceiling. He is not saying that now.

    So there is hope that there could be a deal and we could get through this crisis with a lot less stress than last time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    When there's cooperation, it's news.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sadly, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, meantime, we know, before the Thanksgiving break, Democrats in the House passed this big Build Back Better bill, the president's priority, sent it over to the Senate.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Where does it stand?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All right, I'm going to talk about this in two ways, first the content, what's happening there.

    A flurry of meetings, especially if you're a senator named Joe Manchin. You're in a lot of meetings today. He's talking a lot about energy, about the carbon offsets perhaps in this bill, climate change, what he wants. He has not yet committed to support the Build Back Better bill. He seems to be getting on board, but he's not there yet. That's important.

    The second thing I want to talk about is the timing. We learned today — I learned from my sources and from at least one senator on the record they believe they're going to need a few more weeks than they wanted to work things out with the Senate parliamentarian, because, remember, to get through this reconciliation process, so they only need 50 votes, they need the parliamentarian's OK.

    The Senate parliamentarian is now undergoing cancer treatment. So it's taking a little bit more time. They still think they can get through it. But the bottom line here, Judy, is, I think the Build Back Better bill will not make it to the Senate floor for at least two weeks. In that time, we will have a lot of time to look at what's in it. And so will Democrats in terms of carving out what the final version looks like.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Time may not be the friend of — a friend of the Democrats.

    And, Lisa, meanwhile, while the Senate's busy with all this, there has been an episode, another episode in the House. This time, the congresswoman from Colorado Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert has made some anti-Muslim remarks about another congresswoman, Ilhan Omar.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bring us up to date on that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    First, why are we talking about this? We're talking about this because this is part of what I see and many others see as a rise in dangerous, inflammatory personal attacks from our lawmakers themselves, attacks that we have known in the past have led to real-world violence.

    So let's talk about what Representative Boebert said. On the floor of the House — this began about a week-and-a-half ago — during debate, she referred Representative Omar as part of the "jihad squad." She has said that before

    Now, of course, Representative Omar, our viewers may be familiar with, she's one of only three Muslims in Congress. She's the only one who wears a hijab. She ran specifically to rail against the idea of bigotry towards Muslims and the idea that they have to prove they're not terrorists.

    This is part of a pattern Representative Boebert. We also had video from over the Thanksgiving break in which she spoke to a group, and she talked about — she was making a joke. The joke was set up like this. She said she saw a Capitol Police officer running toward her in an elevator, and then I will let her pick it up in what she said to the crowd.

  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO):

    I look to my left. And there she is, Ilhan Omar.

    I said, well, if she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's a clear — saying that, oh, she's not — she's a terrorist. I would be scared of her.

    Now, what's interesting here is that Republicans have pushed back. I want to play the sound of another Republican freshmen woman — this is Nancy Mace of South Carolina — asked about Lauren Boebert's comments this weekend.

  • Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC):

    I have time after time condemned my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for racist tropes and remarks that I find disgusting. And this is no different than any others.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Now, for that comment that might seem a little bit innocuous for pushing back at all against this bigotry from Representative Boebert, Nancy Mace has faced some very serious pushback on Twitter from Marjorie Taylor Greene, others that are seen on that far right end.

    And there is an internal war of words now amongst Republicans. Again, I raise this because this is part of very serious personal attacks, rhetoric happening from our lawmakers that we know is affecting people in the real world. And it is a split among Republicans.

    Nancy Mace is now putting herself out there. And she's standing up for what she said. She says this was bigotry. She's not backing down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    More and more instances like this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Unfortunately, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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