Congress is trying to wrap up its work for the rest of the year
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Congress is trying to wrap up its work for the remainder of the year on the heels of a historic joint address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: Your money is not charity. It's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Members are now hoping to approve a massive government funding measure this week that includes billions for Ukraine, as well as defense spending and discretionary programs. But that isn't all that's on Congress' plate.
MARTÍNEZ: No, a House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol is set to release its full report Thursday. Here to walk us through lawmakers' busy week is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. All right, so let's start with the spending bill, up against a Friday deadline that comes with the threat of a government shutdown if it's not passed in time. Is it on track to pass?
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: It could, but it could be tight. The Senate started the process to move this legislation earlier this week, but it hit some snags along the way, and it got snagged once again last night. It's a $1.7 trillion bill that's more than 4,000 pages long. And it also still needs to get through the House. A few hours ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they were close to moving this through his chambers early as today. Overall, it directs $850 billion to defense spending and $773 billion to discretionary programs. It funds the military, government agencies, includes pay raises for service members and government workers, and it directs $40 billion in emergency aid to areas struck by public disasters and more than 44 billion in aid for Ukraine. But even if this bill has been stuck a few times, it is the holiday season, and it's those deadlines that often get Congress moving.
MARTÍNEZ: All right. That was a lot, but what else is at stake here?
GRISALES: Well, it covers some critical initiatives, including reforms to the Electoral Count Act. This would safeguard presidential elections. It's a bipartisan plan that would strengthen this law by making it clear the vice president can only play a ceremonial role in the counting of votes. And it significantly raises the threshold for members to raise objections to those votes. And this is one of those major bipartisan legislative recommendations to come out of the January 6 attack.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, the committee is expected to release its final report. What could we see there?
GRISALES: This is expected to establish a historical record of the panel's investigation into the Capitol attack, and it comes a few days after their final public presentation. It will include evidence to back a criminal referrals panel is issuing against former President Trump for four crimes. This is insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make false statements. Now, criminal referrals do not have legal weight. They don't force the Justice Department to act. But the panel's evidence is what could persuade DOJ special counsel that's overseeing their criminal probe on this to act.
MARTÍNEZ: Now, last night, the committee released its first tranche of witness transcripts. What can you tell us about those?
GRISALES: Yes, 34 transcripts to start. These are tied to the more than 1,000 witnesses the committee interviewed. This tranche of documents included key figures who took the fifth, including Trump allies such as Roger Stone. Maryland Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin said this is a big reason the panel was stymied from pursuing more referrals or recommendations because of significant witnesses who declined to cooperate. That all said, the panel will release a lot more of these transcripts that will include more substantial interviews in the coming days.
MARTÍNEZ: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thanks a lot.
GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.