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Politics Chat: What's Next For Congress After Trump Leaves Office

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And we'll turn now to NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were listening in on that conversation with the former majority leader. What'd you think?

LIASSON: I think Trump is no doubt diminished. I think a lot of his allies have deserted him. He's toxic to corporate America. His big megaphones, like Twitter and Facebook, have been taken away. But I don't know if he's going to disappear as fast as Harry Reid thinks. He's still closer ideologically to the center of the Republican Party than his critics like Mitt Romney or Ben Sasse. Just this week, his hand-picked team was confirmed to lead the RNC. So the party apparatus is still under his control. So I think even though the Republican Party is badly split and Trump has lost stature and torn the party apart and wounded himself, I just think it's too soon to say that he's on his way out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, it's interesting that we heard less about impeachment from Reid than about the filibuster, which seems awfully sort of inside baseball on a weekend like this.

LIASSON: Well, first of all, about impeachment, House Democrats certainly want to impeach him. They think maybe even some Republicans would join them. They're talking about one article - willfully inciting violence against the government of the U.S. But in order to ban him from running again, which many Democrats would like to do, two-thirds of the Senate would have to convict him and then vote separately on a ban. And as you heard Harry Reid say, he is not going to be convicted. So impeachment in the House would be like censure, in effect.

They don't - they want to hold him accountable. The Democrats want to hold him accountable, but they're not quite sure how. As far as the filibuster, you'd need more than 50 votes to get rid of it. Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia, has already said he's against it. So that's unclear to me. And then there's the big question. What will Mitch McConnell decide is in his political interests going forward - to block everything so that voters - in the hopes that voters will blame Biden for nothing getting done or compromise? And that's an open question.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, it seems telling - in answer to that open question - that eight Senate Republicans voted to decertify the electoral results even after the attack on Congress, on them.

LIASSON: That's right. And 65% of House Republicans also voted to undermine the election. We know that polling before the insurrection showed that a majority of Republicans believe that Trump won. So they believe the big lie. There hasn't been much polling since, but a YouGov poll showed that 45% of Republicans approved storming the Capitol.

So this is a deeply split party. You know, a big chunk of it thinks it's fine to undermine a free and fair election. If Republicans were the losers, then you've got another kind of establishment wing of constitutional conservatives. You know, this is a party that hasn't won the popular vote in a presidential election in the last seven of eight elections. Trump is the first president since Hoover to lose the White House, the House and Senate in one term. So we're not sure if Wednesday was a clarifying moment for Republicans or maybe it was like Sandy Hook, a horrific event that in the end changes next to nothing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, what about the other side of this coin, though? You know, what does it tell you that the two senators who led the push to decertify - Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz - are now both getting blowback in their home states and not just from sort of editorial boards at newspapers, but also from donors and power brokers?

LIASSON: That's right. It's possible that these two senators who led the charge because they wanted to run for president in 2024 and wanted to inherit the Trump base are now seeing their stars dim. But there's no sign that the Republicans who vote in primaries, the base of the party, has - have turned on them. Remember, what Hawley and Cruz did is they didn't lead a movement as much as run up to the head of the parade and grab the flag.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think this is all going to mean for Joe Biden's agenda?

LIASSON: Yeah, that's the story that got lost this week...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

LIASSON: ...With everything else that was happening. Everything changed for Democrats this week. Winning the two Senate runoff races in Georgia just changed everything. Now Joe Biden's Cabinet can get approved. Now even he could approve some judges. As long as Democrats are unified on big initiatives that have broad public support, like raising the minimum wage, COVID relief, infrastructure, Medicaid expansion, they can pass things with 50 votes as long as they can attach them to a budget resolution.

For other initiatives, they are going to need some Republican help. And that's still the big question. They - the Biden team seems confident that they're going to start off with a lot of legislation that has big bipartisan appeal, and they think maybe they can convince some Republicans to go along.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Mara, thank you very much.

LIASSON: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.