Week in Review: Congress Gets Busy

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Congress sees a flurry of activity: An energy bill is passed, a budget bill is stalled, and the Senate blocks legislation restricting harsh interrogations. Also, the results of a 21-month investigation reveal widespread steroid use in Major League Baseball. NPR's Scott Simon talks with NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

This week, a flurry of activities. Congress passes an energy bill, but fails to reach an agreement on a budget. And the Senate blocks legislation restricting harsh interrogations. Also, the results of a 21-month investigation reveal widespread steroid use in Major League Baseball.

NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And, Dan, let's start with Congress.

SCHORR: Congress, yes.

SIMON: The Senate blocked a bill that would have restricted the use of harsh interrogation methods.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: The House had passed the bill, but it was blocked in the Senate because of what was called a parliamentary flaw. What exactly happened?

SCHORR: What exactly happened? Well, first of all, some language was added in talks between the Senate and the House, and that isn't exactly the technically right thing to do, but that was not the thing. The Republicans in the Senate was simply not going to let this reflection on the president go through. And so they stopped it.

I tell you, what's happening in Congress is almost unimaginable. The Congress had to extend for one more week the so-called stopgap resolution, so that the government can go on. Meanwhile, they're working at these things; the House passes things. Nancy Pelosi has the votes; gets to the Senate. We don't need to have a majority. You can block it by filibuster. And so it goes on.

SIMON: Is there any other prospect that the government will run out of money on December 21st because they, technically, only have funds to run until that day?

SCHORR: That's right. But they're on a one-week stopgap now, and so next Friday, they'll have to extend it from two, three, four, five days. It is an enormous charade.

SIMON: Let's get to politics, or more politics, if you will.

SCHORR: Yes. I love politics.

SIMON: The Democratic and Republican presidential candidates had their last debates before the Iowa caucuses. In those debates, no fireworks; no obvious faux pas. What's your estimation party by party as to where the situation stands now?

SCHORR: Well, both of them have, in a sense, the same situation. In all these season of debates, what's happened is that the lead has tightened up both on both side of the Republican and on the Democratic sides; that is they're no longer in absolute control of the situation.

Now, that the debates are over, we wait now for January 3rd and see what that all means. Things are so tense. You know, one sign of the tension, it seemed to me, what happened when Bill Shaheen, co-chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign, made some remark in an interview saying, you know, you know about Barack Obama. He said in his book that he had had early experiences with cocaine and with marijuana. And, well, you know, that could be used by the Republicans against him if he turned out to be the nominee. Those guys are too clever by half, as the British say. And the next thing you knew is that there was big protest from the Obama camp and the next you knew Bill Shaheen resigned.

SIMON: Let me ask you, on the Republican side because, of course, Governor Mike Huckabee had - seemed to beginning to secure a lead, at least among the polls…

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: …in Iowa. And then he suddenly became a target and received a lot more of attention.

SCHORR: Well, yes, you become a target as soon as you appear to be a threat. And now, he appears to be a threat to Rudy Giuliani who's holding, in most polls, holding the lead but rather tenuously. In the same ways on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton now has to look over her shoulder and see coming very close behind her is Barack Obama. It's a great spectator sport. It also seems that whoever writes the script wants to make it a little more tense because it will be more interesting.

SIMON: I want to ask you about something that may have something to say about the changing - literally the changing face of America - New York Times front-page article this week on the increasing number of chief operating officers of major American multinational corporations who are born overseas.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Vikram Pandit, the head of CitiGroup is from India.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Louis C. Camilleri, the head of Altria Group, is from Egypt. Indra Nooyi, who is head of Pepsico, is also from India. And let me read you the quote from the Times from Farooq Kathwari, who's the chief executive at Ethan Allen Interiors. He says, "When you leave your home, leave your family and come to a different country, you have had the instincts of an entrepreneur."

Does this have something to say about the changing face of America?

SCHORR: Oh, yes. They had a - it's changing the face of the world. It's globalization. It is now that Chinese, Indians and people over in Asia whom we used to regard as the all-out-wars(ph) who we had to instruct, now can instruct us. I mean, if you have something wrong with your computer and you call and you want to ask for help, you're likely to be connected up with somebody in India who will talk to you about it. Globalization means…

SIMON: But the CEO is also likely to be from India these days.

SCHORR: But the CEO is also likely to be from India. This is what you get with globalization. You get a lot of people who went up on in this country, coming to this country, and running our big institutions.

SIMON: Okay, Mr. Baseball.

SCHORR: All right.

SIMON: Senator Mitchell delivered his report on steroid use in baseball. He said the use of prohibited drugs is deep and pervasive. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, other names we could mention - they're among the most hallowed in the game. What do you read about the significance of this report?

SCHORR: Well, what do I read? I read a poll that indicated 59 percent of Americans want these people who use steroids to be punished. And for me, who sort of grew up at a time when baseball was a holy game and the people who played baseball were our role models, to be told now that this - the great American sport has been sullied by steroids for so many, many, many, many people, what's there to say? It's not the way to end any discussion, but all I can say is it's sad.

SIMON: Dan, leave your wax cup by the door as you leave, okay?

SCHORR: Sure.

SIMON: NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr.

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