Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Rebecca Roberts. In nine days, millions of people will be crowding the streets of Washington listening to this:

(Soundbite of brass band)

ROBERTS: The soundtrack of a presidential inauguration. The people behind the inauguration took a test drive really early this morning through Washington's otherwise quiet streets. We'll revisit that dress rehearsal in a few minutes. First, though, another unusual Sunday event just up the Hill. U.S. senators holed themselves into session this afternoon. NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving was watching, and he joins us now. Ron, why did they actually go into session on a Sunday?

RON ELVING: Rebecca, it's all about breaking one huge logjam created by one lone senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. He's been using the filibuster threat to block nearly 160 different land-use bills going back through last year. So now the Democratic leader, Harry Reid from Nevada, has rolled all these bills together, and you've got something like 2 million acres of wilderness protection here, a lot of earmarks and pork in the package, something affecting nearly every state. And that's why, in the end, we didn't have any trouble getting enough votes to cut off debate. The vote was 66 to 11. So even though about 20 senators didn't show up, there were plenty of votes over the three-fifths required.

ROBERTS: Do you think that's a sign of how well Democrats are going to be able to counter filibusters going forward?

ELVING: Not necessarily. This was not really an ideological issue or a Republican-Democrat thing. You know, Tom Coburn has been objecting for some time to the way federal spending is done - the log rolling, the one hand washes the other. And he also objects to a lot of the wilderness designations, some of the other specifics. But in the end, because there was something for everybody, you had a lot of Republican senators, conservatives from places like Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, voting for this.

ROBERTS: And finally, we have the curious case of Roland Burris, whether he'll be seated this week as Illinois' junior senator. On "Face The Nation" this morning, Illinois senior Senator Dick Durbin seemed to soften his stance against Burris.

Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): Certainly, all of the Democratic senators said, we don't want anything to do with Rod Blagojevich's choices. And then came his nomination of Roland Burris, and many members stepped back and said, well, let's be fair to this man. He has been elected four times statewide in Illinois. Let's make sure we're fair to him as well.

ELVING: Yes, he's still trying to make the case, isn't he, Rebecca, that maybe Roland Burris isn't the greatest choice being tied as he is to Rod Blagojevich. But you know, they're done in. They're hemmed in. There is really no more legal maneuvering that the Senate Democrats can do. All the legal technicalities that they've raised, the possibilities for delays, seemed to have been exhausted. So at some point now, I think they're going to have to give in. You hear some resignation there in Dick Durbin's voice. I think you heard it, too, from President-elect Barack Obama on this subject last week. So they're going to have to vote. And when they do, he'll be seated. And that could be this week.

ROBERTS: NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Thanks, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Rebecca.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.