Obama Closes Lame-Duck Session With Victories
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
This week, Congress wrapped up its lame-duck session. And in a Wednesday press conference, President Barack Obama called it one of the most productive congressional periods in decades. Joined now by NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro. Ari, thanks very much for being with us.
ARI SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you, Scott.
SIMON: Boy, wasn't supposed to happen this way, was it?
SHAPIRO: Nobody expected it to be this productive, no.
SIMON: Let me list, I think, what the president considers victories: the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military; nuclear-arms reduction agreement with Russia; health bill for 9/11 first responders; a food safety bill; a - middle-class tax cuts and the extension of jobless benefits, controversial as it was.
SHAPIRO: Child nutrition bill, too.
SIMON: Thank you very much. I hadn't - a child nutrition bill. So was this a result of a farsighted White House political strategy?
SHAPIRO: With something like the START treaty, it was a full-out lobbying effort by the White House, where they mobilized every former secretary of state under a Republican president to call Republican senators. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama - was calling people. And they just got one Republican after another to line up until they reached that magic two-thirds of the Senate number, and got it passed.
SIMON: The next Congress is going to be very different in composition. But I think what made this lame-duck session so notable was bipartisan support for things like the overturn of "don't ask, don't tell," and for the ratification of the START treaty. Was there a change in heart among some congressional Republican leaders, too?
SHAPIRO: So we'll see where things go, but they certainly seem to be on a trajectory for more bipartisan cooperation than we had seen in the last two years.
SIMON: Of course at the same time, although we talk about Republicans, obviously, having a much stronger hand in the next Congress, there's also going to be a significant number of Republicans who have been elected, who consider themselves Tea Party members first and Republicans second. How might that change the party?
SHAPIRO: Not only would that have funded the government for the next year, but it would've funded some of his most important priorities, such as the health-care bill, the financial regulatory overhaul. Those are initiatives that will not be funded under the continuing resolution that Congress passed. And instead, in early 2011, these Tea Party Republicans, along with Senator McConnell and the Democrats, are going to have a big, big fight over the budget that is going to bring some of these issues - such as funding health care, funding the financial regulatory commission - right to the forefront.
SIMON: What about other issues that might be early up - next legislative fight? And I'm thinking of redistricting.
SHAPIRO: Redistricting, tax overhaul, education, immigration, the budget - these are all big fights just lining up and waiting for 2011.
SIMON: NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro, thanks so much.
SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you, Scott.
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