Republicans Protest as Recess Nears in Congress Congress is trying to finish a surveillance bill, an energy bill, emergency funds for Minnesota, Iraq war amendments and a defense spending bill before leaving town this weekend for a monthlong recess. Meanwhile, about 100 House Republicans walked off the floor late Thursday night in protest over a controversial vote on denying rental assistance and other benefits to illegal immigrants. Andrea Seabrook, who is at the Capitol, talks with Michele Norris.
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Republicans Protest as Recess Nears in Congress

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Republicans Protest as Recess Nears in Congress

Republicans Protest as Recess Nears in Congress

Republicans Protest as Recess Nears in Congress

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Congress is trying to finish a surveillance bill, an energy bill, emergency funds for Minnesota, Iraq war amendments and a defense spending bill before leaving town this weekend for a monthlong recess. Meanwhile, about 100 House Republicans walked off the floor late Thursday night in protest over a controversial vote on denying rental assistance and other benefits to illegal immigrants. Andrea Seabrook, who is at the Capitol, talks with Michele Norris.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

Anyone watching Congress today could see that the House of Representatives has boiled over into a partisan mess. And that's just as lawmakers are trying to adjourn for their August break. The list of bills Democrat leaders want to pass before leaving is still long including top priorities for the newly minted majority. But Republicans are blocking things at every turn. And the result at times has been hours of partisan gridlock.

NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook joins us now to explain this situation.

And Andrea, I understand that things got really heated late last night. Tell us what happened.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Well, Michele, listen to this. The House is moving toward passing a bill to fund the Department of Agriculture. Republicans brought up a procedural motion to have, you know, to do something else. And when the gavel came down on that vote, Republicans said they'd won it. But the guy in the chair with the gavel was Democrat Mike McNulty of New York. He said it was a tie and that Republicans had lost. So they pretty much - the Republicans pretty much revolted on the House floor. Listen to this clip from last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE SESSION)

NORRIS: The chair...

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL HITTING)

NORRIS: ...prematurely call the vote at two...

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE PROTESTING)

NORRIS: ...call the vote at 214, 214, while there...

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE PROTESTING)

NORRIS: ...while...

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE PROTESTING)

NORRIS: ...while the - while there were, while there were votes being entered. After all of the cards were added, the final vote was 212 to 216, nay.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE PROTESTING)

SEABROOK: So, Michele, after a lot of hollering, Democrats conceded to holding a revote on this measure, but then Republicans walked off the House floor. They said because they were so angry, but they also knew they didn't have the votes to actually pass the measure. It is just insane over here right now.

NORRIS: It almost sounds like the British parliament, listening to that tape.

SEABROOK: Exactly.

NORRIS: Have these partisan tensions spilled over into today? The House still has a bunch of important bills on the schedule.

SEABROOK: You got that right. And they certainly did spill over in today. I mean the tension is thick here. The House floor has been in an almost total gridlock like you said, gridlock all day long. Republicans brought motions to adjourn, motions to table other motions, anything to gum up the works.

At one point, the voting system was even broken here and had to be rebooted. And all of this as, like you said, a whole bunch of an - important bills are on the House schedule. There's providing money for the I-35 bridge span collapse in Minnesota, there's authorizing that FISA court that approves spy wire taps, a bill to fund the entire Department of Defense for the next year, and also a massive energy bill to make new efficient standards for electricity and buildings.

NORRIS: So, a very long to-do list and the clock is a-ticking. So, what do you expect the House might get to before they adjourn?

SEABROOK: At this point, anybody would - everybody thinks they're going to do something on the FISA court, that's the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the court that approves wiretaps. Everybody thinks they're going to do something, however much the House of Representatives fights with the White House over that. Everybody agrees that providing money for the I-35 bridge span collapse in Minnesota is going to happen. Funding the Defense Department and passing an energy bill at this point is up in the air. And when will be done is anybody's guess. I mean, it could be tomorrow night, Monday, who knows?

But, you know, what's clear, Michele, is that each side right now, each party is making a play for the narrative here, the story that will be told about how this Congress operated this summer. Democrats would like to go home for their August recess saying, look at all this important work we've done. Republicans would like to go home saying, look how fouled up the House is.

NORRIS: That was NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook. Thank you, Andrea.

SEABROOK: You're welcome.

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