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Politics chat: Temporary spending bill avoids government shutdown


And we're going to turn to the U.S. now, where another temporary spending deal is being prepared to avoid the partial government shutdown that was looming at the end of this week. But some House Republicans are still unhappy about the deal hammered out in Congress yesterday. We're joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So we have another short-term bill that will cover government spending until March. But things remain messy with those House Republicans, right?

LIASSON: That's right. Congressional leaders have agreed to kick the can down the road again - to have a short-term spending bill until March that will give House Speaker Mike Johnson some more time to get the Republican votes he wants to keep the government open. The problem is that he's in the same bind that Kevin McCarthy was in - if you try to pass anything in a bipartisan manner in the House with Democratic votes, Johnson risks losing his job because of a revolt from the right wing.

RASCOE: OK, but the ire directed toward Speaker Johnson isn't going anywhere. So how is this going to work for governing during an election year?

LIASSON: Well, that's a good question. In order to avoid Republicans being blamed for a government shutdown, Johnson has to keep the government open. And remember, there are 18 Republicans representing districts that Biden won. They are the ones that have the most to lose politically if the government shuts down and Republicans are blamed. Democrats would only need to win a net five to get the majority back. So speaker Mike Johnson is worried in the short term about keeping his job. And in the longer term, he's worried about keeping the majority.

RASCOE: Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump showed up at court at his fraud trial in New York, where he didn't have to appear. Why did he voluntarily show up in court when he's got a campaign to run?

LIASSON: Because Donald Trump sees the courtroom as a campaign venue. Now, outside, in the court of public opinion, he's doing pretty well. He's been able to make these court cases a symbol of his martyrdom. And Republican voters in the primaries are responding to that. But inside an actual courtroom, there're rules. And the truth matters. Facts matters. You have to prove them. The judge is the boss. But Donald Trump is going to keep going to court. He's going to keep having press conferences on the courthouse steps. This is being covered minute by minute, like the O.J. car chase. And that has caused a lot of grumbling from the Biden campaign, who feels this coverage is unwarranted. But these trials are the definition of news. We've never had a former president on trial before. So right now, it's working for Trump in the primaries. The big question is what happens once he becomes the de facto party nominee. Will independents and swing voters be as sympathetic to him as Republican voters?

RASCOE: OK, so, Mara, I mean, you know about how these campaigns go. And - like, so we have this very snowy, very brutal Iowa winter. There's going to be Iowa caucuses tomorrow. What are you looking for out of all of this?

LIASSON: Well, in Iowa, I am watching for the margin by which Donald Trump will win. Does he get close to 50%, which is where he's been polling, or does he get something less than that? His campaign has been trying to lower expectations, pointing out that no one has ever won Iowa in the Republican caucus there by more than 13 points. I'm also watching the race for second place. Nikki Haley has been rising in the polls. Haley's voters are more New Hampshire-style voters, old-fashioned Republicans, more libertarian than the kind of Trump-style evangelicals, noncollege voters in Iowa. But Ron DeSantis has been in Iowa longer. He has a robust ground game. He's been endorsed by the governor. Will that be enough to overcome the snowdrifts? That's what I'm looking for.

RASCOE: That's NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.