House and Senate members have officially wrapped up business for 2023
ASMA KHALID, HOST:
Lawmakers have fled Washington, and Congress has officially wrapped up its business for the year. It was a year full of drama, fraught with fights over the speakership and government funding. A lot happened, even if little legislation was actually passed.
NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel is here to help us make sense of the year that was and set expectations for the year ahead. Eric, it's great to have you with us.
ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Hey there, Asma.
KHALID: How should we break down what happened in 2023?
MCDANIEL: I think we can do it with three F's. We've got fired, we've got fraud, and we've got funding. Where do you want to start?
KHALID: (Laughter) Let's start with fired. And I assume that you're talking about the former speaker of the House here, Kevin McCarthy.
MCDANIEL: That is right. The California Republican - he became the first-ever speaker of the House to be axed by his colleagues. Eight Republicans, if you remember, with a mixture of personal and policy disagreements with McCarthy chose to remove him from the top job. Then, after the weeks of turmoil it took to replace him, he decided to quit Congress altogether, leaving his successor, Mike Johnson, with an even smaller majority to pass bills.
And someone else was notably fired, but let's go ahead and save him for the fraud section.
KHALID: I'm going to take a wild guess here and assume that you're referring to George Santos from New York.
MCDANIEL: That is right. We're talking about a first-term New York Republican in the House. Colleagues ousted him after three tries from Congress last month. That came after he was exposed by The New York Times for lying extensively about his background and then later indicted by federal prosecutors for various financial crimes, mostly connected with his campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is the first Congressperson ever ousted, other than Confederate sympathizers, without having been fully convicted of a crime.
Also in the fraud section here, over in the Senate, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is facing criminal charges. He and his wife were charged over allegedly accepting luxury goods and large sums of money and gold bars in exchange for committing corrupt acts, prosecutors say, including providing sensitive information to the government of Egypt. They have both pled not guilty, and the senator has so far refused to resign.
KHALID: So, Eric, I believe this leaves us with your final F of the year. That is funding. How do you want to explain that to us?
MCDANIEL: So they haven't been able to pass the 12 annual federal spending bills. Instead, they passed two short-term extensions, the most recent of which will expire in two stages next year. That's January 19 and February 2 are government shutdown deadlines now. That is, of course, unless Mike Johnson can unite his House Republicans in a way he hasn't been able to so far.
KHALID: Yeah. Eric, I actually was just thinking of one more F - foreign aid. That's another major issue that - it seems unresolved as we wrap up the year.
MCDANIEL: Right. That's another F. So it's been a year since Congress approved any military aid to Ukraine. They're currently negotiating in the Senate, even though they're on break, on a big combined aid package that includes Israel and the Indo-Pacific as well, and also, kind of strangely, immigration policy reform. Right now, a record number of migrants are crossing the border, often in excess of 10,000 people each day, seeking asylum. That negotiation has been all extremely slow-going, though Senate negotiators, I'm told, are still working by the light of their holiday decor over Zoom. We should know more by early January.
KHALID: Yeah. We jest, but it's all very serious issues.
KHALID: NPR's Eric McDaniel, thank you so much.
MCDANIEL: Thanks, Asma. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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