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What To Expect From The New, Divided Congress


It has been less than a day since Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, and it's already clear Democrats and Republicans are on vastly different pages about the country's future. President Donald Trump began the day by tweeting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi deserves to be speaker of the House and cheering for bipartisanship. But hours later, he told reporters all progress would grind to a halt if Democrats fulfill their pledge to investigate his administration.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If they do that, then it just - all it is is a warlike posture.


Meanwhile, over in the Capitol, Pelosi held her own press conference where she said Democrats will not abandon their oversight responsibilities.


NANCY PELOSI: This doesn't mean we go looking for a fight, but it means that if we see a need to go forward, we will.

KELLY: Which may now include looking into Trump's decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Needless to say - a lot going on today on Capitol Hill, which is where we find NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Hi, Kelsey.


KELLY: So it sounds like Trump and Pelosi are already on something of collision course. Are we getting an early taste here of what a divided Washington might sound like?

SNELL: Yeah, you could hear some very different tone coming from Trump, which was a very kind of warlike posture, and Democrats like Pelosi talking about a kind of controlled investigation process. Now, it's important to remember that we heard Pelosi there before we knew about Sessions. And she has responded strongly. She's saying that committees will work with her and find a way to be coordinated in looking into the president's firing of Sessions, essentially. This is what they're calling for.

KELLY: I mean, help me square the - so you know, I heard you say Pelosi was speaking before Jeff Sessions was out. But I mean, members of Congress - Democratic members of Congress are already calling for investigations into this. Might her tone change going forward?

SNELL: Yeah, absolutely. There are just an absolute herd of Democrats coming out now saying that they - that this must be investigated. And they are - including some of the people who will be in charge of presumably those investigations, Democrats who are expected to lead the committees that would be doing it.

Honestly, things have been changing so fast today because we started - as we talked about, Trump was praising Pelosi for bipartisanship. But then he went on to say, you can't separate the investigations from the rest of the business of Washington. And that's essentially what Democrats keep saying they're going to try to do.

KELLY: What about over on the Senate side of the Capitol - senators of course being the ones who will actually have the responsibility of confirming whoever is named to replace Jeff Sessions?

SNELL: It was actually kind of amazing. The news broke right in the middle of a press conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He was wrapping up his prepared remarks when his staff slipped him a piece of paper. And he said, oh (laughter). He said protecting special counsel Mueller was just paramount and that firing him would create a constitutional crisis. And if firing Sessions was a prelude to ending or limiting the Mueller investigation, that, too, would be a constitutional crisis.

Republicans were a little bit more measured. They basically just congratulated Sessions on his years of service and didn't say much other than that, except for Lindsey Graham, who said he is not going to be in the running to replace Sessions.

KELLY: Oh, interesting because there had been some speculation that...


KELLY: ...Lindsey Graham might be in the running for that job, but he's ruled himself out. What more in terms of priorities on the Senate side of the House - aside from confirming nominees, has Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, weighed in about what he wants to get done in this next term?

SNELL: Yeah, so he'll have a pretty full slate. He says that judges are his No. 1 priority because remember; confirming nominees is one of the few things Republicans can do in the Senate without the help of any Democrats. So - and they don't need the help of the House, so we can expect a lot of that to come.

KELLY: NPR's Kelsey Snell reporting from Capitol Hill - thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. 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.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.