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Ahead of next year's divided Congress, Democrats have much work to do

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The U.S. Senate is set to remain under Democratic control and Republicans will take control of the House in January. But until then, Democrats still run Congress, and lawmakers have a lot to get done. NPR's Barbara Sprunt is here to walk us through the next few weeks. All right, Barbara, so we have a divided Congress coming up. What is at the top of the list for Democrats this next month?

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Top of the list is legislation to codify protections for same-sex and interracial marriage. This is Democrats' response to the Supreme Court decision that we saw earlier this summer, Dobbs, on abortion. And Democrats want to enshrine other personal rights. The Senate is likely to take this up this week. Twelve Republican senators have already supported this on an earlier procedural hurdles. Another piece of legislation on the docket is the Electoral Count Act. This one is in response to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol last year. Its goal is to clarify existing election law and get rid of any ambiguity around the role of the vice president, make it clear that the vice president's role is strictly ceremonial. And it would also make it harder to object to state counts. This, too, has bipartisan support in the Senate, and it's a priority for Democrats to get done, send it over to President Biden before this whole power shake-up in January.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, because this is our U.S. Congress and it's the end of the year, there always seems to be a government funding bill to resolve. So any whispers or any loud talk of a shutdown on Capitol Hill?

SPRUNT: No whispers, and I can't make any promises. You know, we would never know for sure until it's all said and done. But there's no talk of a shutdown threat from lawmakers at this point. And it doesn't seem like something that the Republicans would necessarily want to have kind of hanging over their heads just before they take control of the House in January. Current funding is set to run out December 16, so it's possible Congress might need to punt a little bit to resolve some issues. But the expectation is that they'll be able to find agreement.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. What are the sticking points, though, this time?

SPRUNT: The biggest sticking point is on funding for Ukraine in the wake of Russia's invasion. President Biden has asked Congress for about $38 billion to aid Ukraine further. But there's growing resistance among Republicans on this type of continued funding for Ukraine without more oversight. Kevin McCarthy, the likely incoming House speaker, has pushed back on the size of this kind of funding. Various members of his conference are increasingly against providing the Biden administration with money, and McCarthy needs their votes to win the speakership in January. So needless to say, it just makes for some tricky politics, and it could complicate getting a quick deal.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, that January 6 committee that's investigating the attack on the Capitol - that's also going to dissolve at the end of the year. The committee is supposed to issue a final report. Is that still happening?

SPRUNT: Yes. The committee is also still talking to witnesses and gathering information as they've done for months. The report is set to come out before the end of the year, which means lots of reading for us. And it's expected to focus, much like the public hearings did, on connecting former President Trump to the violence on Capitol Hill that day. The report is expected to include recommendations like passing the Electoral Count Act, which we just discussed. And the reality is that come January, with Republicans in the majority, House oversight is going to shift away from Trump and towards the Biden administration. So it's a different ballgame.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So when you're done reading, we'll bring you back so you can do some more reporting. That's NPR's Barbara Sprunt. Barbara, thanks.

SPRUNT: Sounds good. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.