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Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill


Telling you that the U.S. government is going to be open for business tomorrow should not be news, but it is. And after 24 hours of brinksmanship, deal-making and parliamentary hijinks, last night, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The bill now heads to the president's desk for his signature. Joining us is our national political correspondent Mara Liasson to talk more about this. Hey, Mara.


MARTIN: So what happened last night? Was this expected in the end?

LIASSON: Well, the last minute hijinks weren't expected. What happened was the effort to fund the government for another year met some pretty strong headwinds from conservatives in the Senate. The last-minute monkey wrench was Ted Cruz's futile effort to stop President Obama's immigration actions, and that caused senators who thought they were getting the weekend off to scramble back to Washington. But Cruz's effort backfired and Harry Reid, the outgoing majority leader, the Democratic leader, was able to take advantage the opening that Cruz's gambit created by scheduling votes on a couple dozen presidential nominees who will now probably be confirmed this coming week. And that's probably a lot more nominees than Democrats would've gotten through the Senate otherwise.

MARTIN: OK, so let's talk about Ted Cruz. A lot of this was pivoting around him. What was his strategy? What was he looking for?

LIASSON: Well, he wanted a vote on the president's immigration actions. He got one, but he only got 22 votes. That's about half the current Republican ranks in the Senate, but he lost. His colleagues are hopping mad at him. They think what he did was ineffective, grandstanding. However, he might have been looking outside of Washington to the Tea Party base of the Republican Party. That's who he will be looking to for support when he runs in the Republican presidential primaries next year.

MARTIN: OK, so were there any winners in all of this...


MARTIN: Congressional shenanigans?

LIASSON: I think there were a couple of winners. I think Mitch McConnell, who's the new Republican leader, won. Even though he was blindsided by Cruz, he came out as an able leader. And he got to make the point that Ted Cruz can't fight his way out of a parliamentary paper bag. Harry Reid comes out looking stronger, briefly. He made the most out of his last few minutes as majority leader. And another winner is Elizabeth Warren, Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Her status as the leader of the liberal wing of the Democrat party - what Howard Dean used to call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party - is enhanced. She voted against the funding bill. She thought it had too many sweeteners for Wall Street. And the chorus calling for her to run for president next year is now louder than ever.

MARTIN: OK, so a lot of deal-making. In the end, they funded the government. Can we learn anything about the future, Mara, through all of this? What does it say about the next Congress?

LIASSON: Well, it says a lot of different things. It did lay bare divisions in both parties. We know there are divisions in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. However, we do know, as you said at the outset, that they did get the government funded. That's a basic function. It seems crazy to congratulate them for doing it, but given the extreme dysfunction we've had in the past and the near government shutdowns - the government shutdowns and the near default - maybe that means that next year Congress and the White House will be able to get more things done by working together, even though they'll also be having a lot of very messy fights and big veto fights.

MARTIN: You are such an optimistic woman.

LIASSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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