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Week In Politics: Resignations, Tax Bill, Roy Moore


Resignations fly from Capitol Hill, the federal government keeps the lights on - for a couple of weeks - votes will soon be cast in Alabama, the deputy national security adviser steps down, House and Senate Republicans try to hammer out a tax bill and reaction to President Trump's formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

NPR's Ron Elving joins us now. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Let's get to the resignations first. Senator Al Franken, subject of accusations of misconduct by at least eight women, went to the Senate floor and said, quote, "some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently." But he said he'll resign anyway and added it's ironic he leaves while Roy Moore, who has been accused of forcing himself on teenage girls, and President Trump are not stepping down.

Did Democrats force Franken to resign? And does this characterize a difference in the two parties?

ELVING: In effect, yes, Scott. About half the Democrats in the Senate had publicly called on Franken to step down, including nearly all the women. And it was clear these charges were just too toxic for him to continue. You ask about the two parties, and contrast could not be more stark with what's happening in Alabama.

SIMON: What more do we know about some of the other cases, John Conyers of Michigan and Republican Trent Franks of Arizona who's resigned.

ELVING: They have resigned, effective immediately, and they are gone. John Conyers, of course, was a octogenarian icon of the civil rights movement who was the longest-serving member of the House but also rather notorious for his behavior toward women around the Capitol. Trent Franks was a Tea Party Republican from Arizona who apparently asked a couple of women in his office if they would be willing to be surrogate mothers for himself and his wife.

SIMON: Offered $5 million, according to reports.

ELVING: Yes, that is a rather impressive figure. He made his money with his own oil and gas exploration company a number of years ago.

SIMON: Roy Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in the special Alabama Senate seat election on Tuesday. You can choose your poll. Roy Moore leads in some, Doug Jones in a few others. Roy Moore has that ranking despite public and compelling allegations of sexual misconduct and creepy behavior with teenage girls. I mean, he was reportedly banned from entering certain shopping malls. How do you see this race playing out?

ELVING: Polls differ, but they are all close. And that would tend to indicate that Roy Moore has weathered the storm, which may qualify as something of a miracle. But he has cast doubt on his accusers. And mostly, he's cast doubt on his opponent Doug Jones, calling him an advocate for abortion and calling him a puppet of the national Democrats. Those are two pretty serious accusations in the state of Alabama.

SIMON: Federal government is in business for at least another couple of weeks. What about thereafter?

ELVING: Well, thereafter, we may be singing Christmas carols in the Capitol. It's brinksmanship, of course. They're just trying to get everybody focused and trying to get everybody to actually vote for the basic spending bills, get Congress to do their routine business. It's not routine, though, because Republican leaders can't get enough of their members to vote for spending bills. So they need Democratic votes to get the bills across the finish line. And those come with a price tag, including, for example, the issue of the DREAMers, the...

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: ...People who were brought here by their parents when the parents came to the country illegally.

SIMON: And how do they breach the differences between the House and Senate bills, when the promises some Republican Senate leaders made to get the votes of, say, Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona, seem to be no longer - are not contained in the House version? And the House leaders say nope, we're not going to have them.

ELVING: This is why we always said that changing the tax code to this degree in this comprehensive fashion was going to be tough. It's a huge stretch. But here's the bottom line - they have to make that stretch. The Republican Party in Washington has simply decided that, after failing to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, they have to have this bill or else they're declaring themselves bankrupt as a party. So you can expect them to find ways to bring those last holdouts onboard.

SIMON: Ron Elving, NPR's senior political correspondent - always, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.