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Week in politics: George Santos expelled; aid to Israel and Ukraine; remembrances


The 118th Congress has been turbulent, surprising and in many ways unprecedented. This week it was on brand.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: George Santos is a liar.

MARC MOLINARO: My future former colleague is divorced from reality.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: He not only defrauded the voters of the third district, he defrauded donors, stealing their money for personal gain.

KHALID: And after a historic vote yesterday, New York Republican George Santos became the third member since the Civil War to be expelled from the House of Representatives. Joining me now to talk about all of this is NPR's Ron Elving. Good morning, my friend.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Asma.

KHALID: So 311 members of the House voted in favor of giving Santos the boot. That was well over the required two-thirds. And that came even though Republican leadership did not support Santos' expulsion. So, Ron, how are you interpreting all of this?

ELVING: Well, it's long been argued that the House and the Senate should not vote to expel until an accused member has been convicted in a court of law. And in this case, Santos faces multiple federal charges for fraud and other crimes, but he won't come to trial until well into next year. That would mean another year of bad stories in the media hurting not only Santos, but other New York Republicans as well, and they were important to driving this expulsion. In the face of all this, others might have simply resigned. But when Santos wouldn't do that, roughly half his Republican colleagues joined the Democrats in pushing him out the door.

KHALID: All right, so with that bit of business wrapped up and with just a couple of weeks left before the holiday break, Ron, has there been any movement on government funding, any movement on this military aid to Israel and Ukraine?

ELVING: Negotiators from the House and Senate are seeking a series of deals between the parties that could keep the federal government open and operating in the new year. Much of that is happening off the floor, so progress is hard to assess. But the necessity of getting some kind of spending agreement also makes this a vehicle for other big issues in contention. So members really want more military aid for Ukraine - some of them. Some really want it for Israel. And some Republicans in particular are seeing this as an opportunity to get what they want on border security and the immigration system. And this could help get that done, or it could add another degree of difficulty, but at least the parties are talking.

KHALID: All right, Ron, I want to ask you about this new book that is coming out on Monday by former Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Some excerpts are already out there. What can you tell us based on what you've seen?

ELVING: Liz Cheney is already regarded as a martyr by millions of Americans and as a traitor by millions of others. Three years ago, she sacrificed her own aspirations to stop what she saw as a threat to the Constitution and democracy, a threat named Donald Trump. She was appalled by the January 6 attack on the Capitol and has devoted herself to holding Trump accountable. It cost her her job in the House leadership, cost her her shot at being the first Republican woman speaker, and ultimately, it cost her her seat in Congress. So in this book - it's called "Oath And Honor: A Memoir And A Warning" - Cheney calls out the other Republican leaders she calls, quote, "enablers and collaborators," unquote, including Kevin McCarthy, whom she said was unwilling to do what they needed to do that day and thereby cooperated with Trump in trying to subvert the 2020 election process, toss out the results and keep Trump in power.

KHALID: So finally, Ron, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor died this week. She was the first woman appointed to the High Court. Your thoughts?

ELVING: Sandra Day O'Connor will always be remembered not only as the first woman on the Supreme Court, where she was the voice of moderate conservatism, but also as a voice for moderation in general. She established a kind of middle ground on the abortion issue. She could have cast a vote that would have overturned Roe v. Wade in the late 1980s, but instead she looked for the middle ground that might be established in legal terms. She created an equilibrium on abortion rights that lasted several decades, and she brought that kind of legal temperament to other issues as well. Since her retirement in 2005, she's been sorely missed, and she will be so for many years to come.

KHALID: That is NPR's Ron Elving. Always good to talk to you, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Asma. 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.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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.

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