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Netanyahu In D.C., DHS Funding Still Not Settled


And for more on Netanyahu's trip to Washington, we turn to Cokie Roberts as we do most Mondays. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Now, the prime minister has addressed Congress a couple of times, and he appears fairly regularly on American radio and television and on this show. Remind us why this speech became such a big deal.

ROBERTS: Well, because it's seen as an attempt by Republicans to turn up the heat on the Obama administration on this Iran policy that Jackie was talking about. You can't ever take American politics out of the relationship with Israel, as you well know. And the invitation to Netanhayu certainly has elements of the Republicans trying to appeal to Jewish voters. Speaker Boehner, who issued the invitation, says he has every right to do so without consulting the White House, and that's true. But you can imagine, then, a spiral where any Congress in opposition to any White House can use the solemnity and formality of a congressional address to score political points and they're - confuse foreign policy.

I mean, usually these addresses from foreign leaders are either pro forma because the leader is here for an official visit, or often, they are celebratory after some big event. I particularly remember being there for Corazon Aquino after the Marcos was deposed in the Philippines and a spectacular joint address by King Hussein of Jordan and Yitzhak Rabin of Israel that was historic. And the fear is that these could be turned to something else altogether.

MONTAGNE: Well the other thing is, at least for Speaker Boehner, is that he has a lot more on his plate this week than hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu. I mean, there's still the question of funding the Department of Homeland Security. Now, Friday night, the clock started ticking toward shut down - then a small reprieve. So tell us what happened there.

ROBERTS: Well, the speaker had a bill to keep the funding going for the Department of Homeland Security for three more weeks in the hopes that either it could go to a conference with the Senate or that the courts would issue an order on the president's immigration policy. The Republicans in the House, as you know, don't want to fund the department because they want to take out anything having to do with the implementation of the president's immigration policies. The Senate can't pass that bill.

So the speaker's bill - the three-week extension - went down to defeat after a very long vote. And it looked like the department would shut down. And then they pass quickly a one-week extension. So what you've got is a conservative revolt in the House of Representatives. And the one- week extension got there because the Democrats all voted for it. And Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said to them, your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for full funding next week. But the Republicans are saying there was no deal with the Democrats. So there's still a lot of argument going on.

MONTAGNE: Which means - what happens now?

ROBERTS: (Laughter) Well, it's not quite clear. Speaker Boehner says he promised the Democrats what he promised the Republicans, which is regular order. And that would mean going to conference with the Senate. But the Senate is going to vote against going to conference. So my guess is that it comes back to the house and somehow, some way, the speaker gets his raucous caucus in line. There's a lot of anger among other Republicans against this group of about 50 or so conservatives - Peter King calling them delusional, others saying that they don't do anything toward governing. So I think there's going to be an effort to bring them in line, but it's not going to be easy.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays to talk politics. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.