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Ron Elving

The Republican Party has tackled countless controversies since its birth in the 1850s, but it is hard to find a precedent for the posture it finds itself in today.

Most of what Republicans espouse as a unified minority in Congress comes straight from the party's identical platforms for 2016 and 2020.

But a glaring new feature has been added to the party's agenda at the insistence of former President Donald Trump. Its adoption among Republican candidates and officeholders bespeaks his undiminished grip on the GOP's most passionate voters.

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Democrats in Washington are divided.

You've no doubt read and heard news reports that detail the recent infighting, as headline writers for weeks have been digging to find synonyms for discord, disarray, dissent and disagreement.

The party is portrayed as split, on the outs and at odds.

And in the game of Washington power politics, party unity matters. Disunity kills.

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The federal fiscal year ends this week, and once again Congress is scrambling to get its act together. And as the prospect of government shutdown looms, so does the wilder prospect of the government running out of cash and defaulting on its debt.

As always, political differences and partisan wars make the money process difficult. But two key elements of procedure also feature in the showdown, raising the stakes and defining the battlefield.

One is the debt limit. The other are the Senate rules that allow the minority party to stop legislation cold.

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This story is part of "The Basics" from The NPR Politics Podcast. Each week, we will explain one key idea behind the news we talk about on our show. Subscribe to The NPR Politics Podcast here.


The task keeps coming back like a bad penny: Congress soon must raise the debt ceiling again. It will be almost the 100th time it has done so.

Bob Woodward's third book — after Fear and Rage — about Donald Trump turns out to be just as much about President Biden and how he got to be Trump's successor.

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If Congress manages to pass President Biden's big budget package this fall with most of its spending and tax changes intact, it will represent the biggest shift in federal fiscal policy in 40 years.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It just seems - I know this sounds ridiculous - almost un-American.

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Speaking sorrowfully to the nation from the White House last week, President Biden lengthened a chain that was already far too long, a chain of presidential remorse — and vows of revenge — over the loss of American lives in faraway conflicts few Americans understand.

"We will not forgive, and we will not forget," said Biden, with an intensity he rarely shows, speaking of the deaths of 13 U.S. military personnel at the Abbey Gate to the Kabul airport are the latest additions to an honor roll that was also far too long.

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And, of course, events in Afghanistan test the Biden administration. We're joined now by NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

In Afghanistan the world is witnessing disastrous consequences associated with a rare area of agreement between President Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump.

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A large majority made up of both Democratic and Republican senators came together today to approve a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Ohio Senator Rob Portman was one of the top Republicans behind that effort.

Even if President Biden gets his $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill through the Senate with some Republican help, he will still face a tougher climb and a partisan wall in seeking to pass a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill chock-full of Democratic priorities.

Republicans are not on board with that bill, so Democrats are trying to pass the legislation with a simple majority vote, using a maneuver known as reconciliation.

We look at latest in the case against New York Gov. Andrew Cumo, where the Infrastructure Bill stands and why the current CDC eviction moratorium might not help vulnerable renters.

In the days and weeks just ahead, the elected leaders of our federal government will perform a series of ritual dances that few Americans will understand.

You may turn away with a dismissive gesture or a rolling of the eyes. But these seemingly arcane exercises will, in fact, represent — and may even resolve — real conflicts over national issues of enormous importance.

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Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, Michael Wolff
Henry Holt & Co.

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ANTHONY FAUCI: We are dealing with a formidable variant in the delta variant and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated.

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