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Week in politics: War in the Middle East; Biden's immigration plan; GOP House Speaker

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.

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

SIMON: We, of course, just heard the latest from Gaza. Support for Israel remains strong in the White House. Are they looking at the possibility - how do they look at the possibility of the U.S. getting involved in another protracted involvement in the Middle East, where history doesn't inspire?

ELVING: Not a good track record - not one for any one, not for the U.S, not for the U.N. and not for any of the global powers over the last 75 years. From a policy standpoint, any White House has to admit it has little control over this situation. We've had more than a dozen presidents now who have tried, a couple with some success - Jimmy Carter. And yet here we are again.

From a political standpoint, all an American President can do is declare support for Israel and call for Israeli restraint. And that's what U.S. presidents have done, former presidents, too, by the way, Scott, except former President Trump, who's been airing what seemed to be his personal grievances with the Israeli leadership. But the outcome is largely beyond U.S. control. America has some influence, but key decisions will be made by others. There are world events we cannot resolve. Sometimes such events have immediate consequences close to home, as is the case right now with immigration.

SIMON: Well, and that seems to be a rising concern, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, which shows that while the economy remains a top concern for U.S. voters, immigration policy is becoming increasingly important and not just in border states.

ELVING: That's right. And the new urgency is not just in a poll. That's just one more wake-up call. People are being pushed out of their native countries by poverty or crime. They're being persuaded there's a better life for them in the U.S. It's already a million arrivals a year and rising. We've seen immigration surges throughout our history, of course. Some were absorbed more easily than others. And right now our outdated laws and mechanisms have been overwhelmed by these numbers, and that is increasingly felt nationally. The big cities that have been most sympathetic, the sanctuary cities, have been targeted and brought to the breaking point, and they are asking for help and revisiting their own policies.

SIMON: Ron, let me put another question this way. What in your infinite political wisdom do you think will come first? Will the Cubs win another World Series or House Republicans elect a new speaker?

ELVING: We're going to bet on the House this time, Scott. They have a nominee but not yet a speaker. And it appears their nominee, Jim Jordan of Ohio, lacks the votes to become the speaker, which takes a majority of the whole House. Is Jordan close? Well, it's been reported he fell short by maybe 50 votes or so in a test ballot yesterday afternoon. So the House went home for the weekend. That gives Jordan and his allies, possibly including the former president, some time to line up more support.

SIMON: We have only so much time, even in a normal week. But there are questions that we're going to have to - all right. The new charges against Democrat Republican lawmakers, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and - new charges against him and George Santos, the Republican representative.

ELVING: You know, in a normal week we would be talking about this. They were both already facing multiple charges. They were both hearing a chorus of demands for their resignation - demands, by the way, Scott, coming primarily from their own party colleagues. Their colleagues are unhappy about the bad press for the party and the possible loss of those seats in next year's election. Of course, that's the Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate. You know, you would think there would be a little bit more team feeling, but there's not a lot of sentiment about such things when the margin of majority is this narrow in both chambers, and it is historically narrow. The loss of the Menendez seat could cost the Democrats the Senate if he were to run and lose next year. And he is running. And, of course, Santos would greatly narrow the Republican margin in the House if he were to be expelled.

SIMON: Which is already pretty narrow - isn't it? - as we learned in successive rounds of speakership elections. NPR's Ron Elving. Thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. 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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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.