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Week in politics: Jan. 6 report; federal budget deal; Pelosi's final days as Speaker

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The final report of the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol dropped this week - more than 800 pages, and it recounts a lot of firsthand testimony about an organized effort to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 election. But its recommendations for prosecutions are just that - recommendations. We turn now to Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Susan, thanks so much for joining us.

SUSAN PAGE: Hey, it's a privilege to be with you.

SIMON: At the end of the year, an 800-page document with important revelations and recommendations - but will it have any effect with a new Congress under Republican control about to be sworn in?

PAGE: Well, the report by the January 6 panel doesn't do everything. As you point out, the Justice Department can ignore the criminal referrals they made. They recommended that Donald Trump be barred from holding political office again. That's also not likely to happen. And in fact, the committee itself dissolves when the new Congress takes over.

But in fact, this report has already done a lot, I think. Remember, the assault on the Capitol came just three days after the opening of this 117th Congress. And now it ends with an investigation that uncovered an enormous amount of information that we didn't know before about what happened on that day and importantly, in the weeks leading up to it. It is, I think, the most consequential congressional investigation we've seen in generations, Scott.

SIMON: Another question on timing - yesterday, Congress approved $1.7 trillion federal budget for the current fiscal year. Republicans take control of the House next month. Why didn't they delay until they have more control over spending?

PAGE: Well, that's a question Kevin McCarthy keeps asking, the House Republican leader. His troops definitely wanted to delay into the new Congress. And if that had happened, this bill would not have passed. They would have demanded significant cuts in spending and policy changes, which is precisely why congressional Democrats and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, wanted to push it through. They wanted to avoid that sort of uncertainty in the new year. On this issue, the Republican leaders, McCarthy and McConnell, were at odds. We'll see if that happens again in the new Congress, Scott.

SIMON: Extraordinary visit, of course, this week from Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy - certainly seemed to give manifest demonstration that he and President Biden are united in their resolve to repel the Russian invasion. But there are differences between the two, aren't there?

PAGE: Yeah. Yeah, there are. What an inspiring visit. And they were the picture of solidarity when they were photographed in the Oval Office. But we know that behind closed doors, they do have differences. Zelenskyy wants some U.S. military systems to wage the war that Biden has refused to provide. And they differ on how this war should end. The White House has encouraged the idea of diplomacy. Reaching a deal with Vladimir Putin is likely to involve making compromises because most peace treaties do. Zelenskyy hasn't endorsed that idea, at least not out loud. You know, as David Ignatius of The Washington Post pointed out, when he was in Washington, Zelenskyy used the word victory a dozen times. Biden never did.

SIMON: You, of course, have followed the career of Nancy Pelosi for a while now. And you wrote a book about her that came out last year, "Madam Speaker." This week, she gave her final press conference as speaker. What struck you? What should we recount now?

PAGE: You know, Nancy Pelosi is usually a heat-seeking missile. She is intense and disciplined. She is a woman on a mission. But at this last news conference this week, she seemed more relaxed and at ease than I can remember. You know, for two decades, she's been the leader of House Democrats. She's been the best friend that Democratic presidents have had in the face of the opposition to Trump. But unlike a lot of folks in Washington, she now seems ready to retire, Scott.

SIMON: And how do we recount the significance of her career?

PAGE: She is the most consequential speaker of the House since Sam Rayburn and one of the most consequential legislative leaders in the history of the United States.

SIMON: Well, that's quite a statement. Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief of USA Today. So good to be with you on this weekend. Thanks very much.

PAGE: Yes. And happy holidays to you.

SIMON: Also to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.