Ron Elving

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.

He was previously the political editor for USA Today and for Congressional Quarterly. He has been a Distinguished Visiting Professional in Residence at American University, where he is now an adjunct professor. In this role, Elving received American University's 2016 University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in an Adjunct Appointment. He has also taught at George Mason and Georgetown University.

He has been published by the Brookings Institution and the American Political Science Association. He has contributed chapters on Obama and the media and on the media role in Congress to the academic studies Obama in Office 2011, and Rivals for Power, 2013. Ron's earlier book, Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law, was published by Simon & Schuster and is also a Touchstone paperback.

During his tenure as the manager of NPR's Washington coverage, NPR reporters were awarded every major recognition available in radio journalism, including the Dirksen Award for Congressional Reporting and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In 2008, the American Political Science Association awarded NPR the Carey McWilliams Award "in recognition of a major contribution to the understanding of political science."

Ron came to Washington in 1984 as a Congressional Fellow with the American Political Science Association and worked for two years as a staff member in the House and Senate. Previously, he had been state capital bureau chief for The Milwaukee Journal.

He received his bachelor's degree from Stanford University and master's degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of California – Berkeley.

Vice President Joe Biden has been more visible than almost any of his 46 predecessors in the nation's No. 2 office. He's had more access to the Oval Office and more input on policy than all but a handful.

But there is one VP duty Biden has never fulfilled, because he's never had a chance: He has never broken a tie in the Senate, which is a salient VP responsibility embedded in the Constitution. In these past six years and two months, there hasn't been a Senate tie to break.

You could scarcely imagine a day that better demonstrated the split personality of Wisconsin politics.

On Monday, the state Capitol building in Madison was flooded once again with an angry crowd of protesters. This time the outrage was sparked by a local police officer who shot and killed an unarmed 19-year-old black man.

Congress mustered big majorities for the Keystone XL, which you might think would mean that pipeline would soon be under construction to carry Canadian crude oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

But you would be forgetting the presidential veto, which President Obama signed on Feb. 24 with little or no fanfare.

Wednesday, the Senate put an end to years of legislative effort by upholding the Obama veto. The Senate voted 62 to 37 in favor of the override, but it wasn't enough.

With each week, we have come to expect another jarring outrage from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, the new breed of terrorists that is redefining terror.

Put it in the category of things we know for sure that just ain't so.

No sooner did the Democratic National Committee announce it had chosen Philadelphia, Pa., as its 2016 convention site than a lot of us political analyst types popped out the conventional wisdom about "appealing to a swing state in the general election."

It sounds good and it makes sense, as far as it goes. It just doesn't go very far.

Update: 9:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

President Obama has sent Congress proposed legislative language that would grant him specific permission to make war on the group calling itself the Islamic State.

If approved by the House and Senate, that language will formalize the struggle against the Sunni extremists who are also known as ISIS or ISIL — and are best known for such actions as the torture killing of a captive Jordanian pilot and the beheading of other hostages from around the world.

President Obama entertained a group of Americans on Tuesday in the intimate Roosevelt Room at the White House, thanking them for their written testimonials to the benefits of his Affordable Care Act. A few hours later, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the ACA in its entirety.

This week, Congress returns with House leaders vowing to revisit the anti-abortion bill they pulled off the floor last week. The ban on abortions after 20 weeks was withdrawn when it appeared there weren't enough Republican votes to pass it.

Why did it need quite so many Republican votes? Because the GOP can no longer count on a contingent of Democrats to help out on abortion-related votes.

Breathtakingly broad as its jurisdiction may be, the U.S. Senate does not usually vote on the validity of scientific theories.

This week, it did. And science won. The Senate voted that climate change is real, and not a hoax. The vote was 98-1.

The vote was about an amendment to the bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The near-unanimity of the climate change judgment was notable, because so many senators have cast doubt on ideas of "global warming."

In the first minute of his hourlong State of the Union address, President Barack Obama summed up his theme in single sentence: "Tonight, we turn the page."

The president then detailed a page of history filled with the financial crisis of 2008, the recession and unemployment and deficits that followed and the two distant and difficult wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was a reminder of the ills that helped elevate young Sen. Obama to the Oval Office six years ago. And now, after many battles, he was ready to declare he had turned that page.

President Obama begins his seventh year in office Tuesday facing a Congress where both the House and Senate are in the hands of the opposition party. He shares this in common with every other president fortunate enough to even have a seventh year in office since the 1950s.

Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Ronald Reagan in 1987, Bill Clinton in 1999 and George W. Bush in 2007 all climbed the rostrum for this late-in-the-game challenge looking out at majorities of the other party in both chambers.

On the one hand, having the just-elected senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst, deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address next week makes perfect sense.

On the other hand, you have to wonder why anyone would want the job. As often as not, the opportunity to speak right after the president does has been the kiss of death for aspiring politicians — especially in the GOP during the Obama years.

Pity the poor guys who are trying to run for president while still serving as governors.

All the media attention this week went to former Govs. Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, because Romney suddenly decided to call in his chits and get back in the presidential conversation for 2016. Virtually every news organization in North America instantly got wide-eyed about it.

On his first day in his new job, freshly minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., designated the Keystone XL pipeline bill as Senate Bill 1 --the first legislation introduced under his leadership.

That signaled more than just McConnell's own support for the bill. The prestige of being S-1 also conveys a sense of the priority and urgency Senate Republicans in general attach to the project, which would permit the pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border and carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

The 114th Congress opens Tuesday with 246 Republicans taking the oath of office in the House. That's the most the GOP has sworn in since 1947, when the same number arrived for the 80th Congress intent on challenging Democratic President Harry Truman.

For a time, it had appeared that the new 114th majority would eclipse that of the 80th by one. But then Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and, after a sit-down with Speaker John Boehner a week ago, agreed to resign.

When he died of heart failure on New Year's Day, Mario Cuomo had been out of office exactly 20 years. But his impact endured, in part because he articulated his political philosophy so powerfully while at his peak and in part because he never fulfilled the destiny many envisioned for him on the national stage.

The New York governor's national moment in the sun came at night, in a San Francisco convention hall. On July 16, 1984, Cuomo gave the keynote address, mesmerizing a crowd of thousands in the Moscone Center and intriguing millions more on TV.

Barring new and jarring developments, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is going to survive the story that he addressed a conference of white supremacists in 2002.

Unless further evidence emerges of liaisons with the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, Scalise will take his oath next week for the 114th Congress as the No. 3 leader of the chamber's GOP — the party's largest majority since 1928.

As he looks toward his seventh year in the White House, President Obama still believes there is time to make his presidency a transformational moment in history.

In an interview recorded shortly before he left for Christmas vacation in Hawaii, the president told NPR's Steve Inskeep that 2014 had been "a bumpy ride" but also the "breakthrough year" he himself had predicted.

Yes, we know the 2008 presidential election is years in the past and will not come around again. The question is, does Sen. Ted Cruz know this?

This just in: At least one Republican in Washington has decided he doesn't want to be president.

OK, that's not exactly what Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said. He said he wasn't running for president. Obviously, there is a difference. Nothing is more common in politics than a would-be mayor/governor/president who wishes he or she could just be appointed to the job.

Maybe this duck won't be so lame after all.

Judging by what we've seen so far, the "zombie Congress" that returned to town this week (the reelected and the not-so-lucky) will do more business in the weeks following the election than it did in many months preceding.

Consider these trains — all long-sidetracked, all suddenly leaving the station on Capitol Hill:

Americans grow up knowing their colors are red, white and blue. It's right there in the flag, right there in the World Series bunting and on those floats every fourth of July.

So when did we become a nation of red states and blue states? And what do they mean when they say a state is turning purple?

In 2010, President Obama lost six seats in the Senate and 63 in the House and called it "a shellacking." Four years before that, President George W. Bush lost six seats in the Senate and 30 in the House and called it a "thumpin'. "

Still wondering where to put your money on the Senate races tonight?

There's been a lot of contradictory data flying around in the final hours and days of Campaign 2014, so don't feel alone. You can find polls in swing states that say the races are too close to call, and you can find others that show the Republican candidate opening a lead. You can, of course, listen to the party advocates and pundits, but while highly expert they are always pushing a given point of view.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Those who do vote in 36 states have a chance to vote for governor this fall. Governors' races tend to be a little less partisan than races for Congress. They're often more about what the guy in the statehouse, or the woman in the statehouse, can get done.

Technically, the Supreme Court Monday did not establish a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. It merely declined an opportunity to rule definitely one way or the other on the question.

But in the not-too-long run, the consequences may well be the same. Because the situation the court created — or acknowledged — will almost surely continue trending in favor of same-sex couples who want to marry.

Conversely, the legal ground is eroding for states that want to stop such marriages or deny them legal recognition.

It turns out the Secret Service isn't too good at protecting the White House, and maybe one reason is that we don't want it to be.

Secret Service agents are famously willing to sacrifice their own lives to protect the president and his family. They are also trained to take the lives of others in defense of their protectees.

But are they equally prepared to do either of those things for the White House itself? Should it be policy for the armed agents around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to use deadly force whether the president or his family is present or not?

When President Woodrow Wilson was casting about for an attorney general in 1919, his private secretary Joseph Tumulty wrote that the office "had great power politically ... we should not trust it to anyone who is not heart and soul with us."

Eric Holder's great qualification for the job he has just resigned was that he was with the president he served — heart and soul.

His complicated role in Barack Obama's administration was inextricably bound to race — he was the first African-American U.S. attorney general, appointed by the first African-American president.

Over the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was asked on NBC's Meet the Press what victory would look like in the new struggle against Islamist extremists in Iraq.

"Success looks like an ISIL that no longer threatens our friends in the region, that no longer threatens the United States," McDonough said.

Vague as that is, it may be the best answer available at the moment. And that is a problem.

Tanned and rested after a five-week summer vacation, Congress has returned for a brief session before returning home to campaign for re-election. This autumn session is expected to last a couple of weeks, give or take a couple of days.

What can be accomplished in so short a time? A great deal, if House and Senate choose to work together. Or nothing, if they don't. If you are wondering which will happen, you haven't been watching the 113th Congress up to now.

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