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A new NPR poll shows that among Republican infighting, voters want to see compromise

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Well, back here in Washington, Congress seems on track to keep the lights on for the federal government. A new spending bill would fund the government into early next year. House speaker Mike Johnson says this will give Congress time to pass full-year spending bills, but infighting among Republicans threatens their ability to get anything done - all this as a new NPR/PBS/NewsHour/Marist poll shows that Americans just want compromise. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh and NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro are here now. Good to have you both with us.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Deirdre, let's start with you. Republicans are fighting each other in public so much lately that it has actually gotten physical.

WALSH: Right.

SHAPIRO: Is this all spilling over into legislating?

WALSH: It is. Republican divisions derailed two more spending bills this week after two failed to advance in the House last week. Congress is doing what it usually does. It kicked the can down the road to avoid a shutdown on Friday. Speaker Mike Johnson is saying this gives House Republicans more time to do all 12 individual spending bills so they can strengthen their hand negotiating with the Senate. But spoiler alert - House Republicans showed again today they still cannot get on the same page. The bills that they're writing have such drastic cuts in them that moderate Republicans started to vote no, and then some of the hardliners who didn't like the stopgap bill blocked the speaker from even debating one of the Republican bills. This does not bode well for getting that broader spending bill early next year.

SHAPIRO: Chaos. Domenico, what do Americans make of this?

MONTANARO: Well, most in our poll that's out today, you know, very clearly said that they want to see compromise and that threats of a shutdown are not appropriate to use in budget negotiations. Two-thirds said that it's more important for Speaker Johnson to compromise rather than stand on principle, even if it means gridlock. But there's an almost 40-point gap between Democrats who want compromise and Republicans who are pretty split on this. You know, that could really complicate Johnson's ability to pass legislation that a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Democratic president can agree to. And as Deirdre mentioned, we're already seeing some of that unease with Johnson's most conservative members.

SHAPIRO: Well, this funding package does not include additional money for Israel or Ukraine that the Biden administration has requested. What do Americans think about that?

MONTANARO: Yeah, it wasn't in the stopgap spending legislation, and our polling gives some clues as to why - 36% said that they don't want to authorize funding for either war, while 35% said that they want to fund both. With numbers like those, it really makes it tough to find consensus, especially when you consider that almost half of independents, half of younger voters, 4 in 10 Republicans and 4 in 10 nonwhites don't want to fund either war.

SHAPIRO: And so what are the prospects in an election year that Congress can get anything done on these questions - a broader spending bill, aid to Ukraine, any of that, Deirdre?

WALSH: House Republican leaders are seeing these polls. They've warned their members earlier this week that any government shutdown is super unpopular. It would also make it really hard for them to demonstrate they can govern and keep their majority in 2024. In terms of a broader budget deal, if Congress can't reach a deal by early next year, they face an automatic across-the-board spending cut in April of 1% all federal programs. That provision came out of the debt ceiling deal from earlier this year. Members are warning that could be a huge problem, especially for defense programs.

In terms of the money for Ukraine, our poll really shows the split that underlines this divide that's been growing, especially among House Republicans in the last year. More than half of House Republicans already opposed Ukraine money the last time they voted on it, including the new speaker, Mike Johnson. Senate leaders are trying to keep Israel and Ukraine aid in the same package so they can pass both, but the splits on both of these issues makes it super complicated.

SHAPIRO: OK. So if more fights lie ahead, how is that likely to play with voters in 2024? What does that likely mean for control of the House and Senate?

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, we're seeing a lot of cynicism toward politics and politicians. President Biden's approval ratings are lagging. Seven in 10 respondents think that the political system can work fine, but that it's the actual members of Congress who are the problem. That can lead to frustrations, flirtations with third parties. And President Biden really has a lot of work to do to shore up his coalition.

But look, we're a year away from congressional and presidential elections. And registering frustrations now with an incumbent president is very different than voting against him next year, especially if it's former President Trump on the other side of that ballot.

WALSH: The other impact of the divisions that Domenico talks about in this really toxic atmosphere we saw this week is that more lawmakers are starting to think it's time to retire. I talked to one veteran lawmaker who says those decisions usually come over the holidays after time with family. We've seen a string of announcements from both parties, and I would expect some more before the end of this year.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Deirdre Walsh and Domenico Montanaro, thank you both.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

WALSH: Thank you. 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.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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