Susan Davis

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.

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Republicans will be tested today on the strength of party unity in the Trump era and their party's ability to deliver on the promises they've made to the voters that sent them here.

"This is our chance and this is our moment. It's a big moment," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters earlier this week. "And I think our members are beginning to appreciate just what kind of a 'rendezvous with destiny' we have right here."

President Trump made the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue to close the deal with members of his own party on a bill that, on the face of it, does what Republicans have been promising to do for years: Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

He came with a tough love message for members of his own party.

"Looks like you'd be ripe for a primary if you don't keep your promise," the president told the group of lawmakers in a closed-door meeting, according to Rep. Blake Farenthold. "He did say that," the Texas Republican adds.

Republicans are looking to President Trump to use his address to Congress Tuesday evening to define the party's path forward on how to deliver on the long-promised pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The White House has, so far, ceded the decision-making to congressional leaders who are trying to unify competing moderate and conservative lawmaker demands behind a plan that can pass with narrow majorities in both chambers.

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Senate Republicans and conservative groups quickly rallied behind President Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, as Democrats focused on lingering anger over another jurist: Merrick Garland.

"I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement in which he pledged a "thorough and unsparing" confirmation process for Gorsuch.

"Buckle up. We're ready to go to work," Vice President Pence told Republican lawmakers at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday.

With a GOP administration in place for the first time in eight years, congressional leaders have mapped out an ambitious legislative agenda, with goals to have bills to repeal and replace Obamacare, overhaul the tax code and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, all before lawmakers break for the annual August recess.

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Republicans have a plan to replace Obamacare. In fact, they have several.

What they don't have is consensus on which one will guide the party's effort to reshape an insurance system that provides coverage for some 20 million Americans.

With so much focus in the early days of the Trump administration centered on GOP plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it's easy to forget that Republicans are planning another ambitious goal this year — overhauling the entire federal tax code.

As their first major act of the new Congress, Republicans rushed approval of a budget resolution this week that sets up a framework for repealing Obamacare, but what exactly to replace it with is still a puzzle Republicans are piecing together.

And it could take a while.

A group of Republican lawmakers, backed by law enforcement advocates, are engaged in an increasingly aggressive public clash with members of the Congressional Black Caucus over a high school work of art depicting police officers with animal heads.

The latest chapter unfolded on Tuesday when Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., held a rehanging ceremony for a painting that had been taken down last Friday by his GOP colleague, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Republicans will — once again — vote to cut off federal tax dollars for Planned Parenthood. They are planning to include the measure as part of a bigger upcoming bill to repeal pillars of Obamacare. This isn't the first time that they have tried to pass this type of legislation — President Obama vetoed a similar bill last January.

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

The House Republican Conference voted Monday night to approve a change to House rules to weaken the independence of the Office of Congressional Ethics and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, a panel controlled by party leaders.

It will be part of a broader House Rules package to be voted on by the full body on Tuesday after the 115th Congress officially convenes and the House elects a speaker.

Just before House Republicans re-elected Paul Ryan as their speaker, the Wisconsin Republican made a bold proclamation.

"Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government," Ryan told reporters one week after Election Day. "This will be a government focused on turning President-elect Trump's victory into real progress for the American people."

Ryan continued: "If we are going to put our country back on the right track, we have got to be bold, and we have to go big."

President Obama said Friday he is leaving behind a more prosperous and safe country than the one he inherited from his predecessor.

"Almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than it was eight years ago," the president said at a White House news conference on Friday before the Obama family's departure to Hawaii for its annual holiday vacation.

Senate Democrats dropped their objections Friday night to a short-term-funding bill to keep the government running, and the bill passed less than an hour before the midnight deadline.

It's become a familiar year-end act for Congress: passing a short-term-funding bill that will keep the government running for a few more months. This funding measure, which passed 63-36, runs out in April.

There's one way Republicans on Capitol Hill say they know becoming the vice president-elect hasn't changed Mike Pence: He hasn't changed his phone number.

Pence recently met with House Republicans in a closed-door session. "He said, 'Most of you have my cellphone,' which he found out after the election," laughed Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., one of Trump's earliest allies in Congress. "He wants to encourage us to continue to reach out to him," Barletta added.

No matter who wins the presidential election on Tuesday, it's nearly certain Congress will be more narrowly divided come January.

And with no clear mandate likely coming out of 2016, there is little reason to be overly optimistic that the next Congress can escape the cycle of unproductivity and polarization that has gripped Washington in recent years.


The 115th Congress: Political Dynamics

With little chance of a Democratic House takeover in the 2016 election, the two likeliest scenarios are:

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Updated at 6:30 p.m.

The Republican National Committee is sticking with embattled GOP nominee Donald Trump even as House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday he would no longer defend his party's presidential nominee.

Former House Speaker John Boehner has parlayed one of his favorite pastimes into a lucrative new gig. The avid smoker is joining the board of tobacco giant, Reynolds American Inc.

The Ohio Republican was the nation's highest-ranking smoker before he left office last October. Boehner currently smokes Camel brand cigarettes and has never indicated a desire to quit the cancer-causing habit.

That's good news for Reynolds, where Boehner will now serve as a Class 2 director and serve on the board's corporate governance committee.

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Lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday for what GOP party leaders are hoping will be an uneventful September for their party's most vulnerable members.

"We want a clean entry and a clean exit," says one Senate GOP aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about internal deliberations.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

A softer-edged Donald Trump huddled with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a hastily arranged meeting in Mexico City on Wednesday. Both men pledged a commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

Trump said he had a "very substantive" conversation with Peña Nieto during which he reaffirmed the right of the U.S. to protect its borders and build a wall, but that his pledge to make Mexico pay for it didn't come up.

"We didn't discuss that," Trump said.

Three big-name political insiders have been targets of the activist, outsider wings of their parties.

And yet all three — Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat — appear safe in their primary battles for re-election Tuesday.

At a recent campaign stop in Philadelphia, Senate Democratic candidate Katie McGinty faced a tough crowd: 4-year-olds.

"Hi! How's everybody doin'?" McGinty said, as she entered the Western Learning Center, an early-childhood program for local families.

McGinty stopped here Tuesday to tout her economic agenda with a small group of local parents; but first, it was story time.

Hillary Clinton's increasingly dominant lead in the presidential race is solidifying many Republicans' worst 2016 fears that Donald Trump will cost the party not only the White House but also control of the Senate.

"The bottom is starting to fall out a little earlier than expected," says a top Senate GOP campaign aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the race. "We started off with a very difficult map. No matter what, this was going to be a very difficult year."

Updated at 11:49 a.m. to include reaction from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declined multiple opportunities to walk back his latest charge that President Obama founded the radical Islamic State terrorist organization.

In interviews Thursday morning with CNBC and the Hugh Hewitt Show, Trump said he did not regret the charge.

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