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Post-Bin Laden, Same Old Congress

Not much has changed on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death.
Alex Brandon
Not much has changed on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death.

You might think that Osama bin Laden's death would serve as a game-changer — and perhaps in some ways it has — but if you look at what lawmakers are saying and doing, it's politics as usual.

Let's start with whom lawmakers credit for this win.

"Nearly 10 years ago, President Bush stood before the nation after 9/11 and pledged to the American people that we will not tire and we will not falter and we will not fail in our quest to defeat those who intend to do us harm through acts of terror," House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said.

(To be fair, Cantor did mention current President Obama in his remarks.)

Another Republican, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, was more even-handed, saying that the more he learns about the operation, the more impressed he becomes.

"I am grateful to President Barack Obama for his decisive leadership; I am grateful to his predecessor, who never relented in his commitment to the war on terror," Pence said.

And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called both President Bush and his predecessor.

"I have also placed a call to President Clinton to thank him, as you may recall that in the '90s he declared Osama bin Laden Public Enemy No. 1 for America," Pelosi said.

Political pettiness? Perhaps. But it's a reflection of the power this accomplishment may give to the man whom voters credit. And right now, in the political world, all eyes are on November 2012.

Then, there's the business of the week. Perhaps you'd think the legislation on the floors would reflect the giant news going on. In the Senate, where politics can be a bit milder, that's true. Senators pulled together a resolution to commemorate the troops and the intelligence community involved in bin Laden's apprehension.

But in the House? House Republican leaders brought to the floor on Wednesday a bill to make permanent the annual ban on taxpayer money going to fund abortion services. On Tuesday, House Republicans voted to block mandatory funding of President Obama's health care reform law.

All of this prompted California Democrat Rep. Lois Capps to cry.

"Instead of moving past divisive social issues and addressing our economic challenges with housing and creating jobs, we are here again today witnessing the Republicans' obsession with reopening the culture wars," Capps said.

Now, it's not all politics on Capitol Hill right now. There are serious discussions going on that cross political lines. How does bin Laden's death affect the war in Afghanistan? How long should America be there? And a lot of people in both parties are talking about Pakistan.

Washington Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks echoes the prevailing sentiment: How could nobody in the Pakistani government have known that bin Laden was there?

"I'm incredulous by this. So I think we need to review our relationship — and we give them a lot of money," Dicks said.

And remember, money is the name of the game in the Capitol. Every penny the government spends must first be approved by Congress. So while things seem to be going back to normal in Washington — meaning, the political pettiness is back — the killing of bin Laden will resonate through the business and debate of the rest of this year and beyond.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.