TIME TIME for Thanks

Dick Durbin: What I’m Thankful For

Durbin grandkids
Durbin grandkids Courtesy Dick Durbin

This Thanksgiving I give thanks for my Brooklyn toddlers.

Less than a week ago our little grand-twins, Ona and Floyd, celebrated their third birthday. Loretta and I were blessed to be there when they were born and since then we have been a sappy, doting family that thinks nothing of showing the same cellphone photos of their happy childhood to one another over and over.

Their arrival reaffirmed the promise of life. It helped us to value again the importance of family and to throw ourselves completely into this new world of our little princess Elsa and Spiderman. And it creates an outsized pride in our daughter and son-in-law who have turned out to be the best parents one could hope for.

As we watch these children flourish with every book that is read to them and every act of love that builds their foundations in life, we give thanks and say a prayer that each of us can help to create a world where every child is blessed with the promise of happiness.

Dick Durbin is the senior United States Senator from Illinois and the Assistant Majority Leader.

TIME Congress

Inside Landrieu’s Last Fight: Keystone or Bust

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014.
Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014 Gary Cameron—Reuters

The Search for 60

Before the doors to the Senators’ private elevator closed on embattled Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu in the basement of the Capitol building Monday afternoon, a reporter shouted to her from the hallway outside: “Who is the 60th?” She replied with a wink.

With just hours to go before a Tuesday night vote to authorize the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, Landrieu claims to have the 60 votes she needs for a filibuster-proof majority to ensure passage, but her supporters say they have just 59 votes. If she gets to 60 and the Senate passes the bill, despite opposition from Senate Democratic leaders and the White House, Landrieu hopes it will increase her diminishing chances at re-election in a run-off vote in Louisiana early next month.

“Landrieu is still pulling out every stop, calling, texting, pleading, begging,” says a Senate Democrat aide. “Leadership—they occasionally check in to make sure [my boss is] not flipping, but they’ve been keeping tabs on it…[My boss] had already told Landrieu ‘no’ about 15 times before he got his first Harry Reid call.”

Landrieu’s hunt for a 60th has become a bigger battle between powerful, well-funded environmentalists and energy interests. Passage of the bill would be the strongest signal to President Barack Obama, after six years of debate, that there is now robust political support in favor of building the pipeline.

The Chamber of Commerce has sent around letters supporting the pipeline, even putting the vote on its annual scorecard that helps determine which candidates the powerful business lobby will support in the future. A number of labor groups, including the Laborers’ International Union of North America, North America’s Building Trades Unions and the International Union of Operating Engineers have written letters urging Senators to vote yes.

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, who “fully expects” the bill to pass, touted its outreach Monday, telling TIME that Senators have heard from “multiple thousands” of constituents burning up the Hill’s phone lines. “I promise you they’ve heard from thousands of their constituents over the past week or two in the post-election cycle,” Gerard says. “These aren’t industry people, these are voters in their respective states.”

The anti-Keystone side has also increased the pressure. On Thursday, League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski hovered just off the Senate floor, giving a hug to Democrat Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware after their conversation, according to a Senate Democrat aide. Coons, a Landrieu target, will likely vote no on the bill.

“Our hope is that it won’t matter,” says David Goldston, the top lobbyist for the anti-Keystone National Resources Defense Council, of the bill, which faces a possible veto from Obama even if it passes. “It will either confirm Congress’ unwillingness to step in on an ongoing process or it will confirm the President’s unwillingness to allow Congress to step in on an ongoing matter.”

Outside groups have even already claimed some credit in influencing the outcome. Jason Kowalski, the policy director of anti-Keystone 350.org, said that his group decided to turn up the heat on Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin after hearing that his front desk was telling callers the Senator was undecided.

“Within 10 minutes we had an email blast out the door to thousands of supporters across Michigan,” says Kowalski. “In a span of two hours his office received over 100 phone calls from Michigan climate activists. Reporters picked up the scent too, and after that two-hour call barrage the Senator told a reporter he would be voting ‘No.’”

Levin said Monday that he’s been “consistently opposed” to Keystone and would vote no Monday. “It would bypass an environmental impact statement on a new route which is a real possibility,” he added.

Landrieu is the driving force behind the fight, calling on years of Senate friendships in hopes of scraping by in the uphill runoff reelection race Dec. 6. The Keystone push is unlikely to be enough—she’s down five points according to Real Clear Politics. But on Monday, Landrieu fought on, conferring on the Senate floor with North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven, West Virgina Democrat Joe Manchin and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, among other supporters.

Manchin spoke to his fellow West Virginian Democrat Rockefeller while Landrieu spoke for several minutes with Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, who appeared more enthused with what was inside her desk than the conversation. Both Rockefeller and Mikulski are expected to vote “nay” Tuesday. Landrieu says she has 60 votes, although she has yet to name the final one.

“She has a southern charm that is almost irresistible—almost,” joked New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who said he would oppose the bill Monday.

The White House hasn’t been as aggressive as Landrieu; Maine Independent Sen. Angus King, who says he is likely to vote no, said Monday that Obama’s lobbyists haven’t reached out. But the bill’s supporters say that White House messaging of a likely veto has sidelined some Democrats.

“That frankly makes it tougher to get Democrats on board,” says Ryan Bernstein, chief of staff for Hoeven, a top pro-Keystone Republican.

“Senator Landrieu has a difficult task because it’s a question of will fellow Democrats get to vote their own conscience or are they trying to protect the president,” says the API’s Gerard. “And I think that’s the real challenge.”

TIME Senate

Elizabeth Warren Joins Senate Democratic Leadership

Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. listens as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, after Senate Democrats voted on leadership positions for the 114th Congress. Susan Walsh—AP

The progressive leader joins the Democratic leadership in a newly created role

The Senate Democrats voted in new leadership on Thursday, including progressive standard-bearer Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who will take on a newly created role.

Following an hours-long leadership vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he expects “Elizabeth Warren to be Elizabeth Warren” in her new role as the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee’s strategic policy adviser. The role, several outlets are reporting, was created specifically for Warren.

The addition of Warren brings some star power to the Democrat’s senior ranks, though it’s not clear how much clout will come with the new position.

Reid was chosen to continue leading Democrats in the Senate, though at least two of his peers, Sens. Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin, told reporters they did not cast votes for anyone, according to the Washington Post.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jon Tester of Montana will also take on leadership roles for the Democrats. Klobuchar will chair the Senate Democratic Steering Committee, and Tester will now chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Reid praised Tester’s victories in two tough elections in announcing the Montanan’s selection to lead the DSCC ahead of the 2016 election. In a statement released by the DSCC Thursday, Tester said he’s accepting the position to “recruit and support candidates who understand the issues facing regular, working Americans.”

The new Democratic leadership team includes four women and three men. When asked about the number of women who now serve beside him in the leadership, Reid said Thursday, “I have seen this institution change for a lot of reasons, but one reason it has changed for the good is because of women.”

TIME Congress

GOP Grills Obama Officials Over Ebola Funding Request

Republicans Grill Administration Officials on Quarantine, Czar

A Senate panel took a skeptical look at President Obama’s request for $6.2 billion to combat Ebola Wednesday, with Republicans grilling the Administration on its quarantine protocols and the role of Ron Klain, the President’s Ebola czar.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Richard Shelby, criticized the Administration’s “confusing and at at times contradictory” claims about the effectiveness of a quarantine. He and other GOP Senators questioned why the Pentagon has ordered a mandatory 21-day isolation period for all military personnel returning from the affected West African countries, while the federal government took months to add enhanced airport screenings for civilians and other non-military personnel traveling to the region.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell responded that while she respected the Pentagon’s quarantine directive, the military’s decision “was not based on the science.”

Shelby also questioned the role of Ebola czar Ron Klain, saying that “all reports indicate that he has no actual authority.” The witnesses responded that they had been in frequent contact with Klain. Burwell said she had been in touch him “every day” and touted the “added value” Klain brings to coordinating policies with the departments and the White House.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, who will lose her gavel to Shelby in the new Republican-majority next year, said the emergency request to contain and eradicate Ebola met her criteria.

“It’s sudden, unanticipated, unforeseen, urgent and temporary,” Mikulski said. The country, she added, needs to “face very clearly the fear that it generates” and repeated that America has had nine, “N-I-N-E,” cases while West Africa has dealt with thousands. Mikulski added that she wants the Ebola funding to go into a year-long omnibus bill, which must pass by Dec. 11 to avert a government shutdown.

Nearly $3 billion of Obama’s request will be allocated to USAID and the State Department, which will use the money for additional training of health care workers and burial teams and to build and maintain more treatment centers. Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, told the panel the U.S. anti-Ebola effort is “the largest-ever U.S. government response to a global health crisis,” with more than 1,800 Pentagon officials, 36 USAID workers and 163 Health and Human Services personnel in West Africa.

Much of the rest of the requested spending—$2.4 billion—would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, which will continue to ramp up U.S. hospital training. HHS says that more than 250,000 health care personnel have participated in the department’s informational events. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be allocated to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, which would, respectively, hire more officers to investigate and monitor the disease and invest in research and development of vaccines.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that there were 14,098 reported cases and 5,160 deaths in the current outbreak, with the vast majority in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. This week the last known Ebola patient in the United States was cured and released from a New York hospital.


TIME Newsmaker Interview

Eric Cantor’s Secrets for Negotiating with Joe Biden

Joe Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 4, 2014 Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

"The Guy's Awesome"

Last week’s Republican victories may have had the paradoxical effect of increasing the influence of the consummate Congressional Democrat, Joe Biden. GOP leaders looking to show they can get things done now that control both the House and Senate will need to cut deals with the Obama White House, and Vice President Joe Biden may be their best hope to do so.

On Tuesday, TIME spoke with one of the closest observers of Biden’s negotiating tactics, his long-time sparring partner and former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, now vice chairman and at the investment bank Moelis & Company. As the number two Republican in the House for the first six years of the Obama administration, and a constant thorn in the side of the White House on issues like the budget, energy, immigration and health care, Cantor saw Biden’s techniques up close.

You’ve spent a lot of time negotiating with Vice President Biden. What was that like?

Cantor: Unquestionably, the Vice President knows how to negotiate. He understands people. And in my professional background, before I got to Congress and certainly now in the private world at Moelis & Company and in Congress, if you’re interested in doing deals, and getting a result, what I think what one needs to do is be able to size people up. And this is what Joe Biden has always been about in my experience. He is able to size up where the opposition is. He’s firmly rooted in his direction, what he needs to accomplish in the negotiations, and then understands how far you can push and not lose a result or a deal.

My real experience is from the extended time we spent together in the summer of 2011 around the debt ceiling discussions. As you recall, the Speaker had asked me to serve on the Biden commission. The President had basically formed it and put the Vice President in charge. And there were a handful of us in the room for seven weeks almost, three days a week, two and a half hours a day. And the Vice president was the only one, and that commission was the only entity that really came up with a list of spending reductions that both sides could agree to.

Now, he would always say nothing was agreed to unless everything is agreed to. But nonetheless, work was done in the granularity of the programs that were targeted. Nothing was ever agreed to universally because the tax question came up and that’s what kicked it back to the White House and we all had to come back to the White House for two weeks with the President and then ultimately that ended with the Super Committee creation. But if you look at what has transpired since then, the Super Committee, the fiscal cliff, Murray-Ryan, all of that, the work that came out of Joe Biden’s commission is the common theme. And I believe that is attributable to his negotiating skills and ability to cut through—to set aside what you don’t agree on and try to come to a result.

What was the difference in negotiating with the President compared to the Vice President:

Cantor: I just think that the President obviously doesn’t have the tenure in Washington in negotiating deals that the Vice President’s had. Just in terms of pure time. And I think that the President is very rooted in what he wants. The President also, in my view, is very rooted in what he thinks the other side wants. And that’s where the difficulty in my opinion has been with the President over the last six years. If one does not agree with the President’s view of what you want, there’s very little prospect for a result. Joe Biden has a real sensitivity, not only to human reaction, but also partisan and political sensitivities. He understands how far you can push before you just blow up the prospects for a deal.

One readout of last week’s White House meeting suggested that the Vice President got ahead of Obama’s position on immigration reform in a desire to cut a deal. Have you seen that happen before?

Cantor: Honestly, the whole sense of the discussion around the initial debt ceiling talks in 2011 was just that. The president had dispatched the Vice President to come up with areas that could become part of a larger deal. And really the Vice President was very clear and never hid anything from me. He said in order to get any of the kinds of things we’re discussing, the President is going to want some kind of revenue increase. He laid it all out on the table. ‘That’s what we need.’ And I indicated what we needed and that we couldn’t go for tax increases. So I think there has certainly been evidence that the Vice President is a negotiator, he wants to cut through and get a deal done.

I think that on the fiscal cliff deal, when he struck that agreement with McConnell, that was the last time that the President wanted Joe Biden involved. And this is unfortunately what the pattern has been. Hopefully, I think the President may see the light and say if you want to get a deal done, bring in the deal man, Joe Biden.

What’s the current state of the Biden-McConnell relationship?

Cantor: I can’t speak for McConnell. But I do… stay in touch with [Biden]. He stays in touch with people. Part of the ability to do deals is to know both sides and to understand their thought process and their political priorities and imperatives. My sense would be, if I’m like others, Joe Biden has maintained those relationships. And that’s one of the striking differences between the President and Vice President. The President has not spent the time necessary even while he’s been in office the last six years, much less before, developing, nurturing relationships and understanding people’s thinking. And that is a huge impediment to the President’s ability to do a deal, whereas I think Joe Biden has been schooled in that way.

How did you try to square the Vice President’s public image with his negotiating record?

Cantor: Joe Biden is what you see. You know, he’s genuine. Yes, he’s prone to gaffes publicly, and he’ll admit that. He’s very self-deprecating like that. And I’m certainly not one who agrees with Joe Biden on all things—we probably disagree more than we agree—but from a human and relationship standpoint, the guy’s awesome.

Do you think the midterms opened up the possibility for deal-making?

Cantor: I really think that there’s going to be a trial period here. And I really look at the next six weeks as that. From the White House standpoint, if the president signs an executive order on immigration unilaterally that will not bode well for the productivity of the next Congress. Again, I think that’s the trial issue for the president.

From Congress’ standpoint, their job is to get done the omnibus/minibus spending package. Because if they kick the can and decide to push the [longer-term spending bill] into the next Congress so they don’t have to “negotiate” with the other side, I think that leaves wide open the chance of mischief and derailing of the path to productivity.

Do you think last week’s election paved the way for a more united GOP conference, or will leadership still have difficulty keeping members in line.

Cantor: In my experience, I think the latter would probably be [a more likely] reality. And it’s always going to be a challenge for leadership. I do think in the House, the Speaker and the Leader are going to have a much larger majority now that hopefully will be more inclined to follow the path laid out by the Speaker and the leadership. If we can see the House and Senate to really begin to move legislation across the floor—and some of the legislation and probably a lot of it will not be to the White House’s liking—there’s something about that that may lend itself to a more espirit de corps, if you will, for folks to hang together because they’re winning, they’re getting legislation across the floor, they’re getting it out of Congress, sending it to the President’s desk and then it would be incumbent on the President to respond.

I think if you can see some real legislative productivity on the Hill that may lend itself to the larger majorities now hanging with leadership more.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Mary Landrieu Talks to TIME About the Fight of Her Political Life

Sen. Landrieu Gathers With Supporters On Election Night In New Orleans
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) gathers with supporters during midterm elections at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans on Nov. 4, 2014. Stacy Revere—Getty Images

The senior Senator from Louisiana talks hardball politics and Keystone XL at a campaign stop in New Orleans

Mary Landrieu did not look like a politician on the brink of extinction as she arrived at the National World War II Museum’s crowded Veterans Day get-together in her hometown of New Orleans on Tuesday. With the hulks of retired warplanes suspended overhead, the senior Senator from Louisiana made her way toward the stage through a sea of smiles, handshakes and hugs from old friends. She stopped for a chat with the New Orleans Maritime Marine Academy Band before taking a seat on stage next to the mayor, who is also her little brother.

But as the Senate Democrats’ final flag-bearer in the Deep South, Landrieu is every bit the last of an endangered political species. In a three-way contest on Election Day earlier this month, she finished first with 42% compared to 40% for Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and 14% for Tea Party favorite Rob Maness. Landrieu and Cassidy now go head-to-head in a runoff Dec. 6, and many of Maness’ supporters are expected to back her Republican opponent.

Landrieu has been all but abandoned by the national Democratic Party ahead of the runoff. Cassidy and his supporters have paid for 96% of the ads aired since the runoff began, while the national Democratic campaigns have pulled virtually all of their money out of the race.

But Landrieu is putting a brave face on it. Democrats throughout the South took an Election Day beating in part because voters saw the midterms as a referendum on President Obama, Landrieu says. With the GOP soon to be in control of the Senate, the Republican majority is no longer at stake and Landrieu hopes that fact will give her space to focus the race back on Louisiana. “We have the race that we want!” she declared after results came in election night.

The magic number for Landrieu to win that race is “30”, say campaign aides. Black voters, a solidly Democratic constituency, must comprise 30% of the electorate and she’s got to win 30% of white votes, the aides say. She has a ways to go to make those numbers. On November 4, she took just 18% of white votes—if she hopes to keep her job she’ll have to win over the rest.

To get there, Landrieu is playing up her more than 18 years as a moderate deal-maker in the Senate and her lengthy record of bringing home the proverbial bacon. Among the projects she has managed to bring to Louisiana, Landrieu reminded the crowd on Veterans Day, was the National World War II Museum in which they were all gathered.

After speeches from Landrieu, her brother Mitch the mayor, Republican Sen. David Vitter and Marine Corps Colonel Bradley Weisz (who was the only speaker all day to mention President Obama), Landrieu sat down with TIME to discuss her uphill political battle.

TIME: You mentioned after the election that this is the campaign you’ve always wanted. Why? The numbers are daunting—

Sen. Mary Landrieu: Hold on. The campaign I wanted is a campaign against Bill Cassidy. Not against the entire anger at the national government. And the first race was so much anger about gridlock in Washington, now that that race is over the Republicans have taken control of the Senate. Mitch McConnell is now going to be the Majority Leader. Barack Obama has been in some ways repudiated by the voters nationally. Not personally, but some of his policies. I think now voters here can focus on what’s best for Louisiana. So this is the race that I’ve wanted to run, between Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy. Running on my record against his record. And if we can get voters to focus on that I’m confident of a victory.

In recent days you’ve been highlighting things like the gender gap, the minimum wage, issues that particularly affect women.

OK, yes but what you need to be corrected on is that I’ve been highlighting those issues since the first day of the campaign. You would write it wrong. This is not a recent switch. I’ve been talking about minimum wage, pay equity, Lilly Ledbetter, since the first day of this campaign because economic issues are really at the heart of what Louisiana voters want to focus on. Oil and gas jobs, worker training, the skills gap, fair wages and benefits. I’ve talked about that since the first day of the campaign.

Now, a lot of that’s been drowned out by my opponent who won’t discuss that in any way, shape or form. All he wants to talk about is the President. And, as I’ve said, I’ve now worked with three presidents, six governors and four majority leaders. The race that I want to run is a race about: Has Mary Landrieu delivered for Louisiana? And what has she done? And what kind of teams has she built? What kind of record does she have versus Bill Cassidy. If I can get that race, we will win. I will win.

With Republicans in control of the Senate is Keystone XL going to go through?

That’s a good question. We’re actually very close to getting Keystone passed right now. I’ve been working very hard on a stand alone vote on Keystone. You might think that it’ll be easier in January but you would be jumping to a conclusion that’s not yet proven, because in order to get Keystone passed, remember, it has to be passed by the House and the same bill by the Senate and then signed into law by the President. So, if you think about getting a clean bill, like my bill, like the one I have with Hoeven, it’s a Hoeven-Landrieu bill, it has 45 Republican co-sponsors plus a few Democrats. A clean stand-alone Keystone bill could potentially pass right now.

So when you ask me is it going to be easier, I can’t say yes because in January the Republicans may put a bill together with Keystone and let’s say five other things. See that? And then it passes the House and then it fails in the Senate, or it passes the House, the Senate and the President vetoes it. So my answer is: it is possible right now, right now, I think, to get a clean Keystone bill passed that the President to the United States could actually sign.

You were chatting with the kids in the Marine band over there. What were you talking about?

Well, I’m a huge supporter of the creation of this school. I’ve led the fight here in Louisiana on charter schools. I’m an elected leader on public charter schools. I’ve helped to create more charter schools per capita than anywhere else in the nation. So I visit them frequently and I was just saying that I’ll be there to see them again. Their school is growing. As I said in my speech, we have two charter military schools, first in the nation, and we’re really proud of that. The Pentagon and the military are really interested in using that model all over the country for other schools.


Congress’ Lame Duck To Do List: Avoid a Shutdown, Fight ISIS and Ebola

John Boehner Comments on Midterm Election
Republican Speaker of the House from Ohio, John Boehner, speaks to the media about the Republican route in the US midterm elections at the US Capitol in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA

A historically unproductive Congress faces a very busy winter

The exceptionally unproductive 113th Congress returns Wednesday to a pile of overdue bills that must be passed during a not-so-lame duck session. From keeping the government afloat and funding the fights against Ebola and ISIS, to vetting the next Attorney General and battling with the President over immigration, Congress will be busy between now and the beginning of January.

Funding the Government

With a Dec. 11 deadline approaching, Congress is looking to pass a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government open. Some conservatives are calling for a short-term version that would allow the incoming Senate Republican majority to pass its own budget early next year. Others want an amendment to the bill that would block Obama’s expected move to halt the deportations of potentially millions of undocumented workers.

But top appropriators in both parties hope to get a clean bill that will last through next September, and presumptive Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will oppose any standoff that could result in a government shutdown. Staffers have been working for weeks to clear the “underbrush,” as House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers calls it, so the negotiators can move the bill with none of the drama of recent years.

Fighting ISIS

Also facing a Dec. 11 deadline is Congress’ authorization to take military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In September, Congress funded Obama’s request to train and arm “moderate” Syrian forces to combat ISIS. In the lame duck period, Congress will consider a more specific clearance for war. While Obama has said he doesn’t need authority beyond the green light Congress gave President George W. Bush to fight terrorism after 9/11, the President announced last week that he would ask for more powers anyway, since ISIS is a “different type of enemy.”

On Friday, Obama said he would send 1,500 more troops to Iraq, nearly doubling the number of American soldiers there to train and advise the coalition forces against ISIS. And Obama has asked Congress for an additional $5.6 billion to “degrade and ultimately defeat” ISIS.

On Monday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Daily Beast op-ed that “this war is now illegal,” as the 90 day window provided in the War Powers Resolution of 1973 has expired. “It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended,” he wrote. “Congress has a duty to act, one way or the other.”

Democrats see a tough fight over a new authorization. “I think there is broad support for going after ISIS as well as Al Qaeda,” says Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who favors new congressional authorization against both terrorist groups. “The challenge is defining the parameters of that authorization. I certainly don’t think that’s going to be easy and it certainly explains the reluctance the Administration has to come to Congress to begin with, but the fact that it is a difficult task doesn’t mean we can ignore our institutional responsibility.”

The congressional authorization to fight ISIS could be folded into the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which has passed every year for the past 53, but House Speaker John Boehner has said that he would prefer to debate the issue after the lame duck period.

Combatting Ebola

President Obama last week added a late-breaking request for $6.2 billion in additional funds to fight Ebola around the world and congressional panels plan to look into how that money should be allocated. On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak; Centers for Disease Control Director Thomas Frieden, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are expected to testify. On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will also hold a hearing on the international and U.S. response to the West African outbreak. As of last week there were 13,042 reported cases of Ebola and 4818 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Executive Action on Immigration

Obama decided to delay until after the midterms an executive action to provide deportation relief and work authorization to potentially millions of undocumented workers in a move that has been criticized by op-ed columnists and immigration advocates alike as politically-motivated and impractical. With the election over, the question is if and when Obama will move. If he goes before Dec. 11, he could imperil the appropriations process. If he goes afterwards, he could hurt whatever bipartisan efforts he tries to pass—such as new international trade agreements—with a Republican Congress in his final two years. Despite the calls of conservatives, many immigration experts believe that the Administration can act on solid legal ground and Obama may be tempted to move knowing that Republicans have few options to beat back the order before 2016.

Vetting a New Attorney General

Obama announced last week that Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was his pick to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. Top Senate Republicans have said that her confirmation process should wait until next year when they control the chamber. While there are few major critiques of Lynch so far, Senate Republicans have indicated that her confirmation process will include questioning on the President’s expected executive order on immigration. If confirmed, Lynch will be the first African American woman to hold the post.

Electing New Leaders

The House and Senate will hold their leadership elections on Thursday. Both parties expect that their top officials will keep their jobs, but there will be new committee chairs and officials at the helm of the parties’ campaign arms next year. Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel has already announced that he would step down after a brutal cycle and Republican Senators Roger Wicker and Dean Heller look to replace National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran.


TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Interstellar, SEAL Who Shot bin Laden, and Gay Marriage Bans

Here are four of the biggest stories for the first week of November

This week, a former Navy SEAL admitted he fired the shot that killed Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. Robert James O’Neill, who now works as a motivational speaker, hadn’t come forward because of privacy and safety concerns.

Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time in almost a decade.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld laws against gay marriage in four states — Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

And Interstellar opened two days early in limited release at theaters around the country, earning a whopping $1.35 million.

TIME 2014 Election

GOP Strategist: Democrats Blundered by Hiding Barack Obama

Republicans explain what they would have done differently if working for the Democrats

Republican operatives still relishing their Senate election victory offered some unlikely criticism of their Democratic opponents’ campaigns Thursday.

“They sidelined the president,” Rob Collins, the Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) told reporters at a backslapping post-election briefing. Instead, Collins argued, Democrats shouldn’t have been scared off by Republican attempts to tie Obama to their candidates.

Collins said NRSC polling had long identified the economy as the issues voters cared about most, and one where Democrats stood to gain. “We felt that that was their best message and they sidelined their best messenger,” he said. Collins added that in many states, Democratic candidates had positive stories to tell. “In Colorado, unemployment is 5.1 percent and they never talked about it,” he added.

“They were so focused on independents that they forgot they had a base,” Collins said of Democratic Senate candidates. “They left their base behind. They became Republican-lite.”

Collins also attacked the Democratic “war on women” message, particularly in Colorado, saying Democrats used “a tactic as a strategy.” He was equally critical of the Harry Reid-pushed Koch Brothers narrative. “It was a dumb debate. It didn’t move a voter,” he said.

“I can’t remember a Democrat who spent any kind of money in a significant way talking about the economy,” he added. “If I had a choice between talking about the number one issue we saw in every single poll, and talking about a single issue, I would be talking about the number one issue.”

But Collins’ advice may well be a form of psychological warfare against Republicans. Earlier Thursday, he labeled Obama as Republicans’ best surrogate.


Obama only appeared publicly with one Democratic Senate candidate, Senator-elect Gary Peters of Michigan, who was already well ahead in the polls. The White House said Obama was taking his cues from the individual campaigns. In the closing stretch of the campaign, Obama was engaged in radio and robo-calling efforts on behalf of some Senate Democrats to drive base turnout, but the Republicans argued it was too little, too late.

NRSC communications director Brad Dayspring argued that Democrats should at least tried to see benefit from Obama. “We were going to use Obama against them no matter what,” he said.

Dayspring highlighted the success of the party’s much-mocked candidate schools: “We didn’t have a single candidate create a national issue for other candidates,” he said.


TIME portfolio

Go Inside Senator Mitch McConnell’s Winning Campaign

“Everywhere I look, there’s a little photograph,” says Christopher Morris, a TIME contract photographer who, for the last four days, has been following the next Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Morris has had a long fascination for the political theater, especially on the Republican side. In his book, My America, he documented Republican nationalism in the US during George W. Bush’s two terms as presidents, and in Americans, released in 2012, he showed, through his melancholic portraits, how severely divided America had become.

Now, after a one-year hiatus away from politics, he’s back in the thick of it. “I’m really intrigued by this Republican world, maybe because of the way they style everything,” Morris says. “For some reason, I find the Republican side much more visual to me. Everything seems very structured and linear,” something he hasn’t found to be true at Democratic rallies.

Morris’ photographs tend to be quiet portraits frozen in time. “It’s very pure and straight photography,” he argues. “I always try to separate my subject from the crowd. I’m more interested in things that come across in very simplistic ways.”

The results are “quirky visual moments,” Morris says, where the fashion, the makeup, the hair, the way people look, stand and frown, take over, pushing aside the political talking points. “I’m fascinated to be in this Republican world, especially with Mitch McConnell in Kentucky… where people have been super optimistic. They feel they are taking the country back from those liberal, college-educated, northeastern elite-type of crowd, and Mitch kind of alludes to that in his speeches. He always says that he’s spent seven years on defense and now he’s going on the offense.”

With the election season now over, Morris is already thinking about 2016. “I’d love to cover [the presidential elections],” he says. “But I never know where my career and my work will take me.”

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII.

Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, is an associate photo editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser