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Week in politics: Support for same-sex marriage in the Senate; more trouble for Trump

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Iowa's first-in-the-nation status could be coming to an end. This week, President Joe Biden suggested South Carolina take the lead in the Democrats' presidential nomination contests. And his proposal seems to be getting serious consideration, as well as some blowback. Meanwhile, some Republican support for same sex-marriage and new problems for former President Donald Trump. Joining us, as he does most Saturdays, is NPR's Ron Elving.

Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So let's start with Iowa, a place we both know well. Ron, for the past 50 years, its voters have had first crack at the candidates. What is behind the desire to change that?

ELVING: Several issues, really - number one, the outsized role that Iowa's defined for itself is demographically at odds with the Democratic Party's base. That base is increasingly found in urban areas and in communities of color. Iowa is a largely rural state that's roughly 90% white. Second, super early Iowa events have not been primaries, but party-run caucuses. And both parties have had trouble managing those caucuses in recent years. And that's led to some confusion about who won and lots of bad feelings. And we should add that President Biden has little love for the Iowa caucuses, having finished no better than fourth there in 2020 and back in 2008.

MCCAMMON: There is that. How likely is this change to happen, though, Ron? And what does it mean for the other states that currently follow Iowa?

ELVING: This was a vote by a key committee. It still has to get through the full Democratic National Committee, and then it needs to withstand what will be a furious onslaught from backers of Iowa and New Hampshire, which now shares a date with Nevada in the new lineup. You know, this is an industry in some of these states, and they're going to fight hard and stay in the limelight. So it's a battle joined, not a battle won.

MCCAMMON: In the Senate this week, there was a vote, 61-36, to protect same-sex marriages and interracial marriage. Those are two issues that seem settled after separate Supreme Court rulings. The Respect for Marriage Act now heads to the House. Was this vote a big surprise for you, Ron?

ELVING: Yes, in the long term, no, in the short term. There has been a growing coalition in both parties that favors this point of view - same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court, of course, could reverse some of the past decisions it has made in this area, just as it did with respect to abortion. You know, I was here in Washington when Congress passed what was called the Defense of Marriage Act 26 years ago. That was an anti-same-sex-marriage bill. And it was supported at the time by President Bill Clinton and considered essential to his reelection that year. And yet here we are a generation later watching 12 Republican senators cross the aisle to join the Democrats and protect people's right to marry the person they love. It's proof that change can happen.

MCCAMMON: Now, this week also brought a series of rebukes aimed at former President Trump. Tell us first about the legal ones, if you would.

ELVING: You know, the president has - he's had what would have to be called a series of setbacks, particularly in the appeals court in Atlanta this past week, where three judges, two of whom Trump had appointed, said that the special master that was appointed by a friendly Trump judge down in Florida was just a bad call and that that should just be dismissed. Also this week, Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers was found guilty of seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 riot, storming the Capitol, disrupting the Congress. That could be read as yet another sign of the law closing in on the former president.

MCCAMMON: And then there were rebukes from Republicans over Trump's dinner last week with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and the white nationalist Nick Fuentes. What stands out to you about the pushback from members of Trump's own party over this dinner?

ELVING: I'm struck by the slow rollout of these responses. There were a few Republicans who were on it from the jump. Others came along day by day. It took a full week before the House and Senate Republican leaders, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, stepped out and condemned these dinner guests. And still to this day, Trump has not denounced or repudiated them. He simply claims he did not know who they were.

MCCAMMON: That is NPR's Ron Elving.

Thanks so much, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Sarah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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.
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