Susan Davis | KUOW News and Information

Susan Davis

Susan Davis is a congressional reporter 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 Gwen Ifill. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C. and a Philadelphia native.

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.

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.

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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.

A deal struck late Wednesday postponed what could have been a politically tricky vote Thursday on the House floor: a resolution calling for the impeachment of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a faction of the House's most conservative members, are driving the effort to oust Koskinen, who has served at the helm of the embattled agency since late 2013. His term expires in November 2017.

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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.

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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.

NPR was invited to observe two focus groups of swing voters from Ohio and Arizona on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. "Wal-Mart Moms" are identified by pollsters as women predominantly between the ages of 18 and 44, who have kids under 18 living at home and who shop at Wal-Mart stores at least once a month. In these groups, the women were identified only by their first names.

President Obama dismissed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's comment this week that the election may be "rigged" this year.

Some party loyalists are scrambling to try to course correct Donald Trump's erratic presidential campaign after the nominee suffered a startling number of self-inflicted campaign wounds in just the kick-off week of the general election race.

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Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine clarified Sunday that his position on abortion rights is unmoved, despite top Clinton campaign aides' recent assertions otherwise.

"My voting position on abortion hasn't really changed," Kaine told CNN. "I support the Hyde Amendment. I haven't changed that."

While many pundits and political observers were quick to praise Hillary Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine as her running mate on Friday, the choice wasn't met with universal acclaim.

One important group — progressives and backers of Clinton's former rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — were not as pleased with the selection of the Virginia senator who has cultivated a reputation of working across the aisle over the course of his political career.

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A dramatic scene played out on Capitol Hill over the last day. At the heart of it, the issue of guns. Democrats in the House of Representatives staged a sit-in on the floor of the chamber demanding a vote on gun control.

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Reports of Marco Rubio's eagerness to leave the Senate may be greatly exaggerated.

After weeks of private lobbying, the Florida Republican senator now says he is considering running again. He has until June 24, his state's filing deadline, to make up his mind.

Rubio announced in April 2015 that he would not run for re-election to pursue his presidential bid. But his campaign never caught fire and he bowed out of the primaries after a disappointing finish in the Florida presidential primary.

One of the most famous magic tricks of all time would never have been possible without a certain Washington connection.

House Republicans kick off Tuesday a three-week roll out of a policy agenda that Speaker Paul Ryan says will outline what the party will do if they win the White House this November.

The agenda, dubbed "A Better Way," is Ryan's brainchild, a project that he negotiated as part of the deal that elevated him to House speaker last fall.

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It took a while, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has now endorsed Donald Trump for president. The leader of the Republican-controlled House has struggled to get there since Trump cleared the path to the nomination.

Lawmakers: They're just like us!

"Everyone's favorite parlor game right now in D.C. is who will be the vice presidential pick," Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said at a briefing with reporters.

Every four years, the guessing game around the "veepstakes" reaches fever pitch right around now, when the nominating conventions are just weeks away. Democratic lawmakers are rich in opinions on whom Hillary Clinton should tap as her running mate.

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