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Congressional lawmakers will vote this week on a deal to raise the debt ceiling


Lawmakers are back in Washington to vote this week on the debt ceiling deal struck by President Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over the long weekend. Now, if approved, the deal would avoid an impending default and suspend the nation's borrowing limit until after the next presidential election. NPR political correspondent Susan Davis has more about what's in this deal. Susan, I know D.C. is the capital of the country, but it's also maybe the capital of dealmaking...


MARTÍNEZ: ...In the United States as well. So put this one in perspective. How big is this one?

DAVIS: You know, it's a pretty modest agreement. There's no major structural reforms in the bill that would fundamentally change how the government spends money, but it does aim to put the brakes on it, at least in the short term. These savings largely come from putting caps on discretionary spending over the next two fiscal years for basically everything but the military. And that, A, has generally tended to be good news for the country because it usually makes government shutdowns off the table. And the new Republican House majority can certainly claim some political victories here. There are provisions that cut planned funding for the IRS. They're going to enact tougher work requirements for certain adults to receive benefits like food stamps, at least for a few years. And it would end the current pause on student loan repayments that began during the pandemic. But even added up, those things don't make much of a dent in the national debt, which is still primarily fueled by spending on programs like Medicare.

MARTÍNEZ: And bipartisan Washington deals usually means everyone gets something, but no one's happy about what they have. So who's not happy right now?

DAVIS: Well, the Republicans' right wing and the Democrats' left wing are voicing the loudest opposition. But that's pretty typical, especially when it comes to spending deals. Many on the left are angry about provisions that weaken environmental protections and the focus from Republicans to restrict aid to the neediest of Americans. Already, about a half a dozen Republicans have come out opposed to it because they say it doesn't do enough to address the debt. That's an important number because it already tells you that the speaker is going to need some combination of Democrats to pass this in the House. He only has a four-seat majority. But with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House, from the very beginning, it was clear there was just no way a final deal could come together that didn't have Democratic buy in. So, no, it is not a major conservative victory for many in the House Republican Conference, but it's probably as realistic of a deal as divided government can produce these days.

MARTÍNEZ: But are Republicans in the House going to maybe hold Kevin McCarthy's feet to the fire on this?

DAVIS: You know, they certainly could. His job overall doesn't seem at risk over this particular deal. But, you know, it's volatile. There's going to be some test votes in committee, likely later tonight. One of the things we're watching is if former President Trump comes out for or against this deal. That could certainly factor into how many rank and file Republicans weigh their votes. He still has a lot of sway among most Republicans. And when the vote ultimately happens, yeah, it's going to be watched pretty closely to see exactly how many Republicans are standing behind the speaker. And I think it could be seen as a measure of support about how much he has behind him in the party at this time.

MARTÍNEZ: And on the other end, Sue, considering that President Biden supports this, is it safe to assume enough Democrats will get on board to make sure it passes both the House and the Senate?

DAVIS: It looks that way for now. You know, Democrats are mainly happy that the White House beat back Republican efforts to repeal major parts of the president's Inflation Reduction Act, particularly provisions that relate to climate change. Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in the House has already said he expects some measure of Democrats are going to support it. Obviously they're going to help the president. In the Senate, it's been interesting because the leaders there played almost no role in cutting this deal. They basically said, hey, if Biden and McCarthy agree, we'll put it on the floor. That seems to be what's happening. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell already praised it, said he's going to vote for it. Many Senate Democrats are not going to be happy with less spending on domestic programs over the next couple of years. But that looks like it's going to have to be a fight for another day.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR political correspondent Susan Davis. Susan, good to check in with you.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. 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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