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A look at the new budget deal that would raise the debt ceiling

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The promise of averting on a default on the nation's debt is now more within reach than it has been for months. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finalized a deal to raise the nation's borrowing authority, and the president said last night this avoids a default.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And the agreement also represents a compromise, which means no one got everything they want. But that's the responsibility of governing.

SUMMERS: The House will vote midweek, but the deal is being panned by some conservatives and some progressives. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us from the Capitol to talk about next steps. Hey there.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Deirdre, first, let's start with the basics. What's in this deal?

WALSH: So it lifts the debt ceiling for two years, most notably past the 2024 presidential election. The deal includes spending caps for nondefense programs for the next two years. It would keep funding levels at the same - roughly at the same level for 2024, and those nondefense programs would get a 1% boost in 2025. But as much as Republicans have argued this whole negotiation was about changing the trajectory of federal spending, this agreement only deals with those nondefense programs, which is really a small slice of the overall federal budget. It does not touch the biggest drivers of the debt, Medicare and Social Security. I talked to South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson sort of about the limits of these talks.

DUSTY JOHNSON: I think anybody who thought this was going to solve every single problem facing the union in one fell swoop probably needs to buy a ticket back to reality.

WALSH: The agreement does put a mechanism in place to try to incentivize Congress to actually pass all of its annual spending bills. If it can't, there would be a 1% across-the-board cut for a full year that would be set up for a vote.

SUMMERS: OK, and can you get us up to speed now on the policy changes that we'd see here?

WALSH: The deal does have a few significant ones. One would help speed the approval of energy projects. The bill also includes some work requirements for some federal safety net programs like food stamps. It means that adults between 50 and 54 without dependents would have new work requirements, and those would go up through the year 2030. But those changes don't apply to Medicaid, which Democrats were concerned about, and the bill actually removes some limits on work requirements or limits on those programs for veterans, homeless and others who receive assistance like food stamps. The bill also claws back about $30 billion in unspent COVID funding.

SUMMERS: All right, Deirdre, I mean, I have to imagine this is not going to be a quick and easy road to President Biden's desk, right?

WALSH: It's not. I mean, but Congress does need to act quickly. And as you know, they don't have a great track record of actually doing that. The Treasury secretary said the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June 5. That's just a week from today. So tomorrow, the House Rules Committee is going to set up the rules for the House vote. There are two conservatives on that panel we should note, Texas Republican Chip Roy and South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman, who oppose the bill, so they could try to block it in that committee. But Democrats could also help smooth the process to get it to the House floor. We expect a House vote Wednesday night. The speaker pledged to give 72 hours between when the bill was released and when the vote would happen. It's 99 pages, so it's actually pretty short by most Hill standards for bills of this type. If it does get through the House - and top leaders say they're confident it will - it heads to the Senate, which will call back members from recess and possibly vote as soon as Friday or over the weekend. But in the Senate, as you know, it will need 60 votes there to pass. The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, endorsed the bill last night.

SUMMERS: And Deirdre, what is the message from the leaders of both parties to their members as to why they should back this deal?

WALSH: The speaker and House Republicans are saying that they forced the president to negotiate, and they got some budget cuts and policy changes. The president and Democrats and White House officials are touting what they got blocked from getting in a final deal - avoiding higher spending cuts and efforts to roll back the president's signature domestic energy bill.

SUMMERS: Right.

WALSH: We do expect defections from both the right and the left, but we did get an endorsement from one group of House Democrats today.

SUMMERS: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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