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Senate Expected To Announce Deal To Raise Debt Limit


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Hours before a deadline to extend the federal debt limit, the stock market seems kind of comfortable. The Dow Jones Industrials are actually up this morning, amid some hope that Congress may agree on a measure to avoid default and also reopen the federal government.

Let's find out what we can. NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith has been covering this story all the way through. She's at the Capitol. Tamara, good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi. Yeah. Glad to be with you.

INSKEEP: So, OK, assume this deal comes together. What's it look like?

KEITH: It looks like a deal that's sort of been discussed for several days now. It would reopen the government through January 15th. It would raise the debt limit through February 7th. But then the Treasury Department would have extraordinary measures that it could use. So, likely, we wouldn't have another debt ceiling fight until late spring, early summer. And then, also, it would require income verification for people getting subsidies on the health care insurance exchanges - that's the Affordable Care Act - and would begin the process of budget negotiations, the theory being that if maybe they could get together and settle on some top-line numbers and settle on some other things, maybe, just maybe we could stop having these fights.

INSKEEP: You mean do regular budget negotiations, like they've had for generations in Congress, go back to that system.

KEITH: Yeah. I wouldn't go so far as to say generations. I think our current budget system only goes back to the '70s, and it doesn't normally work very well. But, hey, let's try it again.


INSKEEP: OK. That's fine. All right, let's add a note of caution, here: We're talking here about a deal that people may be anticipating, but that has not appeared in written form anywhere, would still have to get through the Senate and the House, both. Right?

KEITH: That's correct. Right now, Senate Republicans are meeting and being briefed on the plan as it stands. And then, yes, it would have to pass the Senate. It seems likely to pass the Senate, given that it's been negotiated with the leaders - the Republican and Democratic leaders - and that there are many both Democratic and Republican senators who have just been saying please, make this end. Make this crisis go away.

INSKEEP: And can it end today, Tamara? Because, of course, the Senate can be slowed down by any one member who wants to talk for a long time.

KEITH: And that is the big question: What do a couple of members who began this fight, what does Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Senator Mike Lee from Utah, what are they going to do? Are they going to stand in the way? We do not know the answer to that question. Reporters have certainly been asking them whenever they can. We don't know. So that is a big question.

But if the - things take a very long time in the Senate, except when they don't. And if the Senate is motivated, they can move very quickly, as can the House. This could all be resolved today, or we could still be talking on Saturday.

INSKEEP: Tamara, I want to ask you a question about the mood. I was on the phone with a House Republican. He's one of the conservatives who was driving to defund Obamacare. He still wants to do that. But he seemed to express clearly that he thinks this fight is over, that there will be a Senate plan. It will get through the Senate, it will go to the House, and that Speaker John Boehner is going to let it come to the floor. It will get a lot of Democratic votes, some Republican votes, and pass. Even though he's against it, he seemed resigned to the fact that this fight is over. Are you encountering a lot of people there who think that we're near the end of this?

KEITH: I think that, for days, people have been feeling like we were near the end of this. And yesterday's high drama with John Boehner, Speaker John Boehner coming up with a plan that he hoped would please the conservatives, and then having to go back to the drawing board a couple of times before finally scrapping it, I think that was sort of the last hurrah, here, of this fight. And then once that imploded, there was this sense like, OK, this is over and this is going to happen very quickly.

INSKEEP: And so it could fall apart again, we should warn people, because it's fallen apart before. But the feeling this morning is that something can happen.

KEITH: That is the feeling. You know, you don't know if you're in the part of the movie where the ax-murderer is really dead, or if he's going to show up with a chainsaw. But one hopes that he's really dead.

INSKEEP: Tamara, I'm going to just go away from you and make sure that you can look over your shoulder for that ax-murderer, OK?

KEITH: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Look after yourself over there at the Capitol. That's NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.

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