Does Debt Deal Show Diversion From Business As Usual?

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President Obama and Republican congressional leaders reached a compromise Sunday to permit vital borrowing by the Treasury in exchange for more than $2 trillion in potential long-term spending cuts.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And for more on the deal to avoid a government default, we're joined now by NPR's Cokie Roberts who's with us most Mondays. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now is...

ROBERTS: Welcome back.

MONTAGNE: Thank you. Is there any danger here, that the more the White House tries to sell this deal, the more Republicans resist?

ROBERTS: Well, both sides have that problem and each side is trying to convince its own members that they won while telling the other side they made big concessions. But look, there are people on both sides here who will not go along with this deal. That's why the leaders are spending today counting votes, trying to make sure there are enough members of their caucuses to go along to try for once, for once in this Congress, to find a center. But it's not easy, Renee. The fact is that there is not a center in this Congress, so you have to create it anew on every vote.

MONTAGNE: Well, obviously as members make a decision about whether to support this measure, they're considering the politics as well as the policy. So how do conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, both ends not getting probably everything they want, or even a lot of what they think they want, how do they end up playing this?

ROBERTS: Well, they don't like it and I would suspect that in both cases, in the extremes, that they will vote against it. But it is interesting, that both conservatives and liberals hate it. But you know, look, the leaders, and partly as a response - as David Plouffe just said - to voter frustration, have decided that it's bad politics as well as bad policy not to act. But the extremes are often from districts where their only danger is a primary challenge.

And so, the leaders have essentially decided that in this Congress, we really can't make big decisions about such things as entitlement reform and tax reform. And so that's why they've created this supercommittee of Congress to come up with those decisions later this year. And yesterday, a couple of times, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it was like the Military Base Closing Commission, which puts all the military bases proposed for shutdown in one package. Congress then has the option of voting up or down on that package, but they can't protect individual bases. That's what's planned for this supercommittee of 12 House and Senate members to deal with the deficit.

It's somewhat stunning, because it says that Congress will not deal with its basic spending and taxing jobs, but it's also pretty smart, because it is a way to get around these serious problems.

MONTAGNE: Well, just ever-so-briefly, Cokie, some newcomers to Congress, we're mostly thinking Tea Party here, promised to change the way business is done in Washington. Well, have they?

ROBERTS: Yes, they've focused on cutting rather than spending, they don't compromise, and so they force the hand of the other side.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts.

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