House Considers Debt Deal
MICHELE NORRIS, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block.
The House of Representatives has spoken. Just about an hour ago, lawmakers voted convincingly in support of a debt ceiling plan that was hashed out this weekend between the White House and congressional leaders. The final tally was 269 to 161. And the bill now moves to the Senate.
NPR's congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook is at the Capitol. She joins me now. And, Andrea, they needed, what, 216 votes to pass. They got well over that, 269.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Yes, 269 and it was kind of surprising. In fact, Republicans voted in much larger numbers than anyone expected for this bill. And in the end, a lot of Democrats voted for it as well. What that says to me is that we really got up against the deadline here. That the final deal was at least convincing enough to both sides that they felt that both politically and policy-wise they could put their names to this.
Now, 161 voting against is still a large number and those developed some fissures in both parties.
BLOCK: Andrea, let's talk about one of those yes votes. A dramatic moment on the floor of the chamber there with the surprise return of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
SEABROOK: Yes. It was quite remarkable. We're watching the vote, looking down over the House of Representatives, and suddenly we see people start to stand up and applaud in this large group. And in the middle you see Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was attacked and shot earlier this year. And she looked bright and fabulous. And she was waving. And listen to what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
Representative NANCY PELOSI: Throughout America, there isn't a name that stirs more love, more admiration, more respect than the name of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Thank you, Gabby.
SEABROOK: And her colleagues just, you know, applauded and they just looked so happy to see her. It was this moment of brightness and humanity after this debate, which had just been ripping and shredding Washington for weeks.
BLOCK: Yeah, really an incredible thing. Andrea, this was supposed to be - expected to be a very close vote and a tough sell for both sides, for the Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for the Democrats and for the speaker of the House, John Boehner. What were they saying to their members, some of whom were very angry about this deal, to try to get them on their side?
SEABROOK: Well, what Speaker Boehner was telling Republican rank-and-file is that this represents an amazing turnaround in the discussion at focus of Washington. That before that huge new freshman class of Republicans came in, Washington was still talking about what to fund, what to spend more money on. And now, the whole focus is on how much to cut and how deeply.
And they also managed to keep - to change the entire discussion so that there was no mention of increasing taxes on a company or anyone out of this compromise. So, in a lot of ways, the Republicans really won the rhetorical argument here.
On the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi, the head of Democrats, told people: Look, this final deal protects Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security beneficiaries. It protects them by not cutting their services, although it does hit doctors somewhat. And any other deal would have been much, much worse.
BLOCK: Andrea, the vote in the House passing this bill, now it moves on to the Senate for a vote at noon tomorrow.
SEABROOK: Yes. The head of the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, just closed down the Senate for the night, and said that the vote will happen tomorrow at noon. That is expected to have all eyes in Washington and perhaps around the world on it as this story comes to a close.
And as the clock ticks. NPR's Andrea Seabrook speaking with us from the Capitol. Andrea, thank you.
It's a pleasure.
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