Senate Procedure May Delay Vote

It appears the Senate has the votes to pass the debt ceiling deal struck Sunday by President Obama and congressional leaders. GOP deputy whip Mike Crapo said Monday he thought at least 30 Republicans would approve it. But the lumbering process could slow things down. David Welna talks to Michele Norris.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block. Earlier this evening, a debt ceiling compromise easily passed the House of Representatives. It's now up to the Senate to embrace and enact the plan that was worked out by the White House and congressional leaders over the weekend. That vote is expected to come around noon tomorrow.

For more, I'm joined by NPR's David Welna at the Capitol. And David, let's start with that House vote. It was a convincing vote - 269 to 161. Tell us how it went down.

DAVID WELNA: Well, Melissa, this is a vote that really put House Speaker John Boehner's leadership on the line. He had a hard time mustering enough Republican votes last week to pass his own debt ceiling bill, and this time, he knew he would need a lot of Democrats voting for this compromise legislation for it to pass. And as it turned out, House Republicans voted for - by almost a 3 to 1 margin in favor of the bill, while the Democrats split right down the middle in supporting and opposing it. They've sort of been holding backing and letting Republicans cast yes votes and the atmosphere in the chamber was pretty anxious about the income. And then suddenly something happened that just electrified the place. In walked Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who'd been missing in the House chamber ever since early January when she was shot in the face by a gunman in Tucson. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle leaped to their feet and stood applauding while Giffords cast a yes vote for the bill, and it was like a dam had broken. Suddenly a lot of other Democrats who had been holding back voted for it as well. Almost as if they were saying I'm with Gabby on this.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi hailed her return once the vote was over.

Representative NANCY PELOSI: I can't think of any that is more special and means so much to our country, than to witness the return of our colleague who is the personification of courage, or sincerity, of admiration throughout the country. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords brings us...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WELNA: So suddenly, the weeks of wrangling and bad blood that have marked this unhappy march toward the debt limit deadline all seemed to melt away into bipartisan goodwill. Politics give way to the simple humanity of the chamber almost as if - oh, by the way, the bill also passed.

BLOCK: Right. And really, just a remarkable moment.

WELNA: It was very memorable.

BLOCK: Yeah. And hard to imagine that anything that happens in the Senate tomorrow can possibly top that for sheer drama or emotion. The vote, as we said, expected around noon. And do you expect that has convincing a vote that we saw in the House, we'll also see on the Senate side?

WELNA: Well, you know, I think the strong House vote really strengthened the hand of those pushing for the compromise bills passage in the Senate. Majority leader Harry Reid came out to the Senate floor right after the House vote and he announced that there will be a vote at noon and that a super-majority of 60 senators will be needed for passage. This was something that clearly had been agreed upon by all senators since just one senator objecting could hold everything up and effectively filibuster this bill and keep its outcome uncertain for possibly days if that senator wanted to.

But those who are opposed to this bill, and there are some conservatives who are adamantly opposed to it, some liberals as well, they said that they wanted a chance to debate the bill. Well, they'll have that chance tomorrow morning. Some of that debate went on this afternoon. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, is one of those who sort of trashed the bill in a floor speech this afternoon.

Senator DAVID VITTER: It only cuts $7 billion in the first year and $3 billion in the second year, a total in the first two years of $10 billion. That's basically a minuscule rounding error in terms of the size of the federal budget.

WELNA: And, as I said, some liberals were also quite unhappy, especially with the e fact that the deficit reduction in this bill of a trillion dollars comes entirely from spending cuts, none of it comes from increasing taxes at all. Vermont independent Bernie Sanders spoke on the Senate floor denouncing that fact.

Senator BERNIE SANDERS: How much are the rich and the powerful going to contribute into this deficit reduction package? And the answer is zero, not one cent.

WELNA: But, you know, Melissa, I think that despite the protests the fact that many, many Republicans are on board with this and many Democrats as well really means that in the Senate it's pretty much a done deal. We'll hear a lot of debate tomorrow but I think that we can expect passage and the end of the debt ceiling crisis.

BLOCK: OK. We look forward to hearing from you tomorrow, David. NPR's David Welna at the Capitol, thank you so much.

WELNA: You're quite welcome, Michele.

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