Congress Readies For More Budget Battles As both sides sort out who won and who lost in the budget deal, the next phase of wrangling ensues. The current-year budget deal still needs full congressional approval. The House is expected to approve a new budget plan for 2012 that includes big changes in Medicare and Medicaid. And there's the looming battle about raising the federal debt ceiling.
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Congress Readies For More Budget Battles

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Congress Readies For More Budget Battles

Congress Readies For More Budget Battles

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


The federal government is open for business today. That's not usually a headline on a Monday morning. But after last week, Washington is taking very little for granted. The budget deal struck last Friday night covers just the next six months, and still will have to be approved by Congress.

INSKEEP: President Obama will deliver a speech Wednesday on long-range deficits. And sometime this week, the House is expected to approve a new budget plan for next year that includes big changes in Medicare and Medicaid.

MONTAGNE: And then there's the looming battle over the federal debt ceiling. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea sorts it all out for us.

DON GONYEA: Senior adviser David Plouffe announced yesterday that President Obama will address the nation Wednesday on the topic of reducing the deficit. On NBC's "Meet the Press," Plouffe indicated that the president will embrace more of the recommendations from the bipartisan debt commission he appointed last year.

MONTAGNE: Many of the debt commission's suggestions were in the president's budget - for instance, freezing the pay of federal workers for a period of time; fundamental reform of the government. We, obviously, then have to do more, and that's what the president is going to lay out.

GONYEA: Also on "Meet the Press," Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said the GOP leadership feels good about last week's deal, which includes $38 billion in cuts for the rest of the current fiscal year. But...

MONTAGNE: This is, really, still a drop in the bucket. We want to move from talking about saving billions of dollars to going on and saving trillions of dollars.

GONYEA: But also on the docket for late in the week is a new budget resolution, written by congressman Ryan. Most controversial is its plan to turn Medicare - for seniors - into a subsidized insurance program, and Medicaid - for the poor - into a block grant program run by the states.

MONTAGNE: Medicaid's broken, and throwing more money at a broken system doesn't work. We've gotten dozens of letters from governors, saying: Give us the freedom to fix Medicaid our own way, in our own states. And we're giving them that freedom.

GONYEA: Presidential adviser David Plouffe, yesterday morning on NBC...

MONTAGNE: And I don't think the American people are going to sign up for something that puts most of the burden on the middle class, people trying to go to college, on senior citizens.

GONYEA: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, of Illinois, is part of a bipartisan group of six senators working together on solutions to the long-term deficit question. On CNN yesterday, Durbin said it's dangerous to play politics with the debt ceiling.

INSKEEP: Now, instead of risking government shutdown, we are risking a second recession. If we default on America's debt with this debt ceiling, it will have a dramatic, negative impact on America's economy.

GONYEA: But it's not so clear-cut for many Republicans, especially those elected with help from the Tea Party. Among them, Bill Huizenga of western Michigan, who was far from satisfied. He spoke on NPR's WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY.

MONTAGNE: And I'm not sure what we're doing. You know, we had outpatient surgery last night. What we need is a heart transplant, and we have got to get more serious about this.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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