AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
No rest this holiday weekend for debt limit negotiators who have reached an agreement in principle to avoid a first-ever intentional move by the U.S. to default on its obligations by not raising the debt ceiling. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is following the deal-making and joins us now. Thanks for being with us, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Ayesha. Good morning.
RASCOE: So what do we know about this agreement in principle?
MONTANARO: Well, we know that the debt limit, the debt ceiling is going to be lifted until 2025, which notably, as a political editor, that means that this is after the 2024 presidential election. They're not going to have to be dealing with this through the rest of this congressional term, which is probably good on all sides for both President Biden and Speaker McCarthy because this takes them out of a lot of the pressure of having to build coalitions to keep it. Some other things in this are a cap on nondefense spending for two years. You're going to have the same level in 2024 with a slight 1% increase in 2025. Republicans had wanted 10 years. So clearly a compromise there.
There's unused COVID funds that are going to be clawed back. That was a Republican priority. This reduces the money that Biden had gotten for IRS agents to be able to go after tax cheats by about $10 billion. Biden had secured about 80 billion. It maintains increases to funding for low-income students, money for loan forgiveness, cancer research, other things that were Biden priorities and Democratic priorities. The thorniest pieces here really were two things - appeared to be on work requirements for some federal assistance programs and permitting reform for energy. You know, the compromise limits how long people under 54 without children could receive food stamps, but it exempts veterans and the homeless. This expires in 2030. So it's only temporary.
And it speeds up the review time - and this is a big money issue - on some environmental reviews of some energy projects, which were big Republican priorities. There's nothing the extremes are going to be happy about with this. But Biden in his statement last night explicitly called this a compromise, and that's what it is.
RASCOE: So the Treasury Department updated its guidance on when the country would run out of money to pay its bills. And the new guidance gives a few more days' breathing room, right?
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, going from June 1 to June 5 was a big deal because of really procedure in the Congress. You know, the House has set out 72 hours for lawmakers to be able to read bills. So they need time to pass whatever it's going to be. We're looking at a potential vote on Wednesday in the House, maybe on Thursday in the Senate, if all goes smoothly. And that's right at the drop-dead date.
RASCOE: Is a little more time a good thing or a bad thing for - you know, could it give lawmakers more time to kind of scuttle this if they don't like the deal?
MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, this isn't exactly like, hurry up. Vote on this. We got to do it. Otherwise, you know, the country defaults on its debt. Now, there is a little bit of time for the right and for the left to be able to think of some ways to get some of their priorities back in or not or figure out if Kevin McCarthy can get a majority of his conference, as he says he wants, to vote for this with Democrats. You know, Democratic leaders seem pretty confident that they're going to be able to deliver the votes on this, you know, certainly going to be some holdouts and those who vote no or who are allowed to vote no. You know, one of the things that some Democrats really wanted was some taxes on corporations to close some of the revenue. That's not in the deal, either. And we're probably going to see some machinations by some Republicans on the hard right, as we've seen in the past, try to introduce some amendments that would appease them, would appeal to them. That also takes time. And so that could slow some things down.
RASCOE: A couple other lawmaker stories I want to raise with you this morning - first, some action in the Texas House aimed at the attorney general there. What's going on in Austin?
MONTANARO: Wow, what a story this is, with the attorney general, Ken Paxton. If you know about him nationally, it's probably because of all the lawsuits that are called Texas v. the United States. He's been a real thorn in Democratic administration side, just trying to stop any kind of things that would affect states in the last several years. You know, he's been in hot water for some time. There was a lawsuit that was filed by some senior members in his office. And that's really what sort of set this off because the Texas House decided this $3.3 million lawsuit that then the Texas House was going to have to pay out to these folks - they said that's not a real good use of taxpayer money. They'd grown sort of irritated with Paxton, and they wound up saying that they were going to impeach him. And he's temporarily now removed from office, pending a Senate trial.
RASCOE: And finally, back to D.C. - there's been a lot of hubbub about California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
MONTANARO: There's lots of drama around her recent sickness and mental fitness. You know, some want her replaced, but that's probably unlikely, given that Democrats are concerned Republicans would block a replacement, which would stop them from approving judges, which is a huge priority for them. We saw a poll in California saying that two-thirds think her recent illness rendered her unfit for office. It's not unlike what we saw in our recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that found 62% said that they have real concerns about President Biden's mental fitness for office. And he certainly isn't having the same health problems that Feinstein has had.
RASCOE: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you so much for joining us.
MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome.
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