Debt Deal Struck, Leaders Must Sell It To Congress After weeks of mounting anxiety and collapsed deals, President Obama and congressional leaders reached an agreement Sunday night to end the debt ceiling crisis. If all goes well, a bill could await Obama's signature Tuesday. But both parties still have concerns about the deal, and its support in Congress will be tested in coming days.

Path Ahead For Debt Legislation Remains Uncertain

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep. And I don't think this is a coincidence. Renee Montagne, you come back and suddenly there's a deal on the debt ceiling, just like that. Welcome.


I like to think I'm doing my part. I came back at just the right moment, I have to say.

INSKEEP: Indeed.

MONTAGNE: Because it was late last night, Washington time, when President Obama stepped before TV cameras to announce an agreement to end the debt ceiling crisis, something they've been talking about for weeks and weeks. Now, this is, of course, provided lawmakers approve it.

INSKEEP: The president said leaders of both parties in both Houses of Congress have already agreed to this deal.

MONTAGNE: Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling, making it possible for Congress to pay the obligations it's run up over the years.

INSKEEP: Democrats agreed to spending cuts over the next decade - a trillion dollars at first with a committee to settle on more cuts later.

MONTAGNE: Republicans lost a guarantee of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, an idea that was never actually likely to pass.

INSKEEP: While Democrats lost their demand to balance spending cuts with some tax increases.

Our coverage starts with NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA: As the Senate went into an emergency Sunday session at noon yesterday, Chaplain Barry Black expressed the growing sense of doom that's marked the debt ceiling crisis.

Reverend BARRY BLACK (Senate Chaplain): Save us, oh God, for the waters are coming in upon us.

WELNA: And yet just eight and a half hours later, President Obama strode into the White House briefing room to figuratively throw a life raft to the imperiled U.S. economy.

President BARACK OBAMA: There are still some very important votes to be taken by members of Congress. But I want to announce that the leaders of both parties in both chambers have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default.

WELNA: Moments earlier, Majority Leader Harry Reid had announced the deal on the Senate floor.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada: Senate Majority Leader): Democrats and Republicans have rarely needed to come together more than today. I know this agreement won't make every Republican happy. It certainly won't make every Democrat happy either. But both parties gave more ground than they wanted to. And neither side got as much as it had hoped.

WELNA: But Reid himself appeared happy. Getting a deal was a key test of his leadership, and it was also a crucial boost to his fellow Democrat in the White House who faces a re-election bid next year.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell seemed happy as well. He and House Speaker John Boehner, after all, got their Democratic counterparts to agree to nearly a trillion dollars in spending cuts.

Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader): I think I can say with a high degree of confidence that there is now a framework to review that will ensure significant cuts in Washington spending. And we can assure the American people tonight that the United States of America will not for the first time in our history default on its obligations.

WELNA: Earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters she and her fellow Democrats were not entirely sold on the deal.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; House Minority Leader): We will all have to take a look, and we all may not be able to support it, or none of us may be able to support it.

WELNA: Pelosi may not have wanted to drive House Republicans away from the debt ceiling deal by appearing too enthusiastic about it. But fellow House Democrat Emanuel Cleaver, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, was openly hostile to that deal. On MSNBC, he called it, quote, "a sugarcoated Satan sandwich."

Representative EMANUEL CLEAVER (Democrat, Missouri): I'm concerned about this because we don't know the details, and until we see the details, we're going to be extremely non-committed, but on the surface it looks like a Satan sandwich.

WELNA: Senate Democrats also bemoaned the deal's initial deficit reduction being made up entirely of spending cuts, despite a frail economy and high unemployment.

Dick Durbin is the Senate's number two Democrat.

Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat. Illinois): We're being told we have to cut back on government spending, and by cutting back on spending we may also have a negative impact on our economy. I'm afraid this dilemma is not going to serve our purposes very well. I'm not sure this is clear thinking.

WELNA: Republicans are concerned about nearly half the spending cuts in the deal coming from defense.

And Arizona Republican Senator John McCain noted that even more defense spending could be cut, should Congress fail to enact later this year additional deficit reductions to be recommended by a joint bipartisan committee.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Of course those of us who are concerned about national security would be concerned about a defense cuts trigger, but remember, it would only be a trigger.

WELNA: Last night, President Obama acknowledged the uncertain path that lies ahead for the deal on Capitol Hill.

President OBAMA: We're not done yet. I want to urge members of both parties to do the right thing and support this deal with your votes over the next few days.

WELNA: Congressional support for the deal could be tested as soon as today, when the Senate is expected to take it up. Unless it gets blocked by a filibuster, the deal raising the debt ceiling could go on to the House by tomorrow.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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