STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Hey, Congressional leaders reached a budget deal. It sets federal spending until after the next presidential election. It even raises the federal debt limit. And it's all happening somewhat less disastrously close to the deadline than normal. The U.S. is weeks away from a possible government shutdown. The U.S. is days away from reaching the federal debt limit. So rather than an 11th-hour agreement as in some other budget battles, this agreement came about, say, 10:59, assuming it passes. Of course, another deadline was looming - the retirement of John Boehner as speaker. Lawmakers and the White House were eager to finish this business and avoid the risk that a deal would grow harder to achieve. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Just days before the election of a new speaker of the House, John Boehner made good on one last promise - that he'd try to clear the barn for his successor. In one fell swoop, two thorny issues were crossed off the to-do list - raising the debt ceiling by next Tuesday and coming up with a budget agreement. Steve Womack of Arkansas said a good chunk of his fellow Republicans wanted Boehner to tidy up before his departure.
STEVE WOMACK: There are those in the camp that believe that this is a very complicated time with a lot of deadlines looming for a lot of different things. And this is one of those moments when it's important that leadership step in and take the ball and run with it and try to craft as good a deal as possible.
CHANG: The deal raises federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years, evenly splitting that increase between defense and domestic programs. Some of that is paid for by cuts to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits. Negotiators also agreed to lift the debt ceiling until March 2017. As soon as details leaked, many hard-line conservatives said they weren't going to have this deal shoved down their throats.
JUSTIN AMASH: We're all legislators. We're supposed to be part of the process.
CHANG: Republican Justin Amash of Michigan pointed out the agreement was negotiated by only five parties - the top two Republicans in Congress, the top two Democrats and the White House.
AMASH: This is what we've been going through for five years, where the leadership team negotiated a deal without speaking to any members of the conference - apparently not even the committee chairman who are in key positions - and then expect all of us to vote for it.
CHANG: While Boehner hopes clearing the barn will make his successor's job easier, some members of his caucus point out his presumptive heir, Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, will inherit a deal many Republicans are already grousing about, so they say Ryan should have been involved in the negotiations. But Bill Flores of Texas says it's better that Ryan's fingerprints are missing from this budget deal.
BILL FLORES: I think this somewhat insulates Paul. But I still believe if there's somebody that doesn't like this and they're passionate about it, that they'll take out their feelings on Paul.
CHANG: The House could vote on this budget agreement as soon as Wednesday, the same day Republicans are expected to officially nominate Ryan as the next speaker. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.
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