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The House considers bill that would raise debt ceiling

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. House lawmakers are preparing to vote on a deal to raise the debt ceiling. The bill is the result of negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. It would lift the nation's borrowing limit until after the next presidential election. It would cap discretionary spending for the next two fiscal years, cut planned funding for the IRS and enact tougher work requirements for some adults to receive benefits like food stamps. NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt joins us now from the Capitol to talk about the latest. Hey, Barbara.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so this House vote is expected tomorrow, right? Like, does it have the support that is needed to pass?

SPRUNT: If you ask the speaker and his allies, they'll say they're confident they have the votes for this to pass. Leaders of both parties are working behind the scenes, making phone calls to try to whip up support from members. But remember - this, like other deals in divided government, must have bipartisan support in order to pass.

CHANG: Exactly. Well, I know that there's been a bit of a revolt from conservative members who are not happy with this compromise deal. What are they saying exactly and what does their lack of support mean for the speaker here?

SPRUNT: Well, there was never the expectation that members of the conservative Freedom Caucus were going to be completely happy with a compromise piece of legislation. That's sort of to be expected with a compromise deal. What is new is they are lobbying really hard to get other Republicans to vote no on the bill. Here's Texas Congressman Chip Roy.

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CHIP ROY: Not one Republican should vote for this deal - not one. If you're out there watching this, every one of my colleagues, be very clear, not one Republican should vote for this deal. It is a bad deal.

SPRUNT: Roy said there would be a reckoning if this bill doesn't get squashed, suggesting there could be fallout for the speaker.

CHANG: Well, what could that fallout look like?

SPRUNT: Well, there's a rule that was put in place in January because of negotiations with members of this very group that any one member of Congress could call to remove the speaker. Now, no one's done that before, but the comments from members of that group today are putting that very question center stage. And it's something that we're going to be keeping an eye on as this bill advances.

CHANG: Well, how is Speaker McCarthy responding to all of that?

SPRUNT: McCarthy told reporters he's confident that his speakership is secure. He said he's not concerned that members of his party will introduce a motion to vacate. Here he is earlier today defending the deal.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: I don't know. If they read through it, it's the - he talked to him. It's the most conservative deal we ever had. If you look back in history, when Republicans had the presidency, the House and Senate, did they get any cuts? We have one House - president said he wouldn't even talk to me. So, you know, sometimes people just don't want to vote for a debt ceiling.

CHANG: OK. Well, what about Democrats - what are they saying about this deal?

SPRUNT: The overall message from Democratic leaders is less about what they got in the bill and more about how it could have been a lot worse from their perspective. Members of the Progressive Caucus are particularly unhappy about the cuts and policy changes. White House budget director Shalanda Young, who was one of the key negotiators for the deal, was asked if the administration has work to do to repair relationships with these progressive members.

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SHALANDA YOUNG: I've worked in many divided government situations. I think this is where you would expect a bipartisan agreement to land. It's just the reality. There's not a unified government.

CHANG: That is the reality. Well, just looking at the timeline real quick, Barbara - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills as early as June 5. Do you think lawmakers could beat that date?

SPRUNT: It's tight. It's tight, but it's possible. The House is expected to vote on this tomorrow, then the bill would head to the Senate. It could face some possible obstruction there. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already told senators to buckle up for a possible weekend vote.

CHANG: Their favorite.

SPRUNT: (Laughter).

CHANG: That is NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Thank you, Barbara.

SPRUNT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.