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House Republicans put together a measure to reflect debt ceiling deal

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden agreed on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We've reached a bipartisan budget agreement that we're ready to move to the full Congress.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

And it needs to pass Congress by next week. If approved, the measure would suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling until January of 2025.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Ximena Bustillo is here to tell us more after a long week of staking out all the talks. Ximena, 99-page bill, lot of spending caps - what are Republicans saying will save money?

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: First, there are caps on nondefense expenditures to keep spending at current levels through 2024. Republicans also have a provision to limit annual growth on spending to 1% in 2025. Here's Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina who has been one of McCarthy's top negotiators.

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PATRICK MCHENRY: We hold vets harmless. So this means that for nondefense, nonveteran spending, there is - or there are significant cuts year over year.

BUSTILLO: The bill would also claw back unspent COVID funding, such as money for vaccine distribution and pandemic response aid for industries like railroads and agriculture. It also takes back money appropriated to the IRS for staffing new agents. The measure reached efforts towards permitting reform that both sides were looking for and puts an end to the pause on student loan repayment and interests, which would restart around August 30.

MARTÍNEZ: I know work requirements were a top red line for both parties. What turned out to be the final compromise?

BUSTILLO: Currently, so-called able-bodied adults without dependents on food stamps and Medicaid are subject to work reporting requirements until they are 50 years old, and Republicans wanted to increase that to 55. Now, the deal brokered by the White House and top GOP negotiators does a bit less than what Republicans hoped for. It made no changes to Medicaid. For food stamps, it does raise the age limit for work reporting requirements to 54, not 55. And lawmakers plan to phase this in over the course of three years and end the policy in 2030. The bill would also create new permanent exemptions that get rid of work requirements for young adults ages 18 to 24 aging out of foster care and all veterans and those experiencing homelessness, regardless of age. So these exemptions, which expand access to the programs, would also end in 2030.

A Republican aide told me that they expect the overall number of people now subject to work requirements to be lower than what the original GOP proposal would have done because of the phase-in and the exemptions. I asked President Biden what his response was to Democrats being concerned that this policy could lead to more people going hungry because of the age limit increase, and he said that was a ridiculous assertion.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, I know last Friday, the Treasury Department said June 5 - that's a week from today - as the date the country would default. Will that be averted now?

BUSTILLO: There's still a long road to passage, but Biden and McCarthy keep saying that they're confident they will get their members on board. Here's President Biden talking to reporters last night.

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BIDEN: That agreement now goes to the United States House and to the Senate. I strongly urge both chambers to pass that agreement.

BUSTILLO: The timeline to avoid a default remains tight. McCarthy has vowed that House members would get 72 hours to review any legislation before a vote. The bill text released last night starts that clock. So the soonest a vote can come is May 31, five days before the country is set to default on its loans. After that, the bill would head to the Senate for a vote on final passage and then to the president to sign.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Ximena Bustillo. Thanks for breaking all this down.

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

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.