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Congressional leaders reach an agreement on overall government spending

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Congressional leaders have agreed to a deal on how much money the federal government should spend this fiscal year, clearing the way for lawmakers to pass funding legislation before the January 19 deadline, hopefully in time to avoid a shutdown.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah. One of my kids asked just yesterday what a government shutdown would mean, and I explained that some people in the federal government would stop working, while others might have to work without pay, and that these people do everything from regulate workplace safety to food safety to defending the country. If Congress should approve all the details in time, they will keep working.

MARTIN: NPR's Eric McDaniel covers Congress, and he's here with us now to tell us more about all this. Good morning, Eric.

ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: All right. Tell us what's in the funding agreement.

MCDANIEL: Well, a lot of money, mostly - $886 billion for the military and 773 billion for everything else. But so far, this is basically a handshake deal, right? Now all they have to do is actually pass the spending bills, which is not going to be an easy feat. But yesterday, Michel, when I started thinking about what to say during this conversation, there wasn't a plan. There was no plan. So this is a major step forward.

And just for some context here, since these are obviously massive numbers, this is essentially a consistent level of annual spending to what President Biden and former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy agreed to in a deal last year, a deal that ultimately helped to doom McCarthy, who went on to become the first speaker of the House ousted in a vote by his colleagues. And now his replacement, Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, just agreed to essentially the same thing, but now with some little concessions, including a faster timeline on already agreed to cuts to the IRS and some unspent COVID money returned back to the government.

MARTIN: And what are you hearing about reaction?

MCDANIEL: Well, as you might imagine, some Republicans in the House are really mad. This is the anti-compromise set of folks in the party, folks like the House Freedom Caucus and their allies. They wanted to leverage the looming government funding deadline on January 19 to extract big spending cuts and policy concessions on everything from abortion access to building a wall on the U.S. southern border. This was always a pretty big long shot that they'd be able to achieve that. It wouldn't get through the Democratic-controlled Senate or be signed by President Biden, but it could've ended up in a government shutdown, like we talked about, that would've been really hard on millions of people. That's still a possibility, but it's less likely now. It's still going to be hard to get a deal on 12 federal spending bills. But let's put it this way. They've agreed on the size of the house. Now they just have to come up with the blueprints and build the thing.

MARTIN: Look. The last time we talked, Eric, they were talking about working on aid to Israel, aid to Ukraine. Where does that stand?

MCDANIEL: So this is a separate process for the most part. There was some talk in Republican circles about trying to tie immigration reform to government funding. But for the most part, this is separate. They're calling it a big national security bill. So that's Ukraine, Israel, maybe some money for Taiwan and U.S. immigration policy, too. So Republicans and Democrats for weeks in the Senate have been trying to figure out a way to address that because no one involved thinks that the immigration status quo is good. A record 10,000-some people are presenting themselves to Border Protection agencies many days, often making legal requests for asylum. Democrats want to handle that by putting more resources toward it, while Republicans want to curb who's allowed to request asylum in the first place and find other ways to limit the number of people arriving.

And there's a very different appetite for a deal in the Senate than in the House. Republicans in the House just got back from a trip to the U.S. southern border and could end up trying to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, a man who's personally involved with negotiating just down the hall with their counterparts in the Senate. So right now, at least, I think it's fair to say that government funding is more on track than foreign aid or immigration reform.

MARTIN: That is NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel. Eric, thank you so much.

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.