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Morning news brief


With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed the debt ceiling bill last night.


So the compromise negotiated by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy moves ahead, putting the U.S. one step closer to avoiding a potentially disastrous debt default. The legislation now heads to the Senate, and if passed, it would defer the federal debt limit for two years.

FADEL: NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt was there and joins us now. Good morning, Barbara.


FADEL: So, Barbara, it took weeks and weeks of what seemed like relentless negotiations to get to this bill. What did its passage look like last night?

SPRUNT: Well, the bill passed by an overwhelming margin with bipartisan support. The important numbers to focus on are actually about the party breakdown. There had been this question going into the vote about whether Democrats would supply just enough votes for it to pass and avoid a default or if they'd want to bring a large show of force in support of President Biden. So that margin was always a question. In the end, more Democrats actually voted for the bill than Republicans. Now, very conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats had lots of complaints about this bill, saying it either didn't go far enough on spending cuts or it went too far. All that was expected. That's the nature of a compromise bill. I talked to Congresswoman Annie Kuster before the vote. She chairs the centrist New Democrat Coalition. That group ended up supplying about 91 of those Democratic votes.

ANNIE KUSTER: There are some bitter pills for different members and different constituencies and different districts. But overall, this is a must-pass bill. What I've said from the very beginning is that this will be a vote from the middle out.

FADEL: So what does this vote say about McCarthy as speaker?

SPRUNT: Well, you know, I've been talking to members in his conference throughout this process, and many really praise him for, in their view, really driving the negotiations with the White House and sort of forcing President Biden to negotiate on things that he initially said he wouldn't, like spending caps and expanding work requirements for federal safety net programs like food stamps, for example. There was speculation, you know, given the amount of time that it took him to become speaker back in January - everyone remembers those epic days of voting...

FADEL: Many, many votes.

SPRUNT: ...One after another - you know, there was a sense, there was some speculation that, like, maybe his hold on his conference is a little more tenuous, but he's emerging, you know, having just negotiated a pretty significant compromise deal. And, you know, McCarthy himself was pretty elated about that last night.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is one of the best nights I've ever been here. I thought it would be hard. I thought it'd be almost impossible just to get to 218.

SPRUNT: He's talking about the number of votes needed for passage there. You know, he told reporters he doesn't think it's a big deal that more Democrats backed this bill than Republicans. He said he promised two-thirds of his conference would support it. He delivered on that. But some Freedom Caucus members who didn't vote for the deal have expressed concerns that this ended up being more of a win for Democrats than Republicans. So this could fuel some more unrest among conservative Republicans who were against this deal to begin with. Now, there have been questions, you know, in light of that about whether there could be a motion to vacate, which is essentially a member calling for a snap vote to oust McCarthy. But McCarthy was asked about this last night directly. He said he's not worried about losing his gavel at all.

FADEL: OK, so now it goes to the Senate. Is it a foregone conclusion that this deal will pass before Monday, which is when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen predicts the U.S. will no longer be able to pay its bills?

SPRUNT: Well, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate side are working to see if they can reach an agreement to speed up the process and get this moving as early as today. Now, of course, the Senate won't be without its own drama on this, of course. Yesterday we saw Utah Republican Mike Lee and Vermont independent Bernie Sanders on the Senate floor sort of blasting the legislation, pledging to vote against it. But as you said, that deadline is real. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said senators will stay over the weekend if they have to in order to vote in time.

FADEL: That's NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Thank you, Barbara.

SPRUNT: Thank you.


FADEL: While the debt ceiling deal is moving ahead on Capitol Hill, some Republican presidential hopefuls are dragging the compromise President Biden helped craft in negotiations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

MARTÍNEZ: Here's Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Fox News.


RON DESANTIS: Our country will still be careening towards bankruptcy.

MARTÍNEZ: Former President Trump said he would have taken the default despite lifting the debt ceiling himself as president. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will have to vote on it. He says he's a no. We're going to be hearing more on this soon from some well-known Republicans who are expected to announce next week that they're entering the GOP presidential race.

FADEL: Joining us now to talk about all of this is NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hi, Domenico.


FADEL: So what do you make of the politics behind how the debt ceiling vote played out?

MONTANARO: Well, it's clearly a big win for President Biden and for Speaker McCarthy, you know, notably because this bill gets both of them past the 2024 presidential election, meaning they won't have to deal with this debt ceiling crisis again during this Congress. It also helps Biden again, you know, burnish his image as a dealmaker, someone who's targeting the middle, which is really key for his reelection and something he's trying to do. And just look at who voted for this and who didn't. I mean, three-quarters of Democrats, two-thirds of Republicans voted for it. But some of the biggest names on the left and right who tend to grab most of the attention and the headlines did not. And yet it still passed overwhelmingly.

You know, the Republican presidential candidates against this are really out of step with most lawmakers in their own party, and they represent a solid majority of Republicans in the country. But the hardest right, the most conservative - that's who these candidates are catering to in this primary. But undoubtedly, this is a big win for the pragmatists in Congress, the lower-key lawmakers who are clearly the majority. And that really does tell you something.

FADEL: Yeah, and some Republicans who would count themselves among the pragmatists are about to jump in. What's the latest there?

MONTANARO: Yeah, it's going to be a busy week next week in the Republican primary. We're expecting to see three presidential announcements. A source close to former Republican Governor Chris Christie confirmed that Christie will announce Tuesday in New Hampshire. Then we expect on Wednesday we'll see two announcements, one from former Vice President Mike Pence, and the other is a name I'm sure we all immediately recognize, Doug Burgum. OK, well, he is the governor of North Dakota...


MONTANARO: ...And happens to be a billionaire. So money's not going to be an issue for him.

FADEL: This is starting to become a pretty crowded field. But the one who continues to take up most of the oxygen is former President Trump. Is there any room for these new candidates, especially Christie, considering how out of step he seems to be with Trump's base?

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, this is a very different party than the one Christie was a star in a decade ago. So he faces an uphill battle for sure. His people are pretty cleareyed about that. When I talked to them, you know, they tell me that Christie feels like he needs to do something to try and turn around the direction of the party and where it's gone under Trump. And that takes someone recognizable and able to prosecute the case against him from within the party. Since Christie has the notoriety, they say, he should be able to meet the polling and fundraising requirements to get on the debate stage. And maybe, maybe he catches fire in a place like New Hampshire.

But the reality is right now, this is a Trump-DeSantis race, and we're seeing the attacks ramp up against each other. Trump is relentlessly been hitting DeSantis - calls him DeSanctimonious (ph), attacks him on taxes, his governance in Florida. DeSantis just said yesterday, you know, laughing it off, that his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me? You know, but already they've spent tens of millions of dollars on ads targeting each other.

FADEL: NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.


FADEL: Atlantic hurricane season begins today.

MARTÍNEZ: Forecasters are predicting about half a dozen hurricanes between now and the end of November. And this year, the National Hurricane Center has a new leader. Michael Brennan takes the reins as climate change makes hurricanes more dangerous.

FADEL: Rebecca Hersher from NPR's Climate Desk sat down with Brennan and is here now to talk about it. Hi, Rebecca.


FADEL: OK. So start with what the National Hurricane Center does. Is it something people encounter in their daily lives?

HERSHER: Yeah, the evening news, newspapers, radio, weather apps on your phone - they all use the information from the National Hurricane Center. So this is life-or-death information, which is why I wanted to talk to the new director of the National Hurricane Center, because climate change is making their jobs harder.

FADEL: In what way? How does climate change affect hurricanes?

HERSHER: So basically, hurricanes are more likely to be large and powerful, and they're more likely to drop dangerous amounts of rain. And on top of all of that, sea level rise from climate change makes storm surge more dangerous. And I asked Brennan about this specifically.

MICHAEL BRENNAN: As sea level rises, places are going to flood that haven't flooded in the past. So if people are basing their risk on what they've experienced, you know, even if they've lived in a location their whole life, that past experience is not necessarily going to be a good indicator of current or future risk.

HERSHER: And Brennan says his team is thinking about this every time a storm is headed for the U.S., you know, trying to make sure that the dangers of climate-driven storms are clear to the public.

FADEL: What about some of the other effects of climate change, like when hurricanes rapidly intensify? We've seen that happen a lot in recent years.

HERSHER: Yeah, it's happened over and over. Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified before it hit Florida last year, so that would be top of mind for people there. The year before that, it happened with Hurricane Ida when it hit Louisiana. Brennan says that scientists are still trying to figure out how to predict when a storm will rapidly intensify. So that's still a work in progress scientifically. But in the meantime, his forecasters are trying to communicate the risks more clearly so that people have as much time as possible to prepare.

BRENNAN: That's a really important part of setting the message and the tone from the very beginning for - especially for a rapidly developing storm like an Ian or an Ida that forms and makes landfall within three or four days. We were able to basically from the initial forecast on say this storm is going to be at or near major hurricane intensity from the very outset. And so we were able to sort of set those expectations from the beginning.

HERSHER: And he says, like, literally every word in a hurricane forecast is chosen deliberately. That is one way to convey the growing risks. It's to use new, you know, scarier words.

BRENNAN: You know, we've used some pretty strong language in previous years. We used words like unsurvivable.

HERSHER: As in the storm surge will be unsurvivable.

FADEL: Wow. So these scarier words indicating how much scarier these storms are getting. What does this all mean for this year's hurricane season? What do we expect to come?

HERSHER: Well, forecasters are predicting about half a dozen hurricanes, and that's in addition to tropical storms, which have less wind but can cause really terrible flooding. That is basically a normal number of storms. But of course, climate change makes things more dangerous. So the message from forecasters and from emergency officials is take hurricane season seriously, even if you haven't been affected by a hurricane in the past. And that means make a plan for how you would evacuate. Think about getting flood insurance, and take the forecast really seriously.

FADEL: Rebecca Hersher from NPR's Climate Desk. Thanks, Rebecca.

HERSHER: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
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.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.