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White House, Congress Continue Negotiations On 2-Year Budget Deal

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Congress is on track to reach a deal that will fund the government for two years. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and outgoing House speaker John Boehner have been in talks with the president for weeks, and tonight, they appear ready to make it happen. NPR's Susan Davis is at the Capitol and joins us now. Hi, Susan.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So this proposal will keep the government operation past the presidential election. What else can you tell us about what's in the deal?

DAVIS: So the exact specifics haven't been released, but the shape of the deal is coming together from aides and members who have been briefed on it. It's a two-year budget deal that would include $80 billion in new federal spending. They would divide it equally between the Pentagon and domestic spending, which covers everything from nation parks to cancer research to the FBI. It's been negotiated by the White House and what we call the big four - the top Democrat and Republican in both the House and the Senate.

These talks have been going underway since probably mid-September, but they're coming to a head now mainly for two reasons. One - House speaker John Boehner wants to clear the legislative decks before he plans to resign at the end of the week. And Congress is, once again, just days away from an impending November 3 deadline on another component of the deal - the debt ceiling.

SHAPIRO: And it looks like they have agreed to raise the debt ceiling. What can you tell us about that bargain?

DAVIS: So aides says the deal includes raising the debt ceiling, which, I would say, think of it like the U.S. Treasury's credit card limit. That would raise that until March 2017. The date is important 'cause it effectively takes the issue of defaulting on the debt off the table until the next president is sworn in. This has been a particular interest of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who's repeatedly pledged that Republicans will not default on the debt since they took full control of Congress in January. And you know, party leaders are hoping to diffuse the issue and take the public's attention away from dysfunctional Congress and put it on the presidential election.

SHAPIRO: So if this all goes through as, at this point, appear likely, that would mean that John Boehner has resolved two of the most pressing fiscal issues just as he gets ready to leave the House of Representatives. Is this a good sign for the man who seems most likely to replace him, Paul Ryan?

DAVIS: The speaker has been very candid that that is his goal. He wants to - the phrase we've been hearing is clear the barn of these thorny legislative issues before Paul Ryan is sworn in. He's heavily favored to be the next speaker of the House. The - Republicans are going to vote on Wednesday, which may be the same day they are voting on this budget deal, to nominate Paul Ryan to be speaker. Of course, the full House is going to have to nominate or ratify his nomination on Thursday. You know, I've already talked to one Texas Republican, Bill Flores, who said, you know, Paul's going to be inoculated a little bit from this, but the people that are going to be angry at leadership are going to stay angry at leadership no matter who's holding the gavel.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Sue Davis speaking to us from Capitol Hill about what looks like an impending deal. Thanks, Sue.

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