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Morning news brief

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.

PATRICK MCHENRY: We hold vets harmless. So this means that for nondefense, nonveteran spending, 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 interest, which would restart around August 30.

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

BUSTILLO: Currently, so-called able bodied adults without dependence 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've 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 keeps 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.

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MARTÍNEZ: Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is set to continue his run as Turkey's longest-serving leader.

FADEL: Amid high inflation and despite having faced widespread anger at his government's response to a devastating earthquake this year, Erdogan won Sunday's runoff with 52% of the vote.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Istanbul to talk about this. Peter, Erdogan's showing in both rounds of this election surprised a lot of people but not Erdogan and his supporters. So what did the president have to say about that last night?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, he spoke at the presidential palace in Ankara. And he tried to shift to a more positive tone, saying, for instance, no one lost today. But after running a campaign filled with sharp rhetoric, he couldn't resist slipping in a reference to Kurdish militants that Turkey's been battling for decades, who he's been accusing the opposition of cooperating with. Erdogan made a point of mentioning their stronghold in Kandil in northern Iraq. Well, here's a bit of what he said.

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PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Speaking Turkish).

KENYON: Now, besides attacking the Kurdish fighters, he's saying, "We love Turkey so much. How could this nation not be loved?" And now he also made multiple references to brotherly love, positive times ahead. But it was pretty clear that Erdogan has lost none of his combative leadership style. And throughout this campaign, Erdogan has continued to attract a loyal following that continues to back him despite the hardships of recent years. And hearing their leader celebrate another victory - that was all music to the ears of his supporters.

MARTÍNEZ: The thing is, though, there are still millions of people homeless in an area that was struck by an earthquake. How did he do there?

KENYON: Well, he did quite well even there. Initial results show Erdogan ahead in 9 of the 11 provinces most affected by the February earthquake that killed some 50,000 people. Comments from voters there suggest, despite the fact that there's widespread anger at the government's sluggish response to the earthquake and its role in allowing contractors to build unsafe buildings in an earthquake area in the first place, they still thought Erdogan was a better bet to reconstruct the region and get people back into homes.

MARTÍNEZ: Is there a sense at all, Peter, that the opposition maybe chose the wrong candidate to send up against Erdogan?

KENYON: There will, of course, be debate along those lines. It's already started. A coalition of six parties settled on 74 year old Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the main secular party, as their candidate. He has an impeccable reputation for honesty, never linked to a political scandal. But there has also been a sense for years that Kilicdaroglu never quite had the charisma, the political appeal to defeat Erdogan and his ruling party. These days, the opposition mayors of both Istanbul and Ankara are seen as more popular, stronger candidates. And there's been some grumbling that Kilicdaroglu's insistence that it was his turn to run cost the opposition what might have been its best chance to unseat Erdogan.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, I know the congratulations for Erdogan are pouring in from capitals around the world. What are people saying about, well, maybe another five years of Erdogan's leadership might mean for Turkey's relations with the rest of the world?

KENYON: Well, that is a big topic, and that'll be playing out for some time. Some people are hoping with this victory, Erdogan might consider returning to the reformist ways he started out with earlier in his tenure. But others point out after failing to get Turkey admitted to the European Union years ago, Erdogan has been looking to the east. He's developed strong ties with Russia. That concerns Washington and others. One question now is, will Erdogan press forward with a more eastward-looking foreign policy? And if so, what'll that mean for Turkey's long-standing role as a solid NATO ally in this dangerous neighborhood?

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Peter, thanks.

KENYON: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: As the war in Ukraine enters its 16th month, over the weekend, Russia launched its biggest drone strikes since the war began.

FADEL: Ukrainian officials say the attacks that continued today are mostly targeting the capital, Kyiv. The drone strike comes as Ukraine prepares for - or may have already started, depending on who you talk to - a long-awaited counteroffensive aimed at driving out the Russian forces.

MARTÍNEZ: Joining us now from Kharkiv is NPR's Joanna Kakissis. Joanna, tell us about these attacks.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: So right now, A, I'm in Kharkiv, which you mentioned. And it's close to the Russian border. And air raid alarms have been going off every few hours. But the real target has actually been Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. Russia has attacked Kyiv more than a dozen times this month alone. Early this morning, the Ukrainian military says it shot down more than 40 missiles and drones over Kyiv overnight. And yesterday, on the day Kyiv celebrated its 1,541st birthday, Russia launched a record number of drones at the city. And these are powerful Shahed drones made by Iran. Ukraine's military said it shot down all but two of these drones very early on Sunday. And falling debris from the drone wreckage killed at least one person, injured another two and set fire to the top of a couple of buildings.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, we keep hearing about a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Joanna, do these attacks have anything to do with that?

KAKISSIS: Yeah, well, A, that's what military analysts suspect, that the Russians are trying to weaken Ukraine ahead of the counteroffensive. Russia appears to be trying to deplete Ukraine's air defense missiles and damage the systems that launch these missiles. Meanwhile, Ukraine has been saying for weeks that it's on the verge of launching its counteroffensive, but they've ramped up this talk in the last few days. And some officials are saying, well, we are already carrying out counteroffensive actions. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar tried to explain what that means on local TV. Here she is speaking through an interpreter.

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HANNA MALIAR: (Through interpreter) We have been active in several areas and are now carrying out some counterassaults in the east. This can also be considered part of the counteroffensive. They are all part of a big plan.

KAKISSIS: And other officials have pointed to more actions like destroying Russian oil depots, railway lines and weapon stockpiles in occupied areas. I spoke to this special forces fighter in southern Ukraine. And he told me, look. Do not expect this counteroffensive to look like this epic World War II movie with, like, a huge column of soldiers storming a place. He said it's all happening quietly and according to plan.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, so then what would victory look like in this counteroffensive?

KAKISSIS: Well, the Ukrainians want to reclaim as much land as possible toward the eventual goal of driving the Russians out completely. But it's going to be challenging. Russians control about 15% of Ukrainian land in the east and the south. And Russian forces have really fortified their positions in the southeast, where analysts have suggested Ukrainians could break through and cut the road supply links for the Russian army. All this is to say that Ukrainians need some kind of victory to keep the nation united and hopeful and to satisfy the West, which has supplied billions of dollars in military aid to help Ukraine.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Joanna Kakissis in Kharkiv. Joanna, thanks for checking in.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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