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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The debt ceiling negotiations throw light on the man whose party provoked them, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The House Republican leader spoke by phone with President Biden on Sunday. The two are meeting face to face this afternoon. And their talks may shape the effort to pay the country's bills. The U.S. is a little more than a week away from default, according to the Treasury Department. House Republicans have said they won't allow the government to pay its obligations unless they get concessions on future spending cuts.

INSKEEP: So how did McCarthy place himself in the center of this? NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt is here. Good morning.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What position is McCarthy in today?

SPRUNT: McCarthy is in a strong position. He told reporters yesterday he was encouraged that he and Biden had at least agreed to meet again today in person after talks among their staff sort of broke down at different points over the last few days. While Biden was in Japan, he said he was frustrated that Republicans in negotiations were demanding more and more. Previously, both sides had suggested that there could be room for compromise on certain issues, clawing back billions in unused COVID money, permitting reform. And of course, the sticking point continues to be on spending. Here's Speaker McCarthy yesterday.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: I've been very clear to him from the very beginning. We have to spend less money than we spent last year.

SPRUNT: But look, this is a negotiation. Both sides have to prove to their bases that they're not just going to fold on issues that matter to their constituents. So some of this back-and-forth is not unheard of.

INSKEEP: Barbara, how did McCarthy get in a position to negotiate face to face with the president today, the president who said he would not negotiate over raising the debt limit?

SPRUNT: McCarthy has done something that I believe a lot of Democrats weren't sure he'd be able to do, which was pass a partisan bill on raising the debt limit that also tackled spending cuts. He has a very narrow majority in the House. It took him 15 rounds of voting to get elected as speaker. And I think because of that, some Democrats questioned whether he'd be able to unite the conference in this way. You might recall that months ago, President Biden and other top Democratic congressional leaders kept saying show us your plan, show us your plan to House Republicans - saying, you know, you want these spending cuts, but where's your actual plan? And then, of course, House Republicans did pass a plan. And that's sort of forced Biden to engage in a way that he said he wouldn't before.

INSKEEP: OK, the two leaders said they had a productive talk yesterday. Are they getting closer then to an actual agreement?

SPRUNT: It sounds cliche, but the clock is ticking here. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been very explicit that the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June 1. And that's less than two weeks away, as you said. Another note on the timeline that makes it tricky, both chambers would have to pass a bill in a very short amount of time. McCarthy has said the House needs 72 hours to read the bill and vote on it. And then it would go to the Senate. So it really is crunch time.

INSKEEP: Well, here's a vital question, though. To avoid default, as you noted, it would seem to be necessary for the two sides to compromise. And the most extreme members of McCarthy's caucus aren't interested in compromise. They're pretty explicit about that. Is McCarthy willing to defy them to pass something a little bit less than the extreme?

SPRUNT: You know, the hard-liners on both sides of the aisle are not likely to support whatever compromise comes out of this. I think that's fair to say at this point in the negotiations. Each side is going to have to give something that in all likelihood the far right and the far left of these conferences are not going to like. But the numbers being what they are, even if those factions don't support a bill, there is still a path for passage.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Thanks so much.

SPRUNT: Thanks, Steve.

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INSKEEP: How, if at all, could Tim Scott reshape the Republican presidential race?

FADEL: The South Carolina senator is announcing his campaign today. He filed the paperwork Friday. A recent interview with a New Hampshire TV station captures his intended theme of optimism.

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TIM SCOTT: I think that this country can do for anyone what she has done for me. So restoring hope, creating opportunities and protecting the America that we love, you'll hear a lot more about that.

FADEL: To win the nomination, he would have to overcome a rival who accentuates the negative, former President Trump.

INSKEEP: NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea is covering Tim Scott's announcement. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK. People in Washington know Tim Scott very well. Some regular cable TV viewers will know him very well. But for those who don't, what's his background?

GONYEA: He's been in the U.S. Senate for a decade. Before that, he was a congressman, and before that, the South Carolina statehouse - and earlier, the Charleston City Council. So it's been a steady climb. He is the only Black Republican in the Senate. He's a conservative. He is anti-abortion rights. He's a strong advocate of tax cuts as economic policy. But he is also - is well-known for his positive demeanor. He says over and over that there's far too much rancor in politics today.

INSKEEP: Although, he's doing something a little aggressive here in that he is the second South Carolinian to get in the race. Nikki Haley, the former governor and former U.N. ambassador, is already in.

GONYEA: People are talking about that, especially in South Carolina. And as alternatives to Trump, both Scott and Haley do seem to occupy similar lanes, right? These are two of the most popular homegrown political figures ever in the state. And by the way, it was Haley as governor who appointed Scott to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy. So it's unusual they're both seeking the nomination at the same time. It's a small state. But remember, it does play a disproportionate role given that it's the first southern state to hold a primary. Outwardly, there doesn't seem to be any bad blood between Scott and Haley. Each appears to have decided this is their time.

INSKEEP: Although, of course, former President Trump insists it's his time yet again. How is he responding?

GONYEA: Well, Scott's poll numbers are low, single digits, so Trump might have just ignored him - not so. Though, the reaction actually came from the pro-Trump super PAC, Make America Great Again. And mostly, the statement used Scott's announcement for president to mock Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, saying the only reason Scott got into the race was because DeSantis has proven to be so weak in the polls. The statement did hit Scott on some issues, including his support for more financial aid to help Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Although, that sort of captures the narrative here, that Trump statement, in that it would seem that the Republican field is a number of people who are each trying to overcome Trump. How does that field look right now?

GONYEA: You know, even with this growing list, there haven't been a lot of direct attacks on Trump yet even with all of Trump's legal troubles hanging out there. Those officially running as of now include Trump, Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. And of course, Scott is announcing today. Within days, we expect a formal announcement from Ron DeSantis. Mike Pence, the former vice president, is reportedly close to declaring. Other possibilities include New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Then there are others most people have never heard of. Most prominent among them is businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who's been getting some attention. And others beyond these might still join the race.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks so much.

GONYEA: Pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

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INSKEEP: Now, what can a city really do about gun violence?

FADEL: The Supreme Court has sharply limited gun regulations. Many state legislatures have lifted regulations that they had. And so far, gun violence has killed more than 7,000 people this year. After two shootings in Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther called for businesses to close early.

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ANDREW GINTHER: When 10 people are shot that we know of and 11 guns recovered that we know of from one particular incident, that requires unprecedented change. It requires some sacrifice.

INSKEEP: So how did the business closing work out? Karen Kasler with Ohio Public Radio is on the line. Good morning.

KAREN KASLER, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What led the mayor to act now?

KASLER: Well, that shootout when 10 people were hurt on May 6 was one of two back-to-back violent incidents in two weekends in the well-known Short North area. It really got a lot of attention. It was described as chaos, bullets going through glass windows on storefronts, ricocheting around the area. Police officers fired their weapons, 11 guns recovered. The state is investigating. The following weekend, a fight ended with a 21-year-old man shot dead. Columbus had a record number of homicides in 2021. That number dropped last year. But the city recovered more guns than ever last year and is on track to surpass that number this year. And of course, the Short North, it's an arts and entertainment district, about 300 businesses there. And it attracts millions of people to the area.

INSKEEP: And you can just kind of picture that. Many cities have that kind of trendy district, which attracts a lot of business, a lot of nightlife. So how did the mayor respond to these shootings exactly?

KASLER: Last week, Mayor Andrew Ginther announced that the city was enforcing a midnight curfew for 13 to 17 year olds. He signed an executive order that food trucks would shut down at midnight. And he asked for bars and restaurants - about a third of the businesses in that area are bars and restaurants - to close at midnight Friday and Saturday, and that parking would be restricted. Columbus police officers were stepping up patrols in the area. And anyone arrested for street racing would lose their vehicles and would not get plea bargains. The city has to do these changes because they can't enact gun regulations. Columbus and the state of Ohio are in a court battle over which one actually has the power to regulate guns.

INSKEEP: How are people responding then to this effort to cut down on gun violence by cutting down on business?

KASLER: It doesn't seem that there were any major problems. Though, the scene over the weekend looked kind of like most weekends. Food trucks did close up. There were a lot of police officers. But bars and restaurants, for the most part, did not close early. Many of them have private security. And they want the city to focus on other things. But the area still seemed to bring in visitors, some saying they actually appreciate the extra police presence.

INSKEEP: How did Ohio's Republican legislature respond to this move?

KASLER: Well, Republican lawmakers have passed laws banning Ohio cities, which are mostly run by Democrats, from enacting their own gun control legislation while they've been expanding gun rights at the statehouse, including allowing permitless concealed carry, expanding the stand your ground law to any place, not just a home. On Friday, two Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban mayors from enacting curfews for people under 18 unless they said there is what they called a clear and present emergency as determined by legislators or a city.

INSKEEP: An effort to close down yet another avenue of response. Karen, thanks so much.

KASLER: Great to talk to you. Thanks.

INSKEEP: Karen Kasler is the statehouse bureau chief for Ohio Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.