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Morning news brief


Now, one basic idea of this republic is that the people make big decisions. So what do the people make of it when a debate in Congress is utterly confusing?


Congress is approaching a crisis over the debt ceiling. Essentially, House Republicans have declined to allow borrowing to pay the bills that Congress has previously run up. They say they will not do that until President Biden agrees to cuts in future spending. But spending cuts are unpopular. And Republicans have so far declined to tell the public what they would like to cut. They have a few months before the U.S. risks default on its debt. That's a lot. Almost by design, the debate is hard to follow. But an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll tries to find out what voters think.

MARTÍNEZ: And we also have NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro here to help us figure all of this out. So Domenico, this survey asked people for their feelings about the debt ceiling. What did you learn about how Americans are viewing debt ceiling deliberations?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, Americans are largely split on whether to even raise the debt ceiling at all. But half of respondents in the survey say they support raising it, an almost equal numbers say they don't, which is clearly pointing to the looming fight on this and reflective of how divided Congress is itself. You know, this is actually a huge turnabout, though, from the position most Americans had in 2011, the last time the country dealt with the prospect of default. Back then, 7 in 10 were opposed to raising it. But the country has seen, you know, the consequences of a credit downgrade. There's been a bit of an education on the importance of this tool and what it even means. But dealing with the country's overall debt, that's another story.

MARTÍNEZ: And are Americans just as divided as Congress on how to deal with the national debt?

MONTANARO: Yeah, you bet. You know, what we're seeing is a bit ironic here. Most people, 7 in 10 in the survey, say they want compromise, including a majority of Republicans. But 50% are saying they mostly want to see cuts to programs and spending to reduce the debt. But an almost equal 46% want to raise taxes and fees. They follow along the usual partisan lines, with a majority of independents siding with most Republicans in saying that the programs should be cut. This is also an increase, though, since the last time this question was asked a decade ago about whether taxes and fees should be raised.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So then where does that leave negotiations in Congress or the country's ability to cut into that debt?

MONTANARO: Yeah, this is what makes it really tough. Entitlements, which no one's talking about, Social Security and Medicare, make up more than half of the national debt. But Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said those cuts are off the table. Democrats certainly don't want to slash the benefit. Republicans are also not in favor of cutting defense spending, which makes up about half of the other slice of the pie, which doesn't leave much left over to make a significant dent in the debt. We are seeing, though, a changing of the guard a little bit, a little changing of the tide with younger Americans. They are most likely to say they're in favor of raising taxes - up double digits on that in the past decade. They're also driving support for a minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. Almost two-thirds of people now overall are now in favor of that.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what else do people think about priorities Congress, will be taking on as we're in this new session they're in?

MONTANARO: Yeah, two things here. On Ukraine funding, a plurality, 42%, say that it's been about right. But something's brewing here. Almost half of Republicans now say the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine. Republican opposition has, really, steadily grown in the past year of this war. And this is shaping up to become a real issue not just in Congress, but also on the campaign trail. Another Republican priority, investigating the president's son, Hunter Biden. Almost 6 in 10 say they support a congressional investigation into his business dealings. So Republicans very much going to feel like they have the wind at their backs on this issue.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.


MARTÍNEZ: How did an Israeli military operation turn so deadly?

INSKEEP: Israel says it was trying to prevent attacks by launching one of its own. This happened in the occupied West Bank. And for those who don't follow this daily, we mention a few basic. Israel captured that region in a 1967 war and has controlled it since. Palestinians who live there have some authority in some areas, but Israel sends security forces where they choose. And yesterday, Israelis said they wanted to capture three suspects who were accused of planning future attacks.

MARTÍNEZ: By the time it was over, 11 Palestinians were killed. Washington Post reporter Miriam Berger is in the West Bank. Miriam, how did this raid unfold?

MIRIAM BERGER: Well, thank you for having me. So you know, yesterday, around 10:30 a.m., the Israeli military began a raid on the Palestinian city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. It, you know, was a crowded day in the old city. And by the end of it, 11 people, Palestinians, had been killed. Among them were a 16-year-old, 72-year-old, 61-year-old, 66-year-old. And militant groups said that six of those also were killed - were members of their group. And the Israeli military said it was targeting in particular three wanted fighters who it said had planned - had carried out attacks and were planning immediate attacks. But, you know, this is a very, very crowded area. It was the daytime. And the stories - you know, lots of civilians were in the area. And it left a very, very chaotic and bloody scene.

MARTÍNEZ: And how are Palestinians responding to the increase in recent months?

BERGER: So you know, this is part of a increase in raids and arrests that have been happening for nearly a year now. And it's really, really infuriated people. You know, average Palestinians are, you know, experiencing much more of a sort of increase in violence in their every day, and especially in places like Nablus and Jenin, a nearby city, which has also, you know, sort of been the centers of this unrest. The various armed groups that have been forming, many of them are sort of young, disillusioned people who are, you know, from various political factions and are uniting, you know, in sort of these localized groups. They've, you know, pledged to step up attacks, so has the sort of larger, historic - larger groups as well. You know, people are really feeling very under threat right now.

MARTÍNEZ: And the rise in violence has also coincided with the election of the most right wing government in Israel's history. How is that affecting the situation?

BERGER: It very much is, you know? So there's - you know, key members of this new government has, you know, said they want to entirely annex occupied West Bank. They have called for much harsher - already harsher - you know, policies against Palestinians. It's really made people afraid and sort of lost hope. You talk to folks, and there's just - I constantly hear people saying there's no prospects. There's no hope. There's no belief in the political process. And there's no belief in the international community helping out Palestinians either. So people really feel like they're backed into a corner right now. And then these raids happen. And it really, you know, just exacerbates the whole cycle.

MARTÍNEZ: Miriam Berger is a Washington Post reporter covering the Middle East and foreign affairs. Miriam, thanks.

BERGER: Thank you for having me.


MARTÍNEZ: Immigrant advocates say they'll sue to block a proposed Biden administration policy.

INSKEEP: The United States wants to sharply restrict who can seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration made this proposal Tuesday. It would become harder for migrants to receive asylum if they crossed the border illegally after passing through another country, such as Mexico, without seeking protection there first.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Joel Rose has been following this. Joel, how is this proposed regulation supposed to work?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, the rule says that migrants would be presumed to be ineligible for asylum if they cross into the U.S. illegally after passing through a third country - for example, Mexico - without seeking protection there. Biden administration officials say this rule would be temporary - for two years - and that it is needed as an emergency measure as immigration authorities prepare for the end of the pandemic border restrictions, known as Title 42, which for several years now have allowed them to quickly expel migrants at the border. The Biden administration says it's planning for those restrictions to end in May.

MARTÍNEZ: Why are immigrant advocates pushing back as hard as they are?

ROSE: They say this rule would cut off most migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Here's Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, the head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, on a call with reporters yesterday.


KRISH O'MARA VIGNARAJAH: Not only is it a clear contradiction of U.S. law and international agreements, it violates President Biden's own promises to restore asylum. This is very nearly a carbon copy of the Trump asylum plan that was blocked by the courts.

ROSE: The Trump policy she's referring to there would have turned away nearly all migrants arriving at the border, with very few exceptions. But several courts found that policy unlawful. Immigrant advocates say that they will go to court to block this rule, too, if the Biden administration goes forward with it.

MARTÍNEZ: What's the Biden administration saying about the comparison to Trump?

ROSE: The administration insists this new asylum rule is very different from Trump's because it does have some exceptions for the most vulnerable migrants. And it's coupled also with new legal pathways for certain migrants who can qualify. The Biden administration has talked a lot about a new pathway for some migrants from four countries - Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela - who can get temporary permission to live and work in the U.S. legally if they have sponsors in the U.S.

The White House considers that a success. The administration is also trying to encourage migrants to use a new app called CBP One to schedule appointments at official ports of entry to make their case for asylum. But again, that's very limited. Advocates say there are not nearly enough appointments available for all the migrants who've been trying to get them. Also, we're hearing a lot of complaints that the app itself is not working.

MARTÍNEZ: So Joel, if the Biden regulation is being compared to Trump-era immigration policies, Republicans are probably on board.

ROSE: No, they don't seem to like it either. They say it's an example of too little, too late, after two years of record migrant apprehensions at the border. Immigration hard-liners also have been very critical of CBP One, this new app, as well as the new parole process that the White House has been touting for migrants from Cuba and those other countries. Hard-liners say the administration is overreaching by allowing those migrants into the country legally without explicit authorization to do that from Congress. Republicans, you know, basically say, this is all politics. And as President Biden gears up for reelection, he's trying to look tough on the border. They just don't seem to believe that he's serious.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, thanks.

ROSE: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF OMAURE'S "DOWN UNDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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.