The House is expected to vote Thursday on the bipartisan deal that would set spending levels for the next two years, replace many of the indiscriminate "sequester" budget cuts and, in theory at least, take off the table one of the most partisan of the many partisan issues that have contributed to the gridlock in Washington.
NPR's Tamara Keith tells our Newscast Desk that passage is expected, but not certain. She adds that:
"Many have described the deal as not great, or not enough, but the best a Democratic senator [Patty Murray of Washington] and Republican congressman [Paul Ryan of Wisconsin] could hope to agree to in this divided congress.
"The House GOP leadership is pushing hard for their members to support it. The Tea Party faction is largely opposed because they consider the fees it raises to be taxes and because there aren't enough immediate spending cuts.
"Still, many Republicans say they will vote yes. On the other side of the aisle, many Democrats are upset that the package doesn't extend jobless benefits for the unemployed. Democratic leaders in the House aren't telling their members how to vote and some say they may vote no unless aide for the long-term unemployed is included."
Politico takes a look at how the deal has led to an interesting switch in roles among Republicans:
"For much of the past year, it's been the Senate GOP cutting bipartisan deals, whether it's been on immigration or to keep the government funded, only to see the House Republicans balk. House Republicans have long been critical of their Senate colleagues, arguing they compromise too often and are worried only about face-saving political votes.
"But on Wednesday, Republican senators up and down the line were balking. ...
"The reasons Senate Republicans oppose the deal are plentiful, but, at the most basic level, they have the luxury of nearly uniform opposition because they are in the minority.
"They know this deal will pass, since a handful of Senate GOP lawmakers favor it — it will easily clear the 60-vote threshold to beat a filibuster. So 'no' becomes the default position for many of them. Furthermore, Senate Republicans didn't buy in to the deal as their leadership was kept out of the loop during the talks."
The Hill picks up on that angle as well, examining the "rare split" between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who supports the deal, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who does not.
According to USA Today, "the Senate is expected to vote on the package next week, and President Obama said Tuesday that he will sign it."
Longtime civil rights attorney Connie Rice has been following this week's indictments against officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. She says it points to a subculture of corruption within certain units, much like the city's scandal-ridden police department of the 1990s.
In the main downtown jails, sheriff's officers are accused of beating and choking inmates without provocation, harassing visitors and then covering it all up.
"It's like entering the Bastille," says Rice. "It's ancient — you descend down into these concrete bunkers. It really does feel like it's apart from the world. ... It's overcrowded. Inmates have gotten more and more dangerous over the years, and the deputies developed a corresponding culture."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas says: "At this point in time the Sheriff's Department is essentially left to oversee itself, which is a recipe for disaster."
The elected sheriff operates with a lot of autonomy. Ridley-Thomas says the indictments against more than a dozen current and former sheriff's deputies and two lieutenants are tantamount to federal intervention, and that should have come much earlier.
He's calling for an independent commission of citizens — not law enforcement — much like what the LAPD got after years of scandal, brutality and widespread corruption in the 1990s. Ridley-Thomas says the commission would be tasked with overseeing LA's roughly 10,000 sheriff's officers inside and outside the jails. He plans to bring this to a vote next month.
Rice, who has spent years suing the LAPD and the sheriff's department, isn't sure whether the federal government would go so far as to fully take over the force, which is what it with the LAPD in the 1990s.
"The black community was at war with LAPD [in the 90s]. And there was outright hatred between that community and the police department," says Rice. "I've never known the sheriffs to have outright hatred of an entire community."
The indictments stem from just one of four federal investigations into Sheriff Lee Baca's department, including one probing allegations that deputies on patrol used excessive force and racial profiling, and one looking at the treatment of mentally ill inmates in jails.
Baca says actions alleged in the indictment are the acts of a few rogue officers.
"The exceptions of force incidents ... 14 or 15 people under an indictment relative to jail activity is not an institutional number," Baca says. "There is no institutional problem within the sheriff's department when it comes to correcting itself."
Critics are quick to point out that the jails aren't Baca's only problem. The federal government is also investigating allegations of racial profiling and excessive force against black and Latino residents in communities north of Los Angeles. The sheriff has acknowledged past problems. And he points to changes he has made, including rehabilitation programs for inmates and the appointment of a new jail manager.