It was annual Senate retreat time in Washington this week, a moment when senators get away from the U.S. Capitol, free themselves of their staffs and daily legislative, office and fundraising chores, and try to gain some fresh perspective.
They didn't go far, mind you. Senate Democrats met Wednesday at Washington Nationals Park about a mile and half away from Capitol Hill, still in sight of the Rotunda. Republicans merely repaired to their usual place across the street from the Capitol, the Library of Congress.
Members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot were just released from jail after spending nearly two years in a penal colony for a controversial performance at a Moscow church in 2012, but they are far from done fighting. Nadezhda "Nadya" Tolokonnikova and Maria "Masha" Alyokhina continue to be outspoken against human rights abuses in Russia, bringing the band's message to the U.S. for the first time.
Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 1:50 pm
If you wanted to pursue a career in politics, you could have done worse than appearing in the 1987 movie Predator.
That movie featured not only Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura — future governors of California and Minnesota, respectively — but Sonny Landham, who later ran for governor and senator in Kentucky.
Here's another way congressional Democrats are using the Budget Office report in support of the Affordable Care Act. They're defending an obscure provision in the law that serves to backstop insurance companies participating in the health plan exchanges. And in a flip of party stereotypes, this has Democrats standing up for the insurance companies and Republicans clashing with big business.
On Tuesday, economists with the Congressional Budget Office announced findings that indicated the new health care law may result in hundreds of thousands leaving the workforce. The findings spurred new debate on the merits of the law and its economic impact. NPR's Scott Horsley has more on the reactions to the report.
Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 11:00 am
The White House on Wednesday rolled out a high-profile plan to help farmers and ranchers adjust to climate changes that have already begun to upend growing seasons and threaten livestock.
The "climate hub" initiative was praised by environmentalists, though they were quick to warn President Obama that it would not provide him cover on another environmental issue in the headlines: the Keystone XL pipeline.
Count Sandra Fluke out — at least on a national level, for now.
After suggesting that she was gearing up for a possible congressional campaign, the women's rights activist and lawyer has announced she won't be entering the race for California Rep. Henry Waxman's soon-to-be-available seat after all.
Instead, Fluke says she's pursuing a different route: She plans to run for the state Senate spot currently held by Ted Lieu.
Lieu is running for Waxman's job, as is former City Controller Wendy Greuel, a finalist in last year's Los Angeles mayoral race.
The new Congressional Budget Office report gives ammunition to Republicans and puts Democrats on the defensive. It said the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of full-time workers by more than 2 million by the year 2024. But as usual, the truth is more complicated than the headlines and press releases suggest.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 5:27 pm
Leaders of the Republican Party acknowledge they have a problem attracting minority voters — especially African-Americans, 93 percent of whom voted for President Obama in 2012, compared with just 6 percent for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
That chasm is at the heart of a new initiative by the Republican National Committee during February. In its first-ever Black History Month ad campaign, the RNC has launched radio spots aimed at African-American audiences in a handful of cities: Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta.
A new front has opened in the political battle over the Affordable Care Act, with Tuesday's release of the Congressional Budget Office's annual budget and economic outlook. The economists updated an earlier estimate about how many workers would leave the workforce because they no longer needed a job to have health care coverage — revising upward from 800,000 people to over 2 million people. Republicans pounced on the higher number, and President Obama now finds himself playing defense.
The federal government's deficit is shrinking quite quickly — and that may not necessarily be a good thing. As congressional forecasters lower their predictions for economic growth over the next decade, some experts are saying that gross domestic product and unemployment figures would look better, were it not for the government's rapid push to get a handle on the deficit.
Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 9:50 am
Boston physician Vivek Murthy was expected to run into political headwinds Tuesday during his Senate confirmation hearing for the post of the nation's top doc — surgeon general.
Murthy, 36, the founder of a national physicians group that worked to pass the Affordable Care Act, was seen by some as vulnerable to GOP attacks because of his political work, his youth and his less-than-a-lifetime of public health experience — not to mention a few impolitic tweets guaranteed to rile conservatives.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 4:45 pm
Add women's rights activist Sandra Fluke to the roster of Democrats hoping to succeed Rep. Henry Waxman.
Fluke has filed with the California Democratic Party to seek its endorsement for the heavily Democratic Los Angeles-based seat held by Waxman since 1975.
She's listed on the state party's website as one of three candidates who have officially filed in the 33rd Congressional District. The other two are state Sen. Ted Lieu and Wendy Greuel, a finalist in last year's Los Angeles mayoral race.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're a month into a new year, but we want to start the program today talking through some of the old issues that are bubbling back up in Washington. The political parties are doing that, too. In fact, House Republicans just finished a three-day retreat in Maryland to plan their strategy for the year. And one of the issues they focused on was immigration.
The political map of America changes, but it doesn't change very quickly. Massachusetts was a reliably liberal state decades ago and still is. The South is still the South. This raises the question of why it is that certain areas come to be reliably liberal or conservative.
NPR Shankar Vedantam joins us to discuss some research that explores the question. Hi, Shankar.
The Senate will be voting on final passage of a five-year farm bill this afternoon. One big change in the new bill - it puts an end to the controversial cash payments made directly to farmers regardless of their profits. Still, as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, critics argue the new crop insurance program that replaces those cash subsidies is just another giveaway.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
We're going to introduce you now to one unusual Republican running for Congress in this year's midterm elections. As a candidate, Allan Levene stands out for a bunch of reasons. He's a naturalized U.S. citizen, born and raised in London. He says the federal government should do away with corporate taxes and create a new Israel in Texas.
Warning that "simply delaying action on the debt limit can cause harm to our economy," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew repeated Monday that he believes Congress should act soon to raise that limit so the federal government avoids even looking like it might default on its debts.
In the aftermath of a conclusion that downplayed the oil pipeline's potential effects on climate change, the issue has gotten even more politically complicated for the Obama White House. Environmentalists are ramping up their opposition to the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, while Republicans have intensified their push for approval. As for Democrats, well, that depends on their election prospects.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We'd like to start the week talking about a subject that might be on your mind as you start preparing your taxes and you're pull out those bank statements. We want to talk about planning for retirement. Almost half of households in this country don't have enough savings to cover their retirement or even unexpected emergencies, that according to a new report from a group called the Corporation for Enterprise Development.