For all the campaigning and schmoozing members of Congress have to do, the truth is that the vast majority of Americans will never actually meet their lawmakers.
To be fair, not everyone wants to. But among those who do, there's serious competition for a lawmaker's time. So, how does an average citizen get access on Capitol Hill? The quick answer: It's not easy.
First, do the math. When it comes to face time with a member of Congress, there are 535 of them, and 314 million of you.
Ever since the Watergate era, taxpayers have been able to check a box on their federal tax returns and designate a little bit of their tax payment to help finance the presidential campaigns and wean politicians away from big donors.
The public financing program has had its ups and downs. But now President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that, for the first time, takes taxpayer money out of the fund.
First of all, let's pause to reflect on some of the great moments of American political conventions brought to you by presidential matching funds.
Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 3:12 pm
If you didn't know any better (or you got confused about what year it was), you might think Vice President Biden was back on the campaign trail, kissing grandmothers, slapping guys on the back and borrowing a woman's phone to razz her son about a basketball game.
Biden returned Tuesday to the familiar campaign grounds of New Hampshire for the first time since October 2012. And he swears he made the trip not to stake out ground for a presidential run, but rather to check out how the statewith the nation's first presidential primary helps match the unemployed with jobs.
Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 4:28 pm
It says something about the changing politics of Hawaii that Democratic powerhouse Daniel Inouye's deathbed pick of a successor was ignored by his own party.
The question is what.
The December 2012 death of the long-serving senator — and one of the state's founding fathers — has exposed cracks in Hawaii's solidly Democratic façade, leading to a contentious Senate primary that has placed age, gender and ethnicity at center stage.
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
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Sometime this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to release an internal review of what happened in September when officials abruptly closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge. One of the key players in that scandal is still at work.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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Public outrage over NSA surveillance programs that collect data about Americans is forcing some big change. Documents revealing the security agency's methods have been trickling out in the press for months, thanks to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Another day, another wave of Democratic attacks on the Koch brothers and their Republican allies.
Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, took to the Senate floor Monday to bash the Koch brothers and the GOP, as has become his habit in recent weeks.
In his latest criticism, he accused Republicans of stalling aid to beleaguered Ukraine until Democrats agreed to delay new Internal Revenue Service rules that would affect the political activities of nonprofit groups.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
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Big news in education today. A defection from the Common Core State Standards. Those are new benchmarks in math and English for kids from kindergarten through high school. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted them. And today, Indiana became the first state to officially drop them. State education officials are now required to write new standards.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. My thanks to my colleague Jennifer Ludden for sitting in for me last Friday. We're going to start the program today with international affairs. President Obama is in the Netherlands today for a previously planned nuclear security summit.
But Russia's decision to annex Crimea, which had been part of Ukraine, has captured the attention of world leaders meeting there. Here is President Obama today after his meeting with the Dutch prime minister.
Democrats have had great success in recent presidential elections registering, targeting and turning out their core voters. Now they're hoping to use that sophisticated field operation to to stave off defeat in this year's midterm elections.
Originally published on Sun March 23, 2014 10:09 pm
Somewhere under all of that melting snow, there's a warming economy.
"Adverse weather conditions" have hurt economic growth so far this year, but things are headed in the right direction now, according to a forecast released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics.
"Conditions in a variety of areas — including labor, consumer and housing markets — are expected to improve over the next two years, while inflation remains tame," Jack Kleinhenz, NABE president and chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said in a statement.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.
It is spring break and a lot of us our taking our kids on vacation to the Grand Canyon, maybe Florida. The First Lady Michelle Obama has taken her girls to China for the school break. It's supposed to be a working vacation, of sorts. There will undoubtedly be some sightseeing, but it's hard as the first lady of the U.S. to go to China and not dip into geopolitics at some point.
Saying that it wants "to allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay," the U.S. Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit on Saturday effectively hit the pause button on same-sex marriages in Michigan.
Friday, as we reported, a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
But late Saturday afternoon, the appeals court weighed in. It said the lower court's decision "is temporarily stayed until Wednesday."
There are budget earmarks from powerful congressmen, earmarks from not-so-powerful congressmen and, as it turns out for an old mining town in Pennsylvania's Appalachians, there's even an earmark from a long-dead congressman.
In the 1960s and 70s, powerful Democrat Daniel Flood worked to find a federal government buyer for the anthracite coal mined in his district. He succeeded: Some five decades later, the heat coming off the radiators at the U.S. military's installation at Kaiserslautern, Germany, is still generated by burning Pennsylvania anthracite.
Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:49 pm
With the fourth anniversary of President Obama's signing of the Affordable Care Act this weekend, if you were a Democrat boasting about the health law, you were more than likely a party official or lawmaker with a seat so safe you could publicly celebrate the occasion.
Like Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who in 2012 beat her Republican opponent by nearly 30 points, scheduling an enrollment event at a Chicago community college Saturday and inviting the news media.
Leaders of high-tech companies, including Google and Facebook, descended on the White House Friday for a meeting with President Obama on the subject of privacy. The meeting itself was private. But aides say Obama wanted to hear from the CEOs about their concerns with the government's high-tech surveillance.
Republicans have a decent shot at taking control of the Senate in November, so President Obama could have as little as nine months left to shape the judiciary he will leave behind.
Senate Democrats positioned themselves to help with that endeavor when they eliminated the filibuster for most judicial nominees last November. But Republicans are still finding ways to slow things down.
Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 3:10 pm
The United States and Europe need to stand together against Moscow in the wake of its incursion in Crimea, keeping the door open for Ukraine and other countries to join NATO, former U.S. officials tell NPR.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
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And I'm Linda Wertheimer. We've talked on this program about something resembling a civil war in the Republican Party this year. More establishment Republicans are in primary battles against Tea Party candidates, and money is pouring in on both sides.
Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 5:47 pm
When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared "I support Senator Feinstein unequivocally" the same day she thrashed the CIA on the Senate floor, the question of whether the pugilistic top congressional Democrat from Nevada would leap into that fight seemed less a matter of if than when.
A little more than a week later, Reid made his move.
Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:49 am
Republicans seem to have all the momentum lately when it comes to the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.
GOP chances were already looking brighter because of the drag on Democrats from the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's low approval ratings. Then came two developments that suddenly expanded the playing field: Former GOP Sen. Scott Brown recently announced his intent to run against New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in against Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
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And I'm Robert Siegel.
When it comes to the Democratic Party establishment, you can't get much more established than Andrew Cuomo. He is the second Cuomo to be governor of New York. He was once married to a Kennedy. But these days, Cuomo is sparring with the party's progressive wing personified by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Democrats all over are watching closely, as NPR's Joe Rose reports.
For a select group of American politicians and advisers to the president there will be no selfies in Red Square, no tours of Saint Basil's Cathedral, no borscht, no Baltika beer and certainly no return to the Sochi arena where the U.S. hockey team won an epic victory over Russia in the Winter Olympics.
Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 3:24 pm
Robert Strauss, a Texas lawyer who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and held White House posts under presidents of both parties, died Wednesday at the age 95.
Strauss, who was appointed as DNC chairman after Sen. George McGovern's landslide defeat in 1972, helped reunify the party in advance of Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976.
He later became an adviser to Carter as a special trade representative, anti-inflation czar and negotiator in Middle East peace talks. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed him as U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union.
President Obama's nominee for surgeon general has a medical degree and an MBA, but his confirmation is being held up in the Senate because of special-interest politics and Democrats facing tough re-election campaigns.