Politics

Architecture
12:11 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Makeover USA: Short, 'Dowdy' D.C. Considers High Heels

The skyline of Washington, D.C., including the Capitol building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. The tall buildings in the distance are in Virginia.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 2:06 pm

The powers that be in Washington are typically, though certainly not always, wrestling with weighty issues.

Recently, they've also been debating height, and whether they prefer a stout, familiar dowager, or a taller, sleeker model.

Building heights, people: We're talking building heights in your nation's capital, where for more than a century the 1910 Building Height Act has kept the city's profile low.

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The Two-Way
12:09 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

President Orders Review Of Sexual Assault In Military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey brief reporters at the Pentagon in Washington, on Thursday.
Charles Dharapak AP

President Obama has ordered a one-year review of the military's response to sexual assault within the ranks, saying his administration has "an urgent obligation" to respond to the problem.

"If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks," the president said in a statement on Friday.

As Reuters says:

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The Two-Way
11:54 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Obama On Health Care Rollout: 'We Screwed It Up'

Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 3:46 pm

President Obama, in his final news conference of the year, sought to put the best face on a difficult first year of his second term.

Speaking a few hours before he heads to Hawaii for a two-week vacation, Obama is meeting with reporters at the White House.

He touted the improving economy, saying 2 million jobs had been added in 2013, with the unemployment rate now at its lowest level in five years.

"2014 can be a breakthrough year," he said.

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Politics
10:07 am
Fri December 20, 2013

'A Lot Of Sour Grapes' Left In Budget Deal

Congress is hopes for a happy holiday after approving a budget deal. But the President is still feeling the heat over Obamacare and the National Security Agency's data mining. Host Michel Martin talks politics with Republican strategist Ron Christie and Fernando Espuelas of Univision.

It's All Politics
9:33 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Protesters Greet Scott Brown At New Hampshire GOP Event

Republican Scott Brown (center) waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his Massachusetts Senate race concession speech Nov. 6 as his daughter Ayla Brown (left) and wife Gail Huff applaud.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 12:43 pm

Scott Brown still knows how to make an entrance.

The former Massachusetts senator — and a soon-to-be official resident of Rye, N.H. — arrived at the New Hampshire GOP's holiday party in his trademark pickup truck Thursday evening, and was greeted by more than 100 chanting protesters.

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The Two-Way
5:10 am
Fri December 20, 2013

'Huge Win For Victims Of Sexual Assault' In Defense Budget

Tim Shaffer Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 6:11 am

"The women of the Senate who led the fight to change how the military deals with sexual assault in its ranks are hailing passage of a comprehensive defense bill that now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature," The Associated Press writes this morning.

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The Two-Way
4:33 am
Fri December 20, 2013

When Obama Takes Questions Today, What Should He Be Asked?

President Obama's most recent news conference at the White House was on Nov. 14.
Fang Zhe Xinhua/Landov

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 8:05 am

Update at 10:02 a.m. ET. News Conference Set For 2 P.M. ET:

The White House just announced that the president will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. ET.

So, we've changed our original headline from "If Obama Takes Questions ..." to "When."

Note: The president's sessions with reporters often get started a little late.

Our original post picks up the story:

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Around the Nation
3:45 am
Fri December 20, 2013

U.S. Deports 10 Percent Fewer People Last Fiscal Year

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 9:13 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

The Obama administration has released a figure that caught our attention. It's the number of people deported from the United States during the past fiscal year. For the first time, since the President Obama took office, that number is smaller than the year before.

NPR's Ted Robbins has a look at why.

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Politics
2:48 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Budget Bill Scales Back Military Pensions In 2015

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 9:13 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Leaders of the Pentagon got something they really wanted in a congressional budget deal. They are restraining future pensions paid to American troops. Cutting veterans benefits is never popular, but on this program last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said benefits are getting so costly, it's hard to keep troops ready for war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

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It's All Politics
6:31 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Will 2nd-Term Obama Show More Mercy Through Pardons?

President Obama speaks to reporters Wednesday in the Oval Office. On Thursday, Obama announced that he was granting a series of pardons and clemencies.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 6:47 am

President Obama came to office after bemoaning the disparity in sentences for crack versus powder cocaine offenses, and with a background as a community organizer and constitutional law teacher that had some progressives anticipating a robust use of the Constitution's "reprieves and pardons" power.

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Politics
2:50 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

President Obama's Rocky Year Falls Far Short Of Ambitions

By many standards, President Obama had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:52 pm

President Obama heads to Hawaii on Friday. He goes there for Christmas every year and always talks about how good it is to get away from Washington. This year, that's likely to be especially true.

It's been a rough year for the president, starting with the very first hours of 2013.

One year ago, when the ball dropped on Times Square and people sang "Auld Lang Syne," Obama was supposed to be in Honolulu. Instead, he was in Washington as the country went over the so-called fiscal cliff.

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It's All Politics
2:49 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Charles Rangel, Longtime Harlem Congressman, To Seek Re-Election

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Thursday he will seek re-election to the Harlem-area seat he has held since 1971.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

Rep. Charles Rangel, the third-longest-serving member of Congress, announced Thursday he will seek a 23rd term in office next year.

There had been speculation that the New York Democrat, a veteran member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, would retire at the end of this term. But the 83-year-old Rangel, who could face a tough primary, said he still has "unfinished business" to tend to in the House.

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Politics
2:45 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

How The Government Spent $2 Billion Paying Workers To Not Work

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 3:42 pm

Two billion — that's the number of dollars the federal government lost during the partial government shutdown, paying furloughed employees not to work.

National Security
2:45 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Do Recommendations From White House Panel On NSA Go Far Enough?

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 3:42 pm

A review panel convened by the White House released its report on surveillance by the National Security Agency Wednesday. Among concerns the task force has are NSA practices that some say deliberately weaken America's cyber security. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been critical about surveillance activities, and Mark Rumold, staff attorney for the organization, tells Audie Cornish about the pros and cons of the panel's recommendations.

National Security
2:45 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Civil Liberties Groups Call For Obama To Enact NSA Changes

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 3:42 pm

Civil liberties groups are urging President Obama to follow through with the recommendations of his NSA review committee. The panel suggested limiting the spy agency's electronic surveillance.

The Two-Way
12:55 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Obama Issues Year-End Commutations For Drug Crimes

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 2:28 pm

President Obama has commuted the sentences of eight people convicted of drug crimes, saying their terms were unusually harsh due to a system that treated crack cocaine as a more serious offense than powder cocaine.

The president also pardoned 13 others convicted of various other offenses.

The commutations come after the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which is aimed at reducing disparities in the way the law treats cocaine possession.

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The Two-Way
12:46 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

New Mexico's High Court OKs Same-Sex Marriage

Gail Stockman, 60 (left), and Beth Black, 58, of Albuquerque, N.M., prepare to marry at a massive wedding in August, along with other same-sex couples.
Russell Contreras AP

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:22 pm

New Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that same-sex marriage is legal, validating initiatives in several counties allowing the practice in the absence of a specific state law.

The ruling on Thursday means that New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.

The Associated Press says:

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It's All Politics
10:17 am
Thu December 19, 2013

How To Master The Fine Art Of Political Symbolism

Supporters of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott fan themselves to cope with the heat during a July 14 event to announce Abbott's 2014 campaign for governor in San Antonio.
Darren Abate AP

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 12:19 pm

Texas Republicans can't get hold of enough guns.

Greg Abbott, the party's front-runner for governor, posed for a recent cover of Texas Monthly with a rifle over his shoulder. Nearly every other GOP statewide candidate has put out pictures or videos proudly displaying firearms.

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Economy
9:05 am
Thu December 19, 2013

The Washington Two-Step: Dancing Back To Normal

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveil a budget deal Dec. 10 in Washington.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 11:24 am

Time and again, business leaders say the one thing they want out of Washington is more certainty.

But rarely do they get their wish.

In recent years, business owners have found themselves wondering whether their government would default on its debts, shut down national parks, change tax rules, cancel supplier contracts, confirm key leaders at federal agencies or hike interest rates.

Finally on Wednesday, they saw policymakers take two big steps toward a more certain future.

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National Security
3:29 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Obama Panel: NSA Phone Record Surveillance Should Be Limited

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 10:08 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Politics
2:56 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Defense Bill Addresses Sexual Assaults In The Military

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 10:08 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

A defense bill reaches the floor of the United States Senate today and it includes a measure aimed at cracking down on the problem of sexual assault in the military. For the first time, this bill would give sexual assault victims more rights, rights they normally do not get under the military code of justice.

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National Security
2:46 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Presidential Review Panel Endorses Checks On NSA

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 10:08 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Obama's intelligence review panel has produced a report that is hundreds of pages long. The advisors have a list of recommendations for how to protect privacy while still trying to prevent terrorist attacks. As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, some of these are recommendations that the Obama White House has long resisted.

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Shots - Health News
1:26 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Congress Poised To Permanently Fix Its Medicare Payment Glitch

It's health results — not the number of treatments — that should count, leaders say.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 10:56 am

The two-year budget deal approved by the Senate on Wednesday is aimed at preventing another government shutdown.

It also includes a familiar annual rider — language to avert a steep pay cut to doctors who treat Medicare patients. But this time might be different, with a fix that lasts. After more than a decade of temporary solutions, it appears Congress might be on the verge of permanently solving its persistent problem in the way it makes Medicare payments to doctors.

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World
3:46 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Obama, Biden Won't Go To 2014 Olympics, But Gay Athletes Will

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 4:34 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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The Two-Way
3:36 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Senate Approves Budget Deal, Reducing Chances Of A Shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), walks to the chamber for the final votes on the bipartisan budget deal on Wednesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:24 pm

The Senate passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal aimed at easing automatic spending cuts and avoiding a government shutdown, following a House vote on the measure last week.

The vote by a simple majority was absent the partisan brinksmanship that has become a hallmark of budget deals in recent memory.

The appropriations committees in both chambers must now set in stone a $1.012 trillion fiscal 2014 spending bill before current spending authority expires. Congress also faces a spring 2014 to raise the debt ceiling — another potential partisan standoff.

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It's All Politics
3:31 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

What Santa Gave Your Senator This Year

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 5:12 pm

In a year that featured divisive fights over the budget, health care and presidential nominations, the United States Senate took a break from partisan bickering Tuesday night to get in the Christmas spirit.

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The Two-Way
2:50 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Intelligence Panel Recommends Limits On NSA Surveillance

The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 5:31 pm

(This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET)

A panel looking into U.S. electronic surveillance activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations has recommended removing the NSA's authority to collect and store Americans' telephone data.

The key recommendation was one of dozens that the panel put forward; however, it did not propose a wholesale scaling back of domestic spying by the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches.

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It's All Politics
2:14 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Obama's Jab At Russia In Keeping With Olympic Tradition

Team USA celebrates its 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union in the semifinal Men's Ice Hockey event at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Feb. 22, 1980. The game was dubbed "the Miracle on Ice."
Steve Powell Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 4:40 pm

When it comes to the Olympics, politics intrudes more often than not.

President Obama has decided not to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February. The official U.S. delegation will not include a president, vice president, first lady or former president for the first time since 2000.

Instead, Obama asked athletes including openly gay tennis great Billie Jean King and two-time hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow to represent the country. American gay-rights groups, angered by an anti-gay law Russia enacted in June, applauded the move.

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It's All Politics
9:32 am
Wed December 18, 2013

5 Things We Learned From The Budget Debate

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., takes a break from the Senate floor Tuesday after a bipartisan budget compromise cleared a procedural hurdle.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 3:08 pm

Now that the bipartisan budget agreement has passed the Senate and is headed for the president's desk, it's a good time to consider some of the takeaways from the past two weeks of congressional Sturm und Drang.

Here are five:

Congress still works, sort of.

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The Affordable Care Act, Explained
5:16 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Your Questions About The American Health Care Act

There are many questions about the new health care law. Here are some answers.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 6:37 am

In recent months, NPR staff has published a series of questions-and-answer stories related to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Now we've compiled them into an interactive so you can explore answers that are most relevant to you.

There are nearly 80 questions, ranging from who's eligible to how much insurance might cost, among two dozen topics. Filter the list by selecting categories or asking questions.

Did we miss an important question? Let us know.

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