Farm programs will likely cost the government less under any new farm bill, but the policy could be bad for the environment. Both House and Senate versions would end a big subsidy, called direct payments, that has paid money to land owners — whether they needed it or not — if they complied with certain conservation regulations. The two chambers' versions of the bill differ on how, or even if, to incent farmers to take care of their land. But both versions would stop funding to keep at least five million acres of land out of production.
We turn now to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Welcome to the program.
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. Great to be with you.
CORNISH: Now, we heard about the president's plan grandfathering in insurance policies that don't comply with the new health law so that people, if they want, can keep the plans that might otherwise have been canceled. It only lasts through 2014. Is this really a fix?
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Two fumbles on a big game. That's how President Obama described the rollout of his signature health care law today. Over the last six weeks, people who want insurance have struggled to sign up through the new federal website. And people on the individual market who were promised they could keep their plans have learned that the president's assurances came with a lot of fine print.
Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 3:58 pm
Janet Yellen cleared a key hurdle Thursday, as her confirmation hearing to become the next chair of the Federal Reserve went smoothly. There were only a few snags in roughly two hours of questions and discussions between Yellen and members of the Senate banking committee.
Many of the senators lauded Yellen's extensive experience, as well as her adherence to views they heard her discuss in private meetings on Capitol Hill in recent weeks.
Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 1:21 pm
Among the Affordable Care Act's accomplishments is that it took the remarkable Democratic Party unity that existed during the government shutdown and smashed it to smithereens in near record time.
In sharp contrast to the image of Democrats standing shoulder to shoulder with President Obama during the recent fiscal fight, it's distance from Obama, not proximity to the president, that many Democrats are now seeking.
The problems of the HealthCare.gov site and the poor first-month enrollment numbers released Wednesday are bad enough.
Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 8:25 am
Good morning, fellow political junkies.
Well, the Obama administration warned us that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act would be low and (surprise!) they were.
Still, it's one thing to get an abstract, data-free warning, another to see actual numbers, 27,000 people enrolling for private insurance through the federal portal, 106,185 overall if you throw in the states.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
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And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Congress and the Pentagon are facing an important deadline. In just under two months, the second wave of congressionally mandated sequestration - budget cuts - will kicked in, and Pentagon spending is scheduled to be slashed by $20 billion. Military contractors say that it would be catastrophic, and they're lobbying hard to make those cuts fall somewhere else, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.
Members of Congress are unlikely to adopt one measure that many victims say is essential: taking away from commanders the ability to decide whether to pursue assault cases. Members of Congress say that step would undermine order and discipline in the ranks, and the Pentagon agrees.
As technical problems with the government's new health insurance marketplace slow the pace of sign-up, a variety of "fixes" have been proposed. But some of these would create their own challenges. In rough order from least to most disruptive, here are some of the ideas:
1) Fix the website on schedule This is everyone's favorite idea. The Obama administration says it hopes to have HealthCare.gov working smoothly for most users by the end of November, though it's not clear that target will be met.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 4:46 pm
A House oversight hearing examining the troubled start of HealthCare.gov was contentious from the start Wednesday, as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sought to cut short the opening remarks of one of the first officials to speak, Frank Baitman, the deputy assistant secretary for Information Technology in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, asked Baitman to conclude his statement, noting that the panel's time was short. The interruption came as Baitman discussed the work of his agency to save taxpayers money.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 6:49 pm
Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation Wednesday making Hawaii the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Abercrombie, who called a special session in August to address the issue, moved quickly after the state Senate passed the bill, 19-4, Tuesday. The House approved it by a 30-19 vote Friday. Gay and lesbian couples in Hawaii will be eligible for marriage licenses starting Dec. 2.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The Obama administration released its first hard numbers today on how many people have signed up for health insurance through new online exchanges, and the numbers are even lower than had been reported. The administration blames a problem-plagued federal website for much of the difficulty.
President Obama's nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security faced some tough questioning today about the nation's borders. During his confirmation hearing, Jeh Johnson told the Senate panel his top priority was filling some of the many vacancies at the sprawling agency. He would not answer questions about how the department measures border security, leading one Republican senator to say he won't support Johnson until he does.
Over at the NSA, officials say they welcome the president's policy review on surveillance. But they and other intelligence leaders bristle at the idea that they've overstepped their bounds in gathering information, both here and abroad. For months, the NSA has been on the defensive as a result of the Snowden disclosures.
NPR's Tom Gjelten says the agency is now trying to get out in front of the story.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 4:47 pm
More than 106,000 Americans selected health plans in the first reporting period of open enrollment for the new health insurance marketplace, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.
That number is only "about 20 percent of the government's October target," as NPR's Scott Horsley reports for our Newscast unit.
Less than 27,000 people used the federal HealthCare.gov site to select a plan. The overall number includes enrollments made via federal and state marketplaces from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, the agency says.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:48 pm
Like many states, Missouri is struggling to obtain the drugs it normally uses to carry out the death penalty.
Last month, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon stayed an execution under pressure from the medical community and the European Union, which threatened to hold up supplies of propofol, the anesthetic the state intended to use.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 1:34 pm
A team appointed by President Obama to review U.S. spying policies in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency programs has delivered an interim report to the White House.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email to news organizations that the review group "has orally provided their interim report to the White House, with their final report due by Dec. 15." She said the results would be made public "in some way" once the finished review is submitted.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 6:53 pm
The usual question for Americans on an Anniversary of National Significance is: Where Were You When...?
Where Were You When you learned that: Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot on April 4 in 1968? Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on July 21, 1969? The twin towers of the World Trade Center were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001?
But there is another question of orientation: Who Were You When ... a certain nation-changing event occurred?
This is who I was — 50 years ago this month — when I heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:18 am
U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan are set to end after next year. So if the fighting stops, does the war on terror end? What does the end of the war mean for the detention center in Cuba and on drone strikes in Afghanistan?
Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 12:57 pm
In Washington this week, calls to fix the problem of people getting insurance cancellation notices are getting louder and coming from all sides. But turning back the clock on health insurance cancellations turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds.
Twenty-nine lawmakers are supposed to come up with a long-term budget deal by mid-December. They meet again Wednesday around a conference table, led by two people who couldn't be more different: Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Discouraged by the Republican candidate for governor's showing in the polls, GOP donors begin pouring money into the Virginia attorney general race. Now, that contest is showing a 117 vote margin with Democrat Mark Herring ahead, though there have been several lead changes as provisional ballots have been tallied.
Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 6:11 pm
If at first you don't succeed, try again.
That's the message from the White House on Tuesday, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) asking more than 275,000 people who tried and failed to sign up for health plans on the stalled HealthCare.gov website to give it another shot.
Secretary of State John Kerry is back in Washington to defend the proposed nuclear deal with Iran to skeptical members of Congress. He and his colleagues from other major powers failed to reach a deal with Iran during talks over the weekend in Geneva. Iran blames France's hard line for blowing up the deal, though Kerry has tried to downplay that.
Timothy Massad is nominated to head the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. He would replace Gary Gensler, whose four-year tenure was marred by questions of his professional ties to Jon Corzine and the downfall of MF Global.