Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., right, pick up box lunches on Feb. 12 before boarding a bus for a trip to a retreat in Cambridge, Md., where House Democrats will hold strategy meetings for two and a half days.
House Democrats face a decidedly grim election season.
Their hopes of wresting control from the GOP look increasingly remote. Their legislative agenda is stymied. And some of their biggest liberal standard-bearers – Californians Henry Waxman and George Miller — are retiring.
So, as they hunker down on Maryland's Eastern Shore for their annual "issues conference" Thursday and Friday, why do they seem to be in such good spirits?
House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (left), and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) were among the 28 Republicans whose votes made it possible for most other Republicans to vote against the debt ceiling hike.
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Corporations work hard to influence Congress and public opinion. My guest, Eric Lipton, is an investigative reporter for the New York Times who's been writing about how corporations work in opaque ways to shape debates on issues ranging from whether we should raise the minimum wage to whether high-fructose corn syrup is less healthy than sugar.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Valentine's Day is tomorrow and that means that millions of American men and women are making plans to please their romantic partners, at least in parts of the country where they are not buried under snow and ice. But what you might not know is that, for some years now, the federal government has been involved, not so much in romance, but in teaching families so-called relationship skills.
It's been four years since the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling, the case that set the stage for unlimited and often undisclosed contribution money in federal elections. This year, the superPACs and social welfare organizations that use that money for attack ads are already at it, even as Republicans and Democrats are still choosing their candidates for the fall campaigns.
Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 6:48 pm
The commission President Obama appointed last year to figure out how to fix long lines at the polls and other election problems has sought to steer clear of the many partisan land mines surrounding how Americans vote.
The two co-chairmen of the panel continued to that navigation Wednesday as they presented their unanimous recommendations to the Senate Rules Committee.
Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 4:45 pm
The Capitol Hill crackdown on sexual assaults in the U.S. military has been a rare mission on which Republicans and Democrats have found common ground over the past year.
The effort, spearheaded by Senate women — including an unprecedented seven on the Armed Services Committee — has already resulted in scores of tough new provisions designed to root out sexual predators, improve victims' services, and end commanders' ability to overturn jury convictions.
Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 2:22 pm
The Senate has voted to extend the federal debt limit, giving final congressional approval to a bill that is meant to cover the government's finances into 2015. The measure passed on a 55-43 vote.
But the most dramatic phase of the legislation's passage came just before the final tally, when it had to get past a cloture vote. Politico says, "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) demanded the 60-vote threshold on the debt hike."
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin enters court for his corruption trial in New Orleans last month. He was charged with accepting bribes, free trips and other gratuities from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in city work.
Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 5:35 am
A federal jury has found Ray Nagin guilty of bribery and fraud. The former New Orleans mayor, 57, was accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, in an indictment that included 21 counts. He was found guilty on 20 of those counts.
Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:35 am
Six months after Democratic Mayor Bob Filner left office in disgrace because more than a dozen women had stepped forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, San Diegans have chosen a Republican to take over.
Despite ongoing investigations into a scandal over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie continues to travel the country as head of the Republican Governors Association. He's promoting the GOP agenda and raising money for this year's elections but compared to Christie's usual style, it's been a low key tour — no media interviews and very few photos ops with smiling candidates.
Teacher salaries are losing ground fast in North Carolina.
Jennifer Spivey has been a teacher for three years at South Columbus High School, on the north side of the border between the Carolinas. She's been recognized as an outstanding teacher; she has a master's degree, and last summer she won a prestigious Kenan fellowship to improve education. But she still lives in her parents' basement.
Tuesday saw a rarity in Congress these days: a "clean" bill.
The House passed one to raise the debt limit, a move that avoids a possible default later this month.
In the past, House Republicans have used this debate to extract concessions from President Obama and congressional Democrats.
But not this time. House Republicans demanded nothing in return. The House passed the no-strings-attached debt hike Tuesday evening — though just 28 Republicans voted with the Democratic minority to pass the extension, 221 votes to 201 votes.
The House of Representatives has voted to extend the federal debt limit, after the Republican majority abandoned its hopes to tie other provisions to the measure. By a 221-201 vote, the House voted to extend the debt limit to March 15, 2015.
Update at 5:35 p.m. ET: Ryan Reportedly Voted 'No'
In the end, 28 Republicans joined with 193 Democrats to approve the move.
On Twitter, several congressional reporters quickly noted that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was one of many Republicans who voted against the legislation.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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Janet Yellen made her first appearance on Capitol Hill today as the new leader of the Federal Reserve. Her message was clear. There will be no sudden changes in Fed policy. As NPR's John Ydstie reports, Yellen said the central bank is likely to keep pulling back its big stimulus program despite concerns about the economy.
Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 2:21 pm
When Woody Harrelson's character got hired as a bartender on Cheers, he was so excited, he insisted on working for no more than the minimum wage. "I'd work like a slave," he said, "and, of course, I'd wash your car."
Most bar and restaurant workers would prefer to bring home a little more cash. They may be in luck.
As part of his plan to raise the minimum wage, President Obama has called for substantially increasing the base wage paid to tipped workers for the first time in decades.
House leaders have had weeks to come up with a plan to deal with the nation's debt limit. Now, the day before they want to leave town for a break, it appears they've essentially decided to throw in the towel. They plan to put a bill on the House floor raising the debt ceiling for a year without any conditions attached.
Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 11:27 am
Reddit, Tumblr and Mozilla are among nearly 6,000 websites participating in "The Day We Fight Back," an online protest Tuesday against government surveillance.
The goal of the protest, organizers say, is partly to pass a federal bill called the USA Freedom Act, which is intended to rein in the mass surveillance programs by the National Security Agency that were exposed by Edward Snowden.
Attorney General Eric Holder called on 11 states to repeal "counterproductive" laws that bar convicted felons from "the single most basic right of American citizenship-the right to vote."
In a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University law school, Holder used his bully pulpit to note that 5.8 million people are prohibited from voting because of current or former felony convictions, including 1-in-5 black adults in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.
America's ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, made news recently when she responded in 140 characters to snarky comments by her Russian counterpart, after she met with the Russian protest group Pussy Riot.
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This exchange started with the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin. He asked of Power: She hasn't joined the band? I would expect her to invite them to perform at the National Cathedral in Washington. Maybe they could arrange a world tour for them, you know?
The U.S. Treasury is now in its fourth day of resorting to what it calls extraordinary measures to ensure all the nation's bills get paid. Officials estimate they can keep doing that for only 16 more days without risking a default on the debt. But the House of Representatives has only six working days left to raise the debt ceiling, and this morning, House Republicans were back behind closed doors, gauging support for a plan to do that. NPR's David Welna as at the capital, and he joins us know with the latest.
The Obama Administration is delaying the part of the Affordable Care Act that affects businesses and the insurance they offer - again. As NPR's Julie Rovner reports, this time, the administration is calling its changes to the new law a phase-in.
JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: OK, first off, the very smallest employers, those with fewer than 50 workers? They never had to do anything, and still don't.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
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SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: I wouldn't drink that water if you paid me.
INSKEEP: That's West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller yesterday, telling NPR he does not trust his own state's water. More than a month has passed since a chemical spill left 300,000 West Virginians without usable tap water. Specifically, residents were told not to drink or cook with the water.
During his January State of the State address, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made the case that extra money should be returned as property and income tax cuts; some Republicans say his proposal goes too far.
After several lean years of cutting budgets to the bone, states hit hard by the deep recession finally have good fiscal news: Many states are now projecting budget surpluses.
But in an election year for three dozen governors, these surpluses are setting up potential political battles over what to do with the extra cash.
The first salvos are coming from governors themselves, in their annual State of the State addresses, as many of them take credit for bringing budgetary warmth to states that suffered through long, bitterly cold economic winters.
Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 6:27 pm
When the federal government hits its debt ceiling at the end of the month, don't expect another big red-on-blue confrontation.
The appetite in the House Republican conference for that kind of debt-defying standoff isn't what it was last fall when the nation was hit by the double whammy of the debt limit and partial federal government shutdown.
And the House GOP can't even agree on what points to negotiate with President Obama — who has said he's not willing to negotiate on the debt ceiling anyway.
Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 6:50 pm
The Obama administration says businesses employing 50-99 people now have until Jan. 1, 2016, to provide health insurance, rolling back part of the requirement known as the employer mandate. Under the Affordable Care Act, larger companies must offer the coverage in 2015.
NPR's Julie Rovner filed this update for our Newscast desk: