The Senate voted Monday to approve its version of the farm bill, a massive spending measure that covers everything from food stamps to crop insurance and sets the nation's farm policy for the next five years.
The centerpiece of that policy is an expanded crop insurance program, designed to protect farmers from losses, that some say amounts to a highly subsidized gift to agribusiness. That debate is set to continue as the House plans to take up its version of the bill this month.
When it comes to secrets leaker Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency's phone records and Internet snooping, some in Congress face a dilemma.
Namely, how to read public opinion.
Speaking off the record, aides for Republican and Democratic House lawmakers told me they are getting constituent calls on both sides: from those urging that Snowden not be prosecuted and those insisting he should be.
An aide for one congressman told me her boss's staff was holding off on issuing a statement until it had the chance to further gauge the voters' mood.
The farm bill is expected to pass in the Senate on Monday night. And to the dismay of some, it likely won't include an amendment that would have eliminated a controversial program to keep a closer eye on a food product you probably weren't even worried about: catfish.
The panel now headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has long been a place to watch partisan tempers fly.
But the assertion by the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, that the investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups should be closed appears to have only escalated the bad feelings that already existed.
The Sunday morning party in suburban Washington, D.C., had all the trappings of anticipation.
A lace-trimmed bassinet, a jumble of gifts tied with pink and blue ribbons, a "diaper cake" on the table. And chatter about babies, diets, new spring outfits and the coming end of the school year.
But for Sue Costello, the grandmother-in-waiting, the happy cacophony of the baby shower masked an abiding anxiety about the future of her daughter's family and the twins — a boy and a girl — who are due before June's end.
A self-described conservative Republican who oversees IRS screeners dealing with non-profit groups has told lawmakers that he doesn't think the White House played a role in stonewalling "Tea Party" and "patriot" groups, according to the ranking Democrat on the committee investigating the matter.
President Obama says he's not Big Brother. The author who created the concept might disagree.
Addressing the controversy over widespread government surveillance of telephone records and Internet traffic Friday, Obama said, "In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."
Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced Saturday he would run to finish the late Frank Lautenberg's term in the U.S. Senate.
Booker, a 44-year-old Democrat, has served as mayor since 2006 and is Newark's third black mayor. He is hoping to claim Lautenberg's seat, which has been filled by Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa until a special election in October.
He made the announcement at a Saturday event in which he was endorsed by former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley.
John Morse isn't bogged down in personal scandal. The Democratic president of the Colorado Senate isn't accused of ethical improprieties or anything else that might directly violate his oath of office.
But by pushing a sweeping gun-control measure he's alienated a swath of voters who are determined to toss him out of office before his term ends.
On Monday, groups opposing restrictions on guns turned in twice as many signatures as they needed to trigger a recall election against Morse. A recall of another state senator appears likely.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday. There was a steady rain. Soldiers fired rifle volleys, a bugler played taps and mourners paid their final respects.
The New Jersey Democrat was 89 when he died this week — and his death marked a somber milestone.
For the first time since the end of World War II, there are no veterans of that war in the U.S. Senate. Lautenberg had been the only one remaining.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama was at pains today to defend the National Security Agency programs that were uncovered this week by The Guardian and The Washington Post. He said nobody is listening to your telephone calls and he assured the country that these intelligence efforts come with strict government oversight.
Now, for our weekly political conversation. We're going to start with this week's big disclosures of data collection by the National Security Agency. Joining me are columnist David Brooks of The New York Times and sitting in this week for E.J. Dionne, Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker. Good to see both of you here.
Even in an era of stark political polarization, there are still some issues that can draw Americans together and scramble the normal ideological fault lines.
Recent revelations about the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency are among them.
Unlike the debates over Obamacare or President Obama himself, which tend to be more litmus tests for party affiliation than anything else, the reactions to reports about overreach by the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency have brought normally warring partisans together.
In his most extensive comments so far on the revelations this week about the electronic data that the nation's spy agencies are collecting, President Obama told the American people Friday that "nobody is listening to your telephone calls."
And now it's time for Backtalk, that's the time when we hear from you. Editor Ahmad Omar is with us today. What is going on?
AHMAD OMAR: Celeste, we have a little clarification. In our political chat last week, we talked about a staff shakeup for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The co-chair of her reelection committee resigned over connections to the Council of Conservative Citizens. The Southern poverty Law Center calls that a white nationalist group.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's political future is affected by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, President Obama dares Republicans to stop his court nominees and Michigan's John Dingell makes history in Congress. NPR's Ron Elving and Ken Rudin review it all in the latest It's All Politics podcast.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
From 'Morning Edition': NPR's Larry Abramson on the nation's secret court
Fresh reports about the massive amount of electronic data that the nation's spy agencies are collecting "raise profound questions about privacy" because of what they say about how such information will be collected in the future, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston said Friday on Morning Edition.
The U.S. Supreme Court, on the brink of issuing two same-sex-marriage decisions, is facing a question that Margaret Marshall had to resolve for her state a decade ago, as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Her decision became the first to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States.
It's an overstatement to say that it's beginning to look like President George W. Bush's fourth term.
Still, that characterization by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer carried the ring of truth Thursday with the report that a National Security Agency telecommunications program that Americans first became aware of under Bush has continued under Obama.
Now, a Washington figure who's been around longer than some of the monuments in this city and who is, himself, a living monument on Capitol Hill. Democratic Representative John Dingell, Jr. of Michigan, who is 86 years old, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1955, and he has been there even since.
Tomorrow, he will surpass the late Senator Robert Byrd's record for congressional longevity when he achieves the tenure of 57 years, five months, and 26 days in Congress.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Sunnylands, not the White House. That's the private estate in the California desert where the U.S. and China will hold a summit tomorrow. The meeting between President Obama and China's new president, Xi Jinping, comes as China is buying its way ever deeper into the U.S. economy.