Ailsa Chang en Hey, Superheroes On The National Mall: Any Advice For Congress? Hundreds of people gathered on the National Mall Friday to see if they could break the Guinness World Record for the largest group dressed as comic book characters ever assembled.<p>It was the kickoff to Awesome Con 2014, a comic book convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. In the end, the group came up short by several hundred people to break the world record.<p>But with so much superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:08:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 38941 at Hey, Superheroes On The National Mall: Any Advice For Congress? As Election Nears, Congress Is Expected To Be Less Productive Transcript <p>DAVID GREENE, HOST: <p>Let's look at the calendar now. We are seven months away from the midterm elections. Members of the House of Representatives and a good number of senators have turned much of their focus to campaigning. There are still votes happening in Congress, but often of a different kind. This year, we've seen a flurry of show votes: votes on bills with no realistic hope of passing, but are done to make political points. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, both parties have been in on it.<p>AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: In eighth grade civics class, it was simple. Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:28:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 38612 at Mega-Donor Opens Wallet On The Hill To Kill Online Gambling Now that the Supreme Court has eliminated the cap on the total amount one individual can give to candidates in each election, many are wondering how the very rich will respond.<p>If they spread their money across a wider swath of lawmakers, would that improve their chances of passing the legislation they want?<p>Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson could be the first test case.<p><strong>Expanding One's Reach Across Congress</strong><p>Adelson is pushing a bill through Congress that would ban online gambling, and he has pledged he will spend "whatever it takes."<p>The Supreme Court has ruled that a Thu, 03 Apr 2014 20:02:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 37973 at Mega-Donor Opens Wallet On The Hill To Kill Online Gambling As Obamacare Deadline Nears, Louisiana Gets Special Attention With only four days left before the March 31 enrollment deadline, the White House is kicking into high gear trying to round up more Affordable Care Act enrollees – and Louisiana got special attention Thursday.<p>Why? Enrollment in the federal healthcare exchange there has lagged behind other states and, perhaps as important, citizens are getting bombarded with anti-ACA ads as Democratic Sen. Thu, 27 Mar 2014 22:10:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 37528 at As Obamacare Deadline Nears, Louisiana Gets Special Attention How To Meet Your Congressman 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.<p>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.<p>First, do the math. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 37382 at How To Meet Your Congressman With Clock Ticking Down, Obama Polishes Judicial Legacy 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.<p>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.<p>When Senate Republicans lost their ability to filibuster judicial nominees, many claimed the federal bench would change forever. Fri, 21 Mar 2014 20:16:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 37137 at With Clock Ticking Down, Obama Polishes Judicial Legacy Senators Agree To Compromise Extending Jobless Benefits Negotiators in the Senate reached a bi-partisan deal to extend unemployment benefits for 5 months, retroactive to the end of last year. A full Senate vote isn't expected until later this month. Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:03:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 36642 at Gillibrand, McCaskill Square Off Over Military Assault Prosecutions Transcript <p>LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: <p>The Senate has rejected a proposal that would have allowed military prosecutors, rather than commanders, to decide which sexual assault cases to pursue. Fri, 07 Mar 2014 09:55:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 36156 at Senate Blocks Military Sexual Assault Reforms Transcript <p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.<p>After months of anticipation, the Senate has rejected a proposal to fundamentally change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York needed 60 votes for a bill that would give military prosecutors, rather than commanders, final say over which sexual assault cases to prosecute. The legislation got 55 votes today.<p>With us now is NPR's congressional reporter Ailsa Chang to talk about the fight around Gillibrand's legislation. Thu, 06 Mar 2014 21:16:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 36124 at Democrats Help Block Nominee For DOJ's Top Civil Rights Job Transcript <p>DAVID GREENE, HOST: <p>This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.<p>LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: <p>And I'm Linda Wertheimer.<p>A handful of Senate Democrats joined Republicans yesterday to defeat President Obama's choice to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.<p>Debo Adegbile is a civil rights lawyer who once helped handle the appeal of a cop killer. Thu, 06 Mar 2014 10:22:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 36078 at House Approves Measure To Ease Flood Insurance Hikes Transcript <p>LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: <p>The House overwhelmingly passed legislation last night to undo flood insurance reform that Congress passed less than two years ago. When homeowners started calling lawmakers about sharp premium hikes, both chambers moved swiftly to ease the pain.<p>NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.<p>AILSA CHNAG, BYLINE: In 2012, Democrat Maxine Waters of California put her name on a bill that was meant to help the National Flood Insurance Program dig itself out of huge debt. Last night, she said she made a big mistake.<p>REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS: Mr. Wed, 05 Mar 2014 10:13:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 36004 at FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.<p>The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.<p>You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.<p>Like other parts of South Louisiana, this small community is below sea level. Thu, 27 Feb 2014 08:26:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 35598 at FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums Democratic Sen. Landrieu Walks A Fine Line In Red Louisiana If Democrats are going to keep their majority in the Senate, they'll need to hang on to a few critical seats they hold in conservative states.<p>Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has one of those, and like some of her colleagues up for re-election, her support of the Affordable Care Act could be the mountain to overcome this fall.<p>The question for Landrieu is: Will Louisiana voters define her by Obamacare, or judge her on the entire record she's built over nearly two decades as a senator?<p><strong>For Some, Obamacare's A Dealbreaker </strong><p>There's a sprawling, twisty live oak in Galliano, La. Tue, 25 Feb 2014 08:37:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 35450 at Democratic Sen. Landrieu Walks A Fine Line In Red Louisiana From Team To League, Congress Members Shift Pressure On Skins Transcript <p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>For years, Native Americans and others have criticized the Washington Redskins football team for having a name, they say, is offensive. Well now, the National Football League is feeling the pressure too. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, two members of Congress are demanding that the NFL take a formal position in support of a name change.<p>AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Normally, Republican Congressman Tom Cole is a mainstream conservative. He usually prefers leaving businesses alone. Fri, 14 Feb 2014 23:12:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 34844 at Senate Follows House Lead In Passing Debt Limit Raise Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.<p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>And I'm Robert Siegel.<p>Congress has averted a default by raising the country's borrowing limit. The Senate passed the legislation this afternoon after overcoming an attempted filibuster. The bill pushes the debt ceiling deadline to March of 2015 and it now heads to the White House for the president to sign. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, Democrats needed five Republicans to join them. Wed, 12 Feb 2014 21:29:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 34685 at Does Congress Have Enough Political Will To Reduce The Debt? Transcript <p>RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: <p>When Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal last December, there was much fanfare about the compromises made by both parties. And immediately afterwards, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began working to reverse one of the spending cuts - a small reduction in military pensions. One plan to restore those pensions is up for a vote today in the Senate. Mon, 10 Feb 2014 10:18:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 34492 at Lawmakers Hear President Say He's Ready To Go It Alone Members of the House and Senate sit and listen and often applaud the presidential State of the Union, but when it's done many members crowd the microphones in Statuary Hall to oppose the chief executive's vision. Wed, 29 Jan 2014 11:14:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 33719 at Tea Partiers Hope To Crash Sen. Graham's Re-Election Bid This year marks the first time Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has had to run for office since the emergence of the Tea Party. Graham has never faced much Republican opposition during his two decades in Congress, but this June, he's already heading into a primary with four Republican challengers who say he's not conservative enough for the Palmetto State. Thu, 23 Jan 2014 23:06:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 33382 at Tea Partiers Hope To Crash Sen. Graham's Re-Election Bid Congress Divided On NSA Role Transcript <p>LYNN NEARY, HOST: <p>The president's efforts to smooth over frayed relations with allies was somewhat successful. In Germany, reports surfaced last year that the NSA had monitored the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A senior lawmaker in her party called Obama's speech, quote, "an important contribution toward restoring the trust we've lost in our close friend and ally." Her spokesperson said they would look at it carefully. Sat, 18 Jan 2014 16:35:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 33064 at Senate Moves Forward On Unemployment Benefits In a tally that surprised even its sponsors, a half dozen Republican senators gave Democrats enough votes to move forward with a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits for another three months. The proposal likely faces an even tougher hurdle in the Republican-controlled House. Wed, 08 Jan 2014 10:21:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 32338 at Congress Works To Flesh Out Budget Deal Before Jan. 15 Deadline Transcript <p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Congress returns to work next Monday and both chambers will have a little more than a week to pass an appropriations bill to keep the government open. A bipartisan budget agreement in December helped reduce the chance of a shutdown, but as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, there's still plenty left to bicker about.<p>AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: This holiday season has been no fun for staffers on the appropriations committees. Fri, 03 Jan 2014 21:43:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 32108 at Gun Control Lobby Takes Note Of Opposition's Success For gun control advocates hoping to see federal gun laws tighten after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., 2013 was a disheartening year. A narrow provision to expand background checks failed in the Senate.<p>For gun rights activists, the death of that legislation proved once more their single-issue intensity and decades-long grass-roots organizing were enough to prevail. Those are also valuable lessons for their opponents.<p><strong>A 'Voice' For Lost Children</strong><p>It may have been the year gun control legislation collapsed in the Senate, but Shundra Robinson is grateful for 2013. Thu, 26 Dec 2013 08:17:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 31603 at Gun Control Lobby Takes Note Of Opposition's Success Defense Bill Addresses Sexual Assaults In The Military Transcript <p>DAVID GREENE, HOST: <p>This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.<p>STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: <p>And I'm Steve Inskeep.<p>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.<p>Many lawmakers praise the reforms as the most significant in decades. Thu, 19 Dec 2013 09:56:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 31204 at After Key Vote, Senate Poised To Pass Congressional Budget Deal Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.<p>On Capitol Hill today, a truce in the budget wars. A dozen Republican senators agreed to let a bipartisan budget deal proceed to a final vote. That was the bill's last obstacle. Tue, 17 Dec 2013 21:43:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 31102 at Sebelius Faced More Grilling From House, Despite Fixes Transcript <p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.<p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>And I'm Melissa Block.<p>CORNISH: We begin this hour with the latest on two huge government challenges: the rollout of the new health care law and the budget. There are new, better numbers on enrollment in health plans and there's a new budget compromise. We'll hear about health care first. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified today for her third time since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Wed, 11 Dec 2013 21:46:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 30696 at Will Obamacare Play Big In 2014? Keep An Eye On N.H. Senate Race With a new White House push to promote the Affordable Care Act well underway, the question is whether an improved site and onslaught of positive talking points will be enough to bolster Senate Democrats facing tough races in 2014.<p>One re-election fight to watch is Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's in New Hampshire, where she's been taking heat for supporting the new health care law.<p>Step inside a small diner called Chez Vachon in a working-class section of Manchester, N.H., and you'd never guess the White House is actually regaining its footing on the health care rollout. Mon, 09 Dec 2013 11:06:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 30478 at Will Obamacare Play Big In 2014? Keep An Eye On N.H. Senate Race Senate Rules Change Could Mean More Political Rancor Transcript <p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.<p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>And I'm Melissa Block. Is Washington headed for smoother operation or more dysfunction than ever? Democrats made big changes to the rules of the U.S. Senate yesterday. The changes kill the ability of the minority, the Republicans, to filibuster most presidential nominations.<p>Senate leaders say this will restore function to the chamber. Others say it will make politics even more rancorous. Fri, 22 Nov 2013 22:01:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 29564 at With Democrats' Help, House Votes Against Obamacare Transcript <p>DON GONYEA, HOST: <p>This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Don Gonyea. The Affordable Care Act dominated political headlines again this week. Yesterday, the House passed a Republican bill that would allow insurance companies to renew individual health insurance policies even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits required by the new health care law.<p>More than three dozen Democrats joined Republicans in voting for that bill. That legislation would go further than the fix that President Obama announced on Thursday. Sat, 16 Nov 2013 12:30:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 29166 at House Approves 'Keep Your Health Plan' Bill Transcript <p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.<p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>And I'm Audie Cornish.<p>We begin this hour on Capitol Hill, where a vote in the House has capped a week of controversy over the Affordable Care Act. The president apologized. His party squirmed. And more than three dozen Democrats joined House Republicans today to pass a bill that would let insurers continue existing policies for a year. That's even if plans don't meet standards set by the health care law. Fri, 15 Nov 2013 22:56:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 29147 at House To Vote On GOP Solution To Canceled Insurance Transcript <p>RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: <p>It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.<p>STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: <p>And I'm Steve Inskeep. The first part of October was a political disaster for the Republican Party. After being blamed for the government shutdown, the GOP approval rating fell to historic lows.<p>MONTAGNE: The weeks since have become a political disaster for Democrats. Fri, 15 Nov 2013 09:50:00 +0000 Ailsa Chang 29077 at