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Washington Insider

  • March 29, 2012

    SCOTUS: An Unprecedented Health Care Debate

    The Supreme Court finished three days of oral arguments on the 2010 health care law on Wednesday, leaving pundits and politicians alike puzzling over what the outcome might be. Many observers saw the arguments as a blow to the law. But others point out that oral arguments often have little persuasive effect on the justices’ decisions.
  • March 22, 2012

    Farm Bill’s Fate Is Uncertain

    The 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, and some longtime observers of Congress consider the fate of the bill a drop-dead test of Congress’s modern-day dysfunction. With rural Democrats a scarce commodity, the built-in opportunities for bipartisanship on legislation like the farm bill have dissipated. And the bill’s huge scope – from nutrition to trade – means there are innumerable potential flashpoints.
  • March 15, 2012

    Senate Passes Transportation Bill; What About the House?

    In a rare burst of election-year bipartisanship, a two-year, $109 billion surface-transportation bill sailed through the Senate this week, 74-22. The only problem: No one is certain what the House is going to do—and time is running out.
  • March 08, 2012

    Super Tuesday Interlude: First Obama Press Conference of '12

    President Obama hosted his first press conference of the year on Tuesday, neatly timed to coincide with the Republican Party’s histrionic Super Tuesday. Obama fielded questions on everything from the GOP race to the Rush Limbaugh controversy (though interestingly, nothing on the economy). But his topline answers came on foreign policy.
  • March 01, 2012

    Kicking theTransportation Bill Farther Down the Road

    Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) insisted this week that a stalled transportation bill that has been languishing in the House is not yet dead, and that a scaled-down version that had been talked about is even less likely to garner support. But time may be running out, either way.
  • February 23, 2012

    House and Senate Bills on Transportation Land in a Ditch

    The transportation bills’ path to law appeared circuitous at best this week, while Congress left on a week-long break without taking final action on the matter, leaving lingering questions in both chambers. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delayed a final vote while acknowledging that rounding up votes from his caucus had been made more difficult because the legislation did not include sweeteners that have adorned bills past – the infamous earmarks.
  • February 16, 2012

    The 51%: Half U.S. Households Pay No Federal Income Tax

    While much of the tax debate has focused on wealthy Americans, a new discussion focuses on this startling statistic: 51 percent of U.S. households, roughly 35.5 million people, pay no federal income taxes. The number can be laid at the feet of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), according to National Journal's Nancy Cook.
  • February 09, 2012

    Obama Unveils Budget, but It's Not Expected to Go Far

    In the most cooperative political climate, a president’s budget filing is greeted as suitable fodder for Capitol Hill fireplaces. The document President Obama filed on Monday, working off a $3 trillion-plus deficit-reduction blueprint released last year, may not meet even that standard. Obama presses ahead on his election-year themes: clean-energy spending, reinforcement of his crackdown on Wall Street, and higher taxes on the wealthy as part of his economic-fairness argument.
  • February 07, 2012

    Insider Trading Bills Gain Traction in Senate This Week

    Legislation intended to block members of Congress and their staffs from insider trading and calling for internal ethics panels to enforce the ban moved forward in the Senate on Monday. Spurred by a November "60 Minutes" report on potential insider trading by members, the STOCK Act is geared toward cutting off lawmakers from drawing on non-public information for profit. But the Senate effort is encountering some resistance from House Republican leadership, which says it wants a more stringent version.
  • January 30, 2012

    Legislators Push Alternate Online Piracy Bills

    While other websites were going dark earlier this month to protest online piracy legislation, was lighting up. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), <i>(pictured in foreground)</i>, is using crowdsourcing to gauge public opinion and gather suggested edits to the text of his online piracy bill.
  • January 23, 2012

    Multi-Year Goal for Farm Bill: Doing More With Less

    The House and Senate Agriculture committees face time and funding constraints as they work to produce a multi-year farm bill that will revamp farm-support programs, consolidate conservation programs and affect nutrition policy — while also cutting mandatory spending.
  • January 19, 2012

    United Front, Tension Beneath

    With less than 10 months to go before the 2012 election, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can see a path to becoming majority leader. It will involve pragmatism, occasional compromise and careful choices about when to fight with the Democrats. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has the majority, but he does not appear to have the luxury of picking his fights. And that’s where McConnell’s goal meets Boehner’s headache.
  • January 09, 2012

    A Lot of Symbolism, A Little Substance from 112th Congress

    In a divided Congress, with one chamber’s majority in basic agreement with White House policy and the other vehemently opposed, Congress assumed a split personality on many pivotal votes in the first session of the 112th Congress. The result was that many votes in 2011 carried only symbolic weight.
  • January 03, 2012

    Mayors Begin to Cope With Congress’ Spending Cuts

    Over the past 12 months, Congress has reduced federal spending by about $47 billion, spread over two appropriations cycles. One of the first groups to feel the pain of the spending cuts are the nation’s mayors, who already have begun to receive less of the federal grant money that helps them run many programs in their cities and towns.
  • December 27, 2011

    Speaker’s Political Capital Diminished as Party Enters Critical Election Year

    At the beginning of last year, newly elected House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) accepted a large gavel from Democrat Nancy Pelosi (CA) and laid out a vision for how things would be different under his leadership. At year’s end, Boehner conducted a brief call...
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