Jim Howard

Washington correspondent

Howard covers news from Washington, D.C., of importance to the St. Louis region.  His beat includes following the legislative activities of area lawmakers on Capitol Hill as well as developments from The White House, Supreme Court and numerous federal agencies and departments.  Prior to joining St. Louis Public Radio, he was a longtime newscaster and producer at NPR in Washington.  Howard also has deep roots in the Midwest.  Earlier in his career, he was statehouse bureau chief for Illinois Public Radio, where he directed news coverage of state government and politics for a 13-station network.

Office of Sen. Durbin

At least half of all prison suicides are committed by inmates held in so-called solitary confinement, according to several state and national studies. 

While a first-of-its-kind report on segregation practices in federal prisons shows improvement, with the number of inmates held in solitary confinement on the decline. Still, said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “There’s still much more work to be done.”

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she learned a lot from her unsuccessful run for governor in 2004.
Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

More than 400 people a day call the national sexual assault hotline, three quarters of whom are college age or younger.

Office of Sen. McCaskill

Missouri officials and businesses have been moving quickly to enter the Cuban market ever since President Barack Obama’s announcement in December of plans to drop the more than 50-year-old trade embargo.

Office of Sen. McCaskill

Just back from a trip to Cuba, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says ending the embargo would be a win-win for both sides.

Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

With federal prisons already more than 30 percent beyond their designed capacity, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons, an unlikely group of U.S. senators has come together to try to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., are joining up with U.S. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. When the group held a joint news conference last week, they joked and laughed, “There isn’t a moderate here, on either side.” 

Office of Sen. McCaskill

If U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Gov. Jay Nixon get their way, Cubans will soon be dining on Missouri-grown rice, corn, pork, poultry and soy products while driving pickup trucks manufactured in the state. The two are aggressively pushing to open Cuba to trade following President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Just hours before the Senate confirmed Ashton Carter as defense secretary on a vote of 93 to 5, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., issued a brief statement saying he would oppose both Carter’s and attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

“After careful review, I’ve decided to vote against President Obama’s nominees for both the departments of defense and justice. Unfortunately, I believe both of these nominees will simply continue to uphold President Obama’s flawed agenda at these important agencies.”

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

With the Feb. 27 deadline looming to fund the Department of Homeland Security -- and a weeklong congressional recess approaching -- an end to the impasse over deportation policy seems as elusive as ever.

House Republicans already have passed a nearly $4o billion budget for Homeland Security, but it included controversial provisions to cut funding necessary to implement President Barack Obama’s executive order halting deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants. Senate Democrats have refused to pass a funding bill as long as it contains those provisions.

St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s two members of the Congressional Black Caucus both say President Barack Obama encouraged members of the caucus to find Republican colleagues to help pass criminal justice system reforms sought by many in the group. 

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

Even though they’re in the minority, Senate Democrats are flexing their muscles -- and stopping, at least for now, the new Republican majority's $39.7 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security.

At issue? President Barack Obama’s executive order halting deportations for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. The Republicans want to cut funding for the executive order; the Democrats don't.

Pages