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.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin
Official photo

It might be hard to imagine that less than a month ago, House Republicans were in turmoil; sharply divided over their future and what they were looking for in a new leader. They were so divided that there were serious questions as to whether any one person could bring all of their internal factions together.

All that animosity and anger seems to be a distant memory, at least from the outside looking in, and based on conversations with several House Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
Flickr | McCaskill | April 2015

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says 71 percent of the child sex trafficking reports it receives involve ads posted to the website Backpage.com.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says that was the case four months ago when a 15-year-old girl walked into St. Louis’ Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital asking for help: “Along with four other girls, between the ages of 12 and 18, she had been sold for sex at truck stops across Missouri, Florida, Texas and New Mexico for almost two months.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner talks with reporters in O'Fallon, Illinois. Rauner expressed enthusastic support for bringing the NGA headquarters to the Metro East.
File photo | Katelyn Petrin I St. Louis Public Radio

Even as Republican lawmakers from Missouri, Illinois and elsewhere across the U.S., speak out against allowing Syrian refugees into their states, St. Louis is seen as a community that welcomes those most in need of finding a new home, according to Audrey Singer, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. “St. Louis is a place that definitely sees refugees and immigrants as assets and as members of the community, members of the work force, and members of the (city’s) future workforce.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

For those old enough to remember the classic Schoolhouse Rock lesson on how a bill becomes a law, advancing legislation on Capitol Hill might seem relatively simple. What’s missing from that animated civics lesson is the hardball reality of Washington, where lawmakers not only work to advance their own bills, but also try to kill opposing measures that could undermine their legislative objectives.


When Turning Pharmaceuticals acquired the drug Daraprim, used for decades to treat and prevent infections, it boosted the price from $13.50 to $700 a tablet. That caught the attention of medical professionals and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Now, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says the Senate Special Committee on Aging will investigate this and other similar price increases that followed recent acquisitions.

stream is constricted by hard rock
Linda Lockhart | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is one of only three Democrats who have signed onto a bill that would scrap a new rule governing the Clean Water Act. Republicans have assailed the so-called “Waters of the United States” rule as Obama administration “regulatory overreach,” a quickly emerging theme for GOP campaigns in next year’s elections.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. are upset with two national umbrella organizations for sororities and fraternities for backing legislation the senators say will leave students vulnerable to potentially dangerous individuals on campus. The legislation also would discourage victims from reporting sexual assaults and would keep schools from moving quickly to protect students, the senators say.

U.S. Capitol
Phil Roeder | Flickr

Area House Republicans split their votes on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, designed to protect against a federal government shutdown prior to next year’s elections. The compromise, negotiated in secret between the White House and congressional leaders ahead of Speaker John Boehner’s planned departure this week, passed largely on Democratic votes: 266 to 167.

soybean and corn fields in southern Illinois
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

The 2014 farm bill included a negotiated rate of return of 14 percent for companies providing federally subsidized crop insurance to farmers. The budget compromise between congressional leaders and the White House unveiled this week would re-open that five-year agreement and reduce the rate of return to 8.9 percent. This would save approximately $3 billion over the next 10 years, but may cost the budget deal some support.

papalars | flickr

The two-year budget compromise bill unveiled earlier this week by congressional leaders and the White House to stave-off a government shutdown until after next year’s election contains a provision U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., calls “repugnant.”

McCaskill told reporters Wednesday morning that, while she will probably vote for the compromise bill, she’s not too happy about the idea of the federal government getting into the business of making robocalls.

Charles McClelland, Houston police chief, at the podium
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

The push for criminal justice reform did not start with the shooting death of Michael Brown, but the events in Ferguson and elsewhere appear to have created momentum for change. More than 100 police chiefs from across the U.S. are in Washington, D.C., this week to push Congress and the White House to make “common sense” changes in criminal laws and sentencing options for nonviolent drug offenders.

derekGavey | Flickr

While technology has changed, at least one thing has remained constant: Scammers are always looking for new ways to exploit those who are easily victimized.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging says, tech-support scams are “confidence scams, pure and simple.” In comments prepared for today’s hearing, McCaskill says “if there’s one thing many seniors are not confident about, it’s technology. So it makes perfect sense that these fraudsters would cling to a senior’s insecurity about technology to swoop in under the guise of assistance.”

The United Soybean Board | Flickr

St. Louis-based Monsanto is joining 80 other U.S. companies in pledging to back a White House campaign to build support for climate talks this December in Paris, France, where the Obama administration says it hopes to see a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," Jimmy Stewart, right, portrays a senator who tries to use the filibuster for good. Now the threat of a filibuster is enough to stop votes.
Columbia Pictures | Wikipedia

In January, Republicans celebrated taking control of both gavels on Capitol Hill and promised to advance legislation important to their conservative base. After months of thwarted efforts and leadership compromises with Democrats to fund the government, the House majority is in disarray and Senate Republicans are considering a change in a longstanding rule that empowers the minority — a key function of the Senate as envisioned by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Lacy Clay
St. Louis Public Radio

The City of St. Louis would be the first stop on a proposed national trail to mark historic sites in the struggle for African American civil rights, if Congressman Lacy Clay, D-University City, is successful in his efforts to preserve “precious historic waypoints along the routes of that largely untold story.”  

Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis
Jim Howard / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is not alone in confronting an increase in violent crime, but what little comfort that may provide city officials is tempered by the fact that there are relatively few resources readily available to help cities across the U.S. confront their own rise in gun and drug related violence.

Mayors from 20 cities along with chiefs of police, an array of federal law enforcement officials, and academics met in Washington on Wednesday for a Department of Justice sponsored summit on violent crime.  St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Samuel Dotson, both attended the day-long session to share ideas, concerns and to make appeals to federal officials for assistance.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Jim Howard / St. Louis Public Radio

Military families would get added flexibility in moving to a new duty station under a bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that he says will provide those families with “geographic stability.”

The measure would provide up to six months of housing assistance in both the current and new locations.  Blunt says that will allow working spouses to maintain an often vital second income while looking for new work or continuing coursework to further their career.  It also allows children to finish their current grade in school.  

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin
Official photo

The House Republican Conference is scheduled to select its candidate for speaker Thursday to replace John Boehner, who’s leaving Congress at the end of the month. The rifts in the Republican Party that led to Boehner's departure are reflected in the thinking of House Republicans from Missouri and Illinois.

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

In what some are calling a historic compromise, a broad spectrum of senators on Thursday announced support for sweeping changes in criminal sentencing laws.

The coaltion formed at a time when many Americans see Congress as dysfunctional, and lawmakers even within the same party at odds over national priorities.

ozone air pollution St. Louis
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Since last fall, when the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans for an administrative rule to tighten standards on “ground-level ozone,” better known as smog, business and environmental groups have been fighting over what might seem to most of us to be minute differences on a grand scale. In anticipation of the new standard, both of Missouri’s U.S. senators have introduced separate bills to limit the rule’s economic impact on businesses, and state and local governments.