Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

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. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Senator Blunt | Flickr

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., wants federal agencies to review regulations that have an impact of $100 million or more on the economy to determine whether they have outlived their usefulness and have become an unnecessary burden on “job creators.” He’s introduced the “Regulatory Review and Sunset Act” to require agencies to consider public input when they conduct their reviews. 

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Jim Howard I St. Louis Public Radio

This week on Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies interview U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver from his Washington, D.C., office.

The Democratic congressman represents portions of Kansas City as well as several rural counties in mid-Missouri. For many years, Cleaver was a pastor at the St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City which probably explains why he’s one of Missouri politics’ most celebrated orators.

human trafficking
FBI website

UPDATED 2:30 p.m. April 23 with Lynch confirmation - Even if it becomes law, the human trafficking bill the Senate approved Wednesday may be remembered most as a historical footnote in a fight that involves abortion issues and Loretta Lynch's nomination. Lynch, who would be the first African American woman attorney general, has faced the longest confirmation delay since the 1980s. The Senate is finally scheduled to vote on her nomination Thursday. She was confirmed 56 to 43, with 10 Republicans voting for her.

Rep. Lacy Clay
St. Louis Public Radio

African Americans continue to face long-term and persistent inequities when it comes to employment, income and wealth, according to a report by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee.  The report, Economic Challenges in the Black Community, says the recession took a greater financial toll on African-American households than it did on white households, increasing the disparity in wealth between blacks and whites.

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

Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens in Missouri, Illinois and across the U.S., have fallen victim to a high-tech phone scam during this tax season, prompting the Senate Special Committee on Aging to conduct a tax-day hearing on the matter.

StockMonkeys.com | Flickr

Bryan Buck, a federal bank examiner from St. Louis, got a letter last week from Anthem Insurance saying that “cyber attackers” had executed a “sophisticated attack” on its data systems and that his personal information may have been compromised.

He wasn't surprised. He already knew someone else had used his Social Security number to file for a tax refund.

Office of Sen. Durbin

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is backing New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to take the place of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the chamber’s top Democrat. Reid announced early Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. Because of his leadership role, Durbin had been seen as a possible contender.

Members of the Justice Department’s civil rights team will meet with Ferguson residents Thursday night in the first of several such meetings following the release of the department’s investigative report finding patterns of racial bias in the city’s police department and municipal court.

HOK/360 Architecture

An effort to build a new stadium for the St. Louis Rams could hit a snag if a provision in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget makes it into law. Under the president’s budget plan, states and cities would no longer be able to use tax-exempt bonds to help pay for professional sports venues.

Office of Sen. McCaskill

Almost half of working-aged Americans are at risk of having a lower standard of living in retirement than they now enjoy, according to a new study by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

“This retirement security crisis is very real,” said U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member on the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging. “In Missouri, only 45 percent of private sector workers are participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, and that is not an anomaly.”

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

Ferguson may already be having an impact on how officials elsewhere respond to incidents involving racial tensions. 

That's the opinion of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who told reporters in a conference call Wednesday that "the fact that lessons have been learned from what happened in Ferguson is a terrific legacy for this event that obviously ripped us apart in St. Louis.”

One lesson officials appear to have learned is the important of a quick, decisive response.

Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday attempted to reconcile the contrasting outcomes of two separate Justice Department investigations stemming from the shooting death of Michael Brown -- one that cleared then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Brown's death, the other that called Ferguson's police and court system racially biased.

police car lights
Jason Rojas | Flickr

WASHINGTON — Brittany Packnett, the St. Louis area educator and activist on President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, says the work of implementing the panel’s recommendations begins now that she’s back home.

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.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
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.

Rep. Lacy Clay
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. 

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

Updated at 4:30p.m., Feb. 10, 2016, to include congressional committee contempt vote -  A U.S. Senate committee Wednesday called for contempt proceedings against a website accused of aiding the sex-trafficking trade.

The panel voted unanimously in favor of a resolution from Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Ohio Republican Rob Portman. McCaskill says the two have been conducting a bipartisan investigation of sex-trafficking and want to question officials from Backpage.com. "We have reached an impasse with Backpage. They have refused to come to the hearings. They have refused to present documents." If the resolution is approved by the full Senate, it would mark the first time in more than two decades the chamber has held anyone in contempt of Congress.  McCaskill says she helped launch the investigation after a 15-year-old sex-trafficking victim walked into Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis last year and asked for help. Our original story: 

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.”

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.

Dust will have to be carefully removed from the Spirit of St. Louis.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh’s beloved single-engine plane that carried him to fame and the $25,000 Orteig Prize in 1927, is back on the ground — sort of. 

The iconic piece of aviation history is now sitting on the floor in the main lobby of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Smithsonian experts will examine every inch of the plane, assess its condition, review and document previous repairs and address the continuing toll time takes on historic artifacts.

Ray Howze/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made it official Thursday when he announced that he'll be leading an agricultural trade mission to Cuba in March.

Last month, Nixon, a Democrat, ordered his Agriculture Department to explore trade opportunities with the island nation, following President Barack Obama's decision to normalize relations with the communist regime.  Nixon says Missouri's farmers and livestock owners have a lot to gain by doing business with Cuba.

Mo. Secretary of State's office

The fight against sex trafficking is being waged in Jefferson City -- and Washington, D.C. Closer to home, the Missouri legislature is considering bills to allow victims of human trafficking to shield their home addresses from the public. And, in the nation's capital, the U.S. House passed several bills targeting human trafficking.

Missouri legislation to help human trafficking survivors

St. Louis had a large contingent at the March for Life in D.C.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

The Missouri General Assembly may be taking a break from handling major anti-abortion legislation, but that’s not necessarily true in Washington – and that could have an impact on Missouri’s 2018 contest for the U.S. Senate.

The drama in the U.S. House centered on its decision to drop plans to vote Thursday on an abortion ban after 20 weeks, as thousands of abortion opponents participated in the annual March for Life to mark the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing most abortions.

Rep. Lacy Clay
St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. House lawmakers approved construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline Friday on a mostly party-line vote of 266 to 153, with 28 Democrats joining 238 Republicans to approve passage.

The vote caps a week of quick moves by the new Republican majority to put its stamp on the 114th Congress. All of the House Republicans from Missouri and Illinois voted for the pipeline, but Missouri’s two Democratic representatives, Lacy Clay of University City and Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, voted against the measure.

St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is the new chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee. 

Lawmakers have spent much of this week organizing the new Republican-led 114th Congress. Part of the  ritual requires both the Republican and Democratic Caucuses in each chamber to back resolutions on committee creation. Lawmakers then finalize those resolutions with votes in their respective chambers.

That process began on Wednesday, with Blunt confirmed as committee chairman on Thursday. 

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