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.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

It is the black-tie event for prominent African Americans, and this year the parents of Michael Brown Jr., the unarmed black teenager killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, are scheduled to attend the closing gala of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. 

Eric Holder, when his appointment was announced

Almost a year before Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, laying bare a raw nerve of distrust and hostility between the city’s black residents and its almost exclusively white police force, Attorney General Eric Holder stood before an international gathering of police chiefs in Philadelphia and said it was time to bridge the divide between law enforcement and the communities they serve.


The Senate unanimously approved St. Louis attorney Kevin O’Malley Thursday to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.  President Barack Obama nominated O’Malley in June and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced O’Malley to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July. 

Shortly after the Senate confirmed O’Malley’s nomination, McCaskill issued a statement praising his selection. 

via White House video stream

(Updated 5:37 P.M. Thr., Sept. 18)

The Senate voted Thursday to approve a $1 trillion stop-gap spending plan to keep the federal government operating until December 11.  The measure also contains the authorization for the Pentagon to train and equip Syrian Rebels in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS.  The measure was approved on a 78-22 vote and now goes to the President.  

Read our earlier story below:

(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)
(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)

On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, and after the gruesome beheadings of two American journalists, President Barack Obama told the American people in a televised address that the United States would "degrade, and ultimately destroy" the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, "through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy."

DON"T USE TOO SMALL Claire McCaskill
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

More than one-third of the military equipment deemed surplus and made available in the Defense Department’s so-called 1033 program was either new or unused according to information provided Tuesday to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Representatives from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice faced sometimes pointed questions about waste, weak oversight and almost nonexistent coordination among the programs their departments administer to help local police departments gain access to military equipment.

Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus used an hour of so-called special orders on the House floor Monday night to draw attention to troubles confronting minorities across the U.S. with special attention paid to the recent unrest in Ferguson., Missouri. 

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, opened his comments by saying the pain felt in Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown “has stirred the conscience of the nation and has forced us to confront some very difficult truths.” 

Claire McCaskill's Flickr Page

Armed with a "laundry list of questions," U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will lead the Senate Homeland Security Committee Tuesday in a hearing to examine the militarization of local police departments. The hearing follows public outrage over what some saw as an excessive police response to protests in Ferguson following the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white Ferguson police officer.

Three different federal departments have programs to help local police departments acquire military-type hardware, including armored vehicles, and tactical gear and weapons.

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson Aug. 20.
Office of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that his conversations with residents of Ferguson during his visit two weeks ago influenced his decision to investigate the city’s police department.

Holder says he heard directly from residents and listening sessions “about the deep mistrust that has taken hold between law enforcement officials and members of the community. ... People consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents, from general policing practices, and from the lack of diversity on Ferguson’s police force.”

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson Aug. 20.
Office of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay

Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly planning to launch a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department and other police departments in the St. Louis Area.  

The announcement of the new investigation could come as early as Thursday, according to a report published in the Washington Post Wednesday evening.

Export-Import Bank website

It’s not a bank with a household name, but chances are that by the end of the month you’ll hear a whole lot more about the Export-Import Bank. Known simply as Ex-Im, the bank’s charter is set to expire at the end of the month unless Congress approves a full reauthorization or an extension of several months. And that extension is being opposed by a vocal, largely tea party group.

Lawrence Bryant | St. Louis American

The images of Ferguson that most Americans saw included officers in camouflage uniforms, with sniper rifles mounted atop heavy military-type vehicles, and white-hot flood lights illuminating clouds of tear gas. The scenes were more reminiscent of government troops putting down unrest in the Middle East than in the American Midwest.

Those photos, combined with the national media coverage, sparked a national debate: Are local police departments becoming too militarized?

Pentagon Press Secretary Admiral John Kirby
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

One day after two Missouri members of Congress met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to express their concerns over a Defense Department program that provides local law enforcement agencies with surplus property, the Pentagon said that most of what it makes available to police does not include so called tactical gear or weapons.

Pentagon Press Secretary Admiral John Kirby told reporters that 95 percent of the property transferred to local law enforcement through the 1033 program is “shelving, office equipment, communications gear, that kind of stuff, furniture,” said Kirby.

Rep. Lacy Clay, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Provided by the office of Rep. Clay

With the scars of violent protests still visible in Ferguson, Democratic Reps. Lacy Clay of St. Louis and Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon Thursday night to discuss their concerns over the so-called “militarization” of local law enforcement.

“We are pleased to report that we had a productive, expansive and very encouraging meeting with Secretary Hagel,” the two said in a printed statement.

resident Barack Obama addressed issues in Ferguson on Monday.
Screen shot from PBS NewsHour

Being careful not to prejudge the case involving the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, President Barack Obama appealed to the residents of Ferguson to help restore peace and calm to neighborhood streets shrouded in recent nights by clouds of tear gas, glass shards, bricks and bullet casings. Obama said that he understands the anger of many in the community, but quickly added that violence only undermines rather than advances justice.