Robert Koenig | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Koenig

Robert Koenig

Ways to Connect

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Every time a consumer applies for a mortgage or car loan – and, in many cases, signs up to rent an apartment or applies for a new job – a major factor in the decision to accept or reject the application is their credit report.

Robert Koenig

BERLIN - One by one, like birds soaring into flight, the bright orbs surged upward into the night sky.

To the cheers of tens of thousands of people, the white balloons of the Lichtgrenze flew past the Reichstag’s giant flags, floated above the divine music of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” at the Brandenburg Gate, and lifted spirits along the 12-kilometer scar that marked the path of the Berlin Wall.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – While this week's focus is on possible terrorist threats to U.S. installations abroad, Congress -- when it returns next month -- may seek more transparency in government surveillance programs that officials say help deter such terror at home and abroad.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Hopes were high when the new Congress convened in January and President Barack Obama started his second term, with progress predicted on issues that included immigration reform, gun control and perhaps even a long-term budget deal to avert a sequester.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON — "An enormous ditch ... running liquid mud" is how novelist Charles Dickens described the mighty Mississippi River after his brief visit to St. Louis in the 1840s.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – The final battle lines are forming in the Senate in the long-running dispute over how best to deter and prosecute sexual violence in the military -- with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill caught in the crossfire.

Even though the Missouri Democrat has been one of the Senate's leading advocates for years of a tougher approach to prosecuting sexual offenders, she is being targeted in a pressure campaign by groups that back a rival plan.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When bleary-eyed David R. Busse plugged the latest river levels and rain forecasts into his hydrology calculations in mid-July 1993, he came to a startling conclusion: The floodwaters surging down the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers would converge in St. Louis at the highest level ever recorded.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s message in Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday for lawmakers to put aside partisanship and help middle class Americans was met mostly by – no surprise – political partisanship.

As new polls indicated growing public discontent with both the White House and Congress, Obama told students and others in Galesburg, Ill., and Warrensburg, Mo., that congressional Republicans – especially in the GOP-led U.S. House – had slowed the nation’s economic recovery by opposing his initiatives, which he said would help the middle class rather than the wealthy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – After months of delay, the Army Corps of Engineers has posted its latest draft environmental impact statement on the controversial plan to close a floodway gap in the Mississippi River’s levee system in the Missouri Bootheel.

The draft EIS for the long-delayed St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project was criticized Friday by environmental groups that called on the administration of President Barack Obama to block the $165 million project.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Internet gambling, which was dealt a heavy blow by Congress a few years ago but granted a reprieve by the Justice Department in 2011, is now facing another round of scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – When is a military coup not really a coup? On Capitol Hill, the answer seems to be: when it takes place in Cairo and the results suit the U.S. agenda.

Under a law passed nearly three decades ago, the U.S. government is supposed to cut off aid to governments that take power as a result of a military coup. But Missouri’s senators are among the majority in Congress likely to keep U.S. aid to Egypt flowing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – By denying the food stamp program its traditional seat at the farm bill table, the Republican-led U.S. House – in a tight 216-208 vote on Wednesday – angered Democrats and set up a potential food fight with Senate negotiators.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – When it comes to stopping pesky robocalls, U.S Sen. Claire McCaskill likens the process to playing Whack-a-Mole in a space that has become a “criminal sandbox” for phone scammers.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Six decades after the Korean War, the remains of more than 50 Louisans who fought in that conflict have never been found. Neither have the remains of 10 soldiers from the region who fought in Vietnam.

Each of those stories is a tragedy for the surviving relatives, who have spent decades fearing the worst but still hoping for a miracle. And each name on the long list of POW/MIA Americans – 83,348 from World War II, Korea and Vietnam – is the subject of searches by a Pentagon command charged with finding as many of them as possible.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – There was plenty of talk but no action when the Senate failed to vote on the student loan issue before heading out of town for the Fourth of July week. As a result, the interest rate on new subsidized Stafford Loans doubled last week.

But there is still a possibility that Congress might act to stop or limit that increase (to 6.8 percent) retroactively in the weeks before lawmakers depart on their August vacation – the month when an estimated 7 million new student loans start kicking in.

Ann Wagner in her D.C. office
Robert Koenig | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- The frustrations of freshman members of Congress are well documented, as most of the political big fish in their home districts suddenly find themselves reduced to mere guppies when they enter the seniority-ruled shark tank of the U.S. House.

But six months into her job, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, has become a player of sorts on Capitol Hill.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- Capping months of intense negotiations and debate, the Senate approved a wide-ranging overhaul of the nation's immigration laws on Thursday, including a high-tech "border surge" and long-sought steps to build a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

An aerial photo of the new bridge under construction in April 2013.
MODOT | Flickr

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Bridging the gap between Missouri and Illinois in more ways than one, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have voted to name the new Mississippi River bridge at St. Louis after both Stan Musial and the nation’s veterans.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s decision to bypass Congress and impose new regulations that aim to reduce harmful emissions drew praise Tuesday from environmental groups and harsh criticism from many coal-state lawmakers.

Arguing that the challenge of climate change “does not pause for partisan gridlock,” Obama told a Georgetown University audience that his Climate Action Plan would cut carbon pollution and “protect our country from the impacts of climate change.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – In a key test for immigration reform legislation, the U.S. Senate on Monday cleared the way for a vote on a compromise “border surge” amendment by a convincing majority of 67 to 27 -- setting the stage for likely approval of the entire bill on Friday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Top Senate Democrats say they have enough GOP support to win a key test vote Monday on immigration reform, but U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said Friday that he won’t support what is being called the “border surge” deal.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON - When two freight trains collided in southeast Missouri last month, the crash injured seven people, collapsed part of a highway overpass used by 500 cars a day, and caused $11 million in damages. (See: KSDK report with video)

That train collision near Chaffee, Mo., also spurred a federal safety investigation and was one of the topics of a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday into rail safety issues.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chair a hearing in which problems with background checks were disclosed.
Government photo | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – In the wake of leaks about secret surveillance programs, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., contended Thursday that the government's process of conducting or contracting out background checks for security clearances is plagued by "limited accountability" and falsified reports.

xxxRobert Koenig | Beacon staff From the west, two West Germans gather at Wall, while East German police stand guard on top of it. From Nov. 1989.
Robert Koenig | St. Louis Beacon | November 1989

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON - Fifty years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy confronted Cold War tensions in Wall-divided Berlin and bolstered the confidence of its beleaguered residents by telling them, in his unmistakable Boston accent, "Ich bin ein Berliner."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Whether the topic is military justice or military camouflage, Super Hornets or small-diameter bombs, base closures or weapons proliferation, provisions backed by area lawmakers have progressed in the House and Senate defense bills.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- With the White House stepping up the pressure, conservative lawmakers firing salvos, and one senator going so far as to deliver his remarks in Spanish, the Senate's long-anticipated debate began this week on an immigration bill that is a high priority but faces an uncertain future in Congress.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- The extent of phone and internet information collected by intelligence agencies is "troublesome" and should be debated, says U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who had been briefed on such activities as a longtime member of congressional intelligence panels.

"I actually am concerned by the volume of records the federal government is keeping and future potential uses for those records," Blunt, R-Mo., told reporters Wednesday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- After a high-profile disagreement between U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and another Democratic senator on how best to deter sexual violence in the military, the Senate Armed Services Committee backed reforms Wednesday that are closer to her proposal.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – In a bit of political theater, the Senate deadlocked over rival bills Thursday on student loan interest rates -- setting the stage for backroom talks to prevent a doubling of the rate for new student loans on July 1.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Concerned that government security could compromise individual liberties, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and a few other lawmakers have argued for years that more limits should be placed on the reach of the post-9/11 Patriot Act.

This week, in the wake of what he called “disturbing” revelations of widespread National Security Agency scrutiny of telephone records, Durbin, D-Ill., said, “This important debate must begin again.” In the past, Durbin has sought unsuccessfully to limit such powers.

Pages