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Robert Koenig

Robert Koenig

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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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Wasting no time after being elected to represent the 8th congressional district in southeastern Missouri, new U.S. Rep. Jason Smith flew to Washington on Wednesday and was sworn in as a member of Congress less than 18 hours after his victory.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Pressed by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and others, the top Pentagon brass told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that deterring sexual assault is a major priority, but rejected the idea of removing such cases from the chain of command.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It was high noon on a sunny day when about two dozen environmentalists – one of them holding a cardboard “flat Earth” -- gathered recently outside the St. Louis County office of U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner to protest her stance on climate change.

In particular, the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club is highlighting a recent letter that the first-term member of Congress sent to a constituent, in which Wagner wrote that the theory that humans are responsible for the planet’s recent temperature increase is “inconsistent and unsound science.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – If Congress doesn’t take action by July 1, many of the 57,000 college students in Missouri and 337,000 in Illinois who are getting new federal student loans will be saddled with more debt than they had bargained for.

That’s because the interest rates on those loans are scheduled to double – to 6.8 percent, from the current 3.4 percent – if there is no stopgap or permanent fix by then. A temporary fix last year kept the rates at the current level, but will expire at the end of June.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With the U.S. Senate moving toward a big vote in June and the House developing an alternative plan, the fate of immigration reform – a major goal of the White House – may hinge on the debate over its costs and benefits, as well as border security.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Missouri’s senators may not agree on many national issues, but U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s new bill that aims to deter sexual violence in the military picked up a GOP leadership co-sponsor on Thursday when U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt signed on.

The "Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments" (BE SAFE) Act, announced earlier in the day by McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of several bills in Congress that take different approaches to the problem.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - WASHINGTON – On opposite sides of Capitol Hill on a busy Wednesday, two witnesses ruffled some feathers when they invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - WASHINGTON – After Carol Houck’s two daughters were killed in a crash while driving a rental car subject to a safety recall, the California woman started a campaign to convince rental firms to "ground" such vehicles until they are repaired. 

It took years for Houck, consumer groups and sympathetic lawmakers to get the big rental companies — Clayton-based Enterprise Holdings Inc., Hertz Corp., Avis/Budget and Dollar/Thrifty — to agree to a voluntary pledge last fall not to rent recalled vehicles until manufacturer-defined flaws are fixed.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With congressional probes of the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi likely to remain in the spotlight, both allies and critics of President Barack Obama are predicting that fallout from the revelations could endanger key parts of his second-term agenda.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With both the Army and Air Force rocked by sexual violence charges against personnel tasked with preventing sexual assaults, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to mandate strict new criteria for officers in such jobs.

“When you have two incidents in two different branches of the military within 30 days of each other, then you realize that you need to scrub what’s going on and start over – recertify, retrain and re-qualify all the people that are doing these jobs,” McCaskill said.

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