Tamara Keith

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.

Previously Keith covered congress for NPR with an emphasis on House Republicans, the budget, taxes, and the fiscal fights that dominated at the time.

Keith joined NPR in 2009 as a Business Reporter. In that role, she reported on topics spanning the business world, from covering the debt downgrade and debt ceiling crisis to the latest in policy debates, legal issues, and technology trends. In early 2010, she was on the ground in Haiti covering the aftermath of the country's disastrous earthquake, and later she covered the oil spill in the Gulf. In 2011, Keith conceived of and solely reported "The Road Back To Work," a year-long series featuring the audio diaries of six people in St. Louis who began the year unemployed and searching for work.

Keith has deep roots in public radio and got her start in news by writing and voicing essays for NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday as a teenager. While in college, she launched her career at NPR Member station KQED's California Report, where she covered agriculture, the environment, economic issues, and state politics. She covered the 2004 presidential election for NPR Member station WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, and opened the state capital bureau for NPR Member station KPCC/Southern California Public Radio to cover then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2001, Keith began working on B-Side Radio, an hour-long public radio show and podcast that she co-founded, produced, hosted, edited, and distributed for nine years.

Keith earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree at the UCB Graduate School of Journalism. Keith is part of the Politics Monday team on the PBS NewsHour, a weekly segment rounding up the latest political news. Keith is also a member of the Bad News Babes, a media softball team that once a year competes against female members of Congress in the Congressional Women's Softball game.

In a presidential election that most expect will be all about the economy, South Carolina is a state where economic issues are front and center. The state's unemployment rate is 9.9 percent, well above the national rate. But even that number is deceptive. There are pockets around the state where the conditions are much more severe. In Lancaster County, for example, the rate is above 12 percent.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In South Carolina, the race to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney is hitting a fever pitch. The state is seen by many as the last stop before inevitability in the GOP primary.

In campaign stops Tuesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich laid out what sounded like an ultimatum.

"Your support the next four days could change history," Gingrich said, looking out into the audience at a large meeting of business leaders in the state's capital, Columbia. "If I win the primary Saturday, I will be the nominee."

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Congress got plenty of attention this year, but it was for all the wrong reasons.

There were at least three countdowns to shutdown, there was the debt-limit fight, plus the will-they-or-won't-they drama earlier in December over the payroll tax holiday. Looking at how few bills were actually signed into law this year, one might conclude this session was mostly sizzle and not much steak.

"I mean, I knew it was going to be bad this year, but I didn't realize like how bad it was," says Tobin Grant, an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University.

Part of an ongoing series

For the long-term unemployed, getting a job isn't always the end of the story.

Randy Howland spent most of this past year working at a $10-an-hour customer service job. He used to make six figures. With this job, he was settling, just so he could have the satisfaction of working. It was essentially a call-center job.

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In a year of deadlines and political fights, Congress is closing with one last partisan brawl. At stake are billions of dollars in tax breaks and unemployment benefits for millions of Americans set to expire Jan. 1.

Just in case you've been out buying presents, working or not watching C-SPAN with bated breath, what happened Tuesday was that the House — specifically Republicans in the House — rejected a bill that had broad bipartisan support in the Senate.

One of the major sticking points between the House and the Senate as they face off over end-of-year legislation is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill the House passed Tuesday contains a provision forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.

Republicans say this project should move ahead quickly because it will create thousands of jobs. But just how many jobs would be created is a matter of contention.

According to many polls, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is now leading the Republican pack. His plan to rewrite the nation's tax policy hasn't gotten as much attention as some of his other proposals, but, according to a new analysis, it would require sweeping changes to the government.

Congress is supposed to head home for the holidays at the end of this week, but there's a whole lot of work to do before then. And for now at least, the parties remain divided over a number of other must-pass measures.

This is the part of the tango of Congress where the Republican House offers a plan.

"The House is going to do its job, and it's time for the Senate then to do its job," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a press conference Monday.

Then, as if on cue, the Democratic Senate balked.

For the second week in a row, the Senate on Thursday voted down proposals to extend the payroll tax holiday through next year. In the case of the Democrats' proposal, Republicans objected to the "millionaires surtax" that would be used to pay for it.

Ever since the idea of the surtax was introduced weeks ago, Republicans in Congress have railed against it, arguing that it is a direct hit on small-business owners and other job creators.

Congress returned to Washington Monday with a pile of unfinished business, and no clarity on a path to getting it done. At the top of the congressional to-do list this week is extending a payroll tax holiday that meant about $1,000 in extra take-home pay for the typical family this year. It is set to expire at the end of the month.

Congressional leaders from both parties say the payroll tax cut is a must-pass measure. It's just not entirely clear how it's going to happen.

Having tried and failed to come up with a way to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut with a tax on millionaires, Senate Democrats came back with a new idea Monday: pay for it with the anticipated savings from ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Herman Cain delivered his views to at Atlanta crowd of disappointed supporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD REACTION)

CORNISH: It was the last stop on the always unconventional journey for the former pizza chain CEO.

Two different bills calling for an extension of a payroll tax holiday failed to pass the Senate late Thursday, but work on a compromise is continuing on Capitol Hill.

President Obama and Democratic lawmakers put forth concerted efforts to extend the measure, which is set to expire next month. Economists say failure to renew the tax cut, which allows the average American family to keep $900 a year of earnings, would hurt job growth.

The congressional to-do list for the month of December is long.

The list includes things like agreeing on a way to keep the federal government funded past the middle of the month, making some routine and annual tax fixes, and deciding whether or not to continue the payroll tax holiday and extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Dawn Deane, a 49-year-old human resources professional from Philadelphia is particularly interested in that last item.

Monday is the last day the congressional supercommittee can reach a deficit-reduction deal and still make its Wednesday deadline. The legislation has to be publicly available for 48 hours before a vote, and the clock is ticking. But instead of announcing an agreement, the committee is widely expected to admit it has failed.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan has taken a lot of heat recently. One of the biggest criticisms: several independent analysts have found that under the plan, poor and middle class families would pay higher taxes while the richest of the rich would see a substantial tax cut. Today in Detroit, Cain unveiled his response.

"If you're at or below the poverty level, your plan isn't 9-9-9," said Cain with the abandoned Michigan Central Station in the background. "It's 9-0-9."

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Herman Cain has seen his popularity spike over the past couple of weeks. It was confirmed Monday, with a new CNN poll, showing him essentially tied with Mitt Romney at the front of the pack. Cain credits his success to three numbers: 9-9-9.

Congress approved with bipartisan support Wednesday much-delayed free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The Obama administration and supporters in Congress have labeled these agreements jobs bills, though there are questions about how many jobs will really be created.

When Bill Lane, the Washington director for the heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, looks at the three trade deals, he sees opportunity.

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a temporary measure — passed by the Senate last week — to keep the government funded through mid-November.

"Hopefully, we can certainly avoid any shutdown talk this time," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. "Get it done and continue along our mission to try and change the way spending occurs in this town."

These temporary funding extensions, lasting a few days or a few weeks, are pretty standard in Washington. Called "continuing resolutions," they go all the way back to 1876.

The once-rare possibility of a federal government shutdown has reared its head again, this time over House Republicans' desire to offset spending for disaster relief with money for other unrelated projects.

A clean-car loan program has become a key battleground. The House spending bill would take $1.5 billion from the program for disaster relief. Democrats say that would be a huge mistake.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday took the latest step in its effort to revive the economy, saying it will shift its portfolio of Treasury securities in a bid to drive down interest rates.

In recent months, the Fed has come under increasing fire both from politicians and regular citizens. One such critic is Steve Dore, a 65-year-old resident of San Antonio, Texas, who has a T-shirt that reads "End the Fed" in bold print.

Dore has written some 25 songs about the Fed, one of which argues: "Government promise ain't worth a damn. The Fed is an outrageous scam."

A partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration was averted right around 6:30 p.m., EST. That's when the U.S. Senate voted 92-6 in favor of a bill to temporarily extend funding for both the FAA and highway projects.

Sounds like an easy vote, right? Think again.

Randy Howland, 51, is glad to be working again. He spent four months at the end of 2011 searching for work, again, the second time in one calendar year.

He's working in collections for a financial institution, working with people who are behind on their mortgages. He gathers information and figures out what opportunities there might be for a loan modification or refinance.

Part of an ongoing series.

Like some 14 million Americans, the people in our series The Road Back to Work started the year unemployed and searching for a job.

Back in January, we gave six people, all living in St. Louis, Mo., digital recorders and asked them to document their experience as they went through the process of looking for a job.

Working, Still Struggling

It's been a volatile couple of weeks on Wall Street. With all of the major stock indexes down more than 10 percent since mid-July, individual investors are wondering what they should do.

When was the last time you checked the movement in your brokerage account, your 401(k) or IRA?

For generations, the United States and its debt — sold in the form of U.S. Treasuries — have been synonymous with safety. Now, though, the nation's sterling credit is tarnished. The ratings agency Standard & Poor's has downgraded the U.S. from AAA to AA-plus, one notch down. The downgrade has raised big questions about what this will mean for investors and for the nation as a whole.

The bill passed Tuesday to raise the nation's debt limit and avoid default includes as much as $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.

"It's an important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means," President Obama said.

The deal was hard-fought, with cuts some say will be painful, but experts say it doesn't come close to fixing the country's debt problems.

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