Tamara Keith

Tamara Keith is a NPR White House Correspondent. She is especially focused on matters related to the economy and the Federal budget.

Prior to moving into her current role in January 2014, she was a Congressional Correspondent covering Congress with an emphasis on the budget, taxes and the ongoing fiscal fights. During the Republican presidential primaries she covered Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, and traveled with Mitt Romney leading into the primaries in Colorado and Ohio, among other states. She began covering congress in August 2011.

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 and reported the 2011 NPR series 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, covering topics including agriculture and the environment. In 2004, Keith began working at NPR Member Station WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, where she reported on politics and the 2004 presidential campaign.

Keith went back to California to open the state capital bureau for NPR Member Station KPCC/Southern California Public Radio. In 2006, Keith returned to KQED, serving as the Sacramento-region reporter for two years.

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.

Over the course of her career Keith has been the recipient of numerous accolades, including an award for best news writing from the APTRA California/Nevada and a first place trophy from the Society of Environmental Journalists for "Outstanding Story Radio." Keith was a 2010-2011 National Press Foundation Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow.

Keith earned a bachelor's degree in Philosophy from University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree at the UCB Graduate School of Journalism. Tamara 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.

The "be on the lookout list" used to flag Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny of their tax-exemption applications was not the only one the Internal Revenue Service had been using — there were others, covering a "broad spectrum" of groups and causes, according to an IRS report released Monday.

Members of the House on Thursday rejected the measure, studded with Republican priorities. In the past, the farm bill has been a model of bipartisan support. But defections in both parties spelled the bill's doom.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news: We have a more complicated view, this morning, of the scandal at the IRS. An inspector general critiqued the tax agency's targeting of conservative groups, many of them linked with the Tea Party movement. We knew that much.

And now, it's become apparent that more liberal or progressive groups were also targeted. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

Selective leaks from Congressional staff interviews with IRS employees in Cincinnati have been dribbling out for weeks. The workers are at the center of questions regarding the use of "Tea Party" and "Patriot" labels for flagging tax exemptions applications for additional scrutiny.

The Senate voted Monday to approve its version of the farm bill, a massive spending measure that covers everything from food stamps to crop insurance and sets the nation's farm policy for the next five years.

The centerpiece of that policy is an expanded crop insurance program, designed to protect farmers from losses, that some say amounts to a highly subsidized gift to agribusiness. That debate is set to continue as the House plans to take up its version of the bill this month.

The House Appropriations Committee hears from groups that were chosen for additional scrutiny by the IRS based on their conservative-sounding names. That revelation has set off a round of investigations into the agency and their conduct. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Today on Capitol Hill, Congress turns its attention to two federal institutions that have been losing the confidence of the American people. In a minute, we'll hear about an effort in the Senate to crackdown on sexual abuse in the U.S. military.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. The nomination we just heard about involves reaching across the aisle. That's not something we hear much about. When it comes to the federal budget, if it feels like we haven't heard about the budget in a while, there's a reason for that. The process is stalled. Back in March, the House and Senate passed vastly different spending plans. In theory, the next step would be a conference committee to hash out the differences, but a handful of senators are blocking that from happening.

When the House votes Wednesday on a bill called the Working Families Flexibility Act, it will be the latest test of a Republican effort at rebranding.

The architect of that effort in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has so far had a mixed record.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We also have some sequester news today. The House approved a bill, and the president says he'll sign it, to end the furlough of air traffic controllers. Short-staffed control towers translated into thousands of flight delays this week, all because of those automatic across-the-board spending cuts. NPR's Tamara Keith has that story.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Air travelers are growing less and less happy. Automatic budget cuts are now leading to hundreds of flight delays, about half of all delayed flights this week.

NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Up until this point, the effects of the sequester have been scattered and hard to pin down: hiring freezes, delayed park openings. But then the furloughs of air traffic controllers the Federal Aviation Administration had been threatening for months hit and, bam, the sequester got real, real fast.

The legislative process on Capitol Hill is often slow and grinding. There are committee hearings, filibuster threats and hours of floor debate. But sometimes, when Congress really wants to get something done, it can move blindingly fast.

That's what happened when Congress moved to undo large parts of a popular law known as the STOCK Act last week.

It's been a little more than a month since the start of the sequester — the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in because Congress couldn't agree on something better.

Before it hit, there were dire and at times very specific predictions of job losses, furloughs and program cuts — many of them from the Obama administration.

Of course, it's still early. Everything you hear today about the effects of the sequester could and probably will change over the coming weeks and months.

Opposition research exists mostly in the political shadows. So perhaps it's fitting that this boot camp is in an generic conference room in a generic airport hotel outside of Washington, D.C.

It's run by private investigator Larry Zilliox, who specializes in opposition research. He allowed me to attend a session, but not to take pictures.

Zilliox is cagey about his clients: "As a general rule, it suits me best not to comment on who I've worked for. Everybody is better off that way."

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a temporary measure to keep the government funded through the end of September. Government shutdown averted.

But it turns out the continuing resolution didn't just address spending. It contains six measures that limit how federal agencies deal with guns.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's House GOP budget balances in a decade and re-shapes Medicare. That is, it would if the measure passed by the House on Thursday ever became law — which it won't.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray's Democratic budget raises almost $1 trillion in taxes by closing loopholes and adds $100 billion in new spending on infrastructure. But it won't become a reality, either.

The House has begun debate on its budget resolution, with a vote expected later this week. And as supporters talk about this budget, there's one comparison you hear a lot.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "Every family in America has to balance their budget. Washington should, too."

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.: "You know, every family in America understands the necessity of a balanced budget."

Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.: "This is how every family tries to live in good times and in bad. Your government should do the same."

House Speaker John Boehner held a news conference the day after the November election.

"The American people have spoken," he said. "They've re-elected President Obama. And they've again re-elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives."

The long-feared automatic spending cuts are set to start late Friday, and now Congress must deal with another deadline at the end of this month. Tamara Keith talks to Melissa Block about what happens next.

It seems Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has done his best in recent weeks to get as much ink as possible, talking about things that play well with the conservatives in his home state of South Carolina, like Benghazi and gun rights.

Graham also held up the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to get more answers about what happened in Benghazi, even as he admitted Hagel had nothing to do with it. But his opposition might have more to do with home state politics than the nomination itself.

In Sumter, S.C., home of Shaw Air Force Base and the 20th Fighter Wing, cars sport bumper stickers that say, "Jet noise is the sound of freedom."

Throughout the day, F-16s on training runs blast from a runway on base, disappearing into the foggy sky. But if automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts slated for March 1 go into effect, there will be a lot less of that sound.

"To cut to that level, we just could not pay for the amount of flying hours that we currently have," says Capt. Ann Blodzinski, the base's chief of public affairs.

Senate Democrats offered an alternative Thursday to the sequester, the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to hit March 1.

Despite dire warnings in congressional hearings this week, many on Capitol Hill seem resigned to the sequester.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And also watching the president's address last night was NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith. She was in the chamber and spoke to members of Congress afterwards.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now to politics in the U.S. and one of those ethical storms that can blow over in a few weeks or end a career. This time, the storm clouds are hovering over Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Tomorrow, he'll officially take on a prominent chairmanship in the Senate. So what's all the ethical fuss about?

NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith explains.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This week, the Senate is expected to delay a political fight over the debt limit, the kind of brawl that could hurt the slowing economy. But they're really just putting off one fight for another, a debate over whether to overt the upcoming sequester. That's the only in Washington term for across-the-board spending cuts set to hit March 1st. The cuts would be severe and have few supporters.

But as NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith reports, lawmakers still can't seem to find a way around them.

The Obama administration is taking its push for gun legislation outside of the Beltway — possibly in a nod to the obstacles any gun control bills will face in Washington.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden held a round-table discussion in Richmond, Va., speaking with people who worked on gun safety after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a Republican leadership plan to put off the debt ceiling fight for three months. This marks a new strategy for House Republicans who until recently had pledged not to raise the debt ceiling unless it was matched with an equal amount of spending cuts.

President Obama dined with lawmakers at the Capitol in the traditional inaugural luncheon on Monday. Within hours, Obama and congressional Republicans will be back at it over the debt ceiling, spending cuts and a possible government shutdown.

The federal government hit its debt limit at the end of last year. Since then, the Treasury Department has been taking what it calls "extraordinary measures" to keep the government funded and avoid defaulting on U.S. obligations.

But those measures will run out sometime between the middle of February and early March. Then it's up to Congress to raise the debt limit.

House Republicans are wrestling with the best strategy at a retreat Thursday and Friday in Virginia. And some have been denying that there is a risk of default if the debt ceiling isn't raised.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah, it's Wednesday. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Victims of Hurricane Sandy are one step closer to getting a major infusion of federal disaster aid after a long delay. Last night, the House approved a $50 billion assistance package.

NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

Pages