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.



And now let's go to our latest installment in the series Fiscal Cliff Notes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: On January 1st, 2013 there's going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...painful cuts to the Defense Department, food safety, education...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: ...the Bush tax cuts, the payroll tax cuts...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Taxmageddon.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: It's a cliff.

Unless Congress acts, the Defense Department faces some $55 billion in cuts after the first of the year. The cuts are part of what's known as sequestration — automatic across the board spending cuts to both defense and nondefense government spending set in motion by last year's debt-ceiling fight.

Salaries for uniformed personnel are the one major thing that's protected. Otherwise, it's about a 10 percent cut to everything from Pentagon civilian staff to the acquisition of multimillion-dollar aircraft, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

This story is part of our occasional series Fiscal Cliff Notes.

If the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire, the majority of Americans will see their taxes rise. Those who will see the largest increase are the wealthy.

Dr. Hamilton Lempert, an emergency room doctor in Cincinnati, works almost exclusively on overnight shifts.

An occasional series, Fiscal Cliff Notes breaks down the looming "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and deep automatic spending cuts set to hit around the first of year.

If you work, you've probably been getting this tax break: Since January 2011, the government has knocked 2 percentage points off the payroll tax.

For someone making $50,000 a year, the payroll tax holiday works out to about $20 a week.

"We definitely notice it," says Steve Warner of Winter Haven, Fla., while on vacation with his family recently in the nation's capital.

Note: We've asked NPR journalists to share their top five (or so) political Twitter accounts, and we're featuring the series on #FollowFriday. Here are recommendations from Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR), an NPR congressional reporter.

An occasional series, Fiscal Cliff Notes breaks down the looming "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and deep automatic spending cuts set to hit around the first of year.

About 80 percent of Americans would see their taxes go up if all the tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush were to expire as scheduled at the end of this year. And nearly 100 percent of the highest income earners would have to pay more — including both the Obamas and the Romneys.

The Boston Globe reported new details Friday about Mitt Romney's lingering ties to his private equity firm, Bain Capital, after he left Boston to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The Globe says Romney was "not merely an absentee owner" between 1999 and 2002, despite financial disclosure forms that say he "has not been involved in the operations" of Bain Capital "in any way," for more than a dozen years.

Mitt Romney and his campaign have deflected outsourcing charges by explaining that he had left Bain Capital before many of those decisions were made. But filings by the SEC and the state of Massachusetts show that Bain reported Romney as its CEO through 2002. He says he left the position in 1999.

The first in an occasional series, Fiscal Cliff Notes, which breaks down the looming "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and deep automatic spending cuts set to hit around the first of year.

Much of the political focus when discussing the Bush-era tax cuts is on the wealthy, but they're not the only ones who would be affected if the tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of this year.

The vast majority of American taxpayers would take a hit, including Randi Cartmill and Josh Walling, who live in Madison, Wis., with their three children.

The House Rules Committee takes up a bill Monday called the "Repeal of Obamacare Act." And just like it says, the bill would wipe away the president's Affordable Care Act. A vote of the full House is planned for Wednesday.

It's the first legislative response from House Republicans after the Supreme Court upheld the law. But it is far from the first time the GOP has voted for repeal.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Just imagine the political fallout: Nov. 2, only days before the election, tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of workers receive letters warning that they could be out of a job.

That's exactly what some in the defense industry say will happen if Congress doesn't act soon to reverse sequestration — the across-the-board spending cuts that take effect in January if Congress doesn't agree on a plan to cut the deficit.



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Senate has narrowly rejected an effort to scrap tough limits on mercury emitted from power plants. The Obama administration has trumpeted the rules affecting coal-burning power plants as an environmental triumph. But to industry groups, and many Republicans, these rules are the latest salvo in a war against coal. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.



A $970 billion bill, covering everything from food stamps to crop insurance, passed a key procedural hurdle in the Senate today, and it did so with overwhelming bipartisan support. The measure, known as the Farm Bill, comes up for renewal every five years. For lawmakers it's long been a way to bring big money back to their states.

But NPR's Tamara Keith reports that this year's bill comes with an austere spin.



California voters also turned out yesterday, and one thing is clear: The state's new open primary system has shaken things up. Under the new system, the top two candidates will move onto the general election, regardless of party. And in quite a few races, this means come November, two candidates of the same party will face off. NPR's Tamara Keith has that story.

When voters go to the polls in California's primary on Tuesday, instead of only being able to vote for candidates in their own party, they will be able to vote for anyone they please.

Tuesday will be the first statewide test of California's new open primary system, where the top two candidates move on to the general election, regardless of party. Backers hope this system will favor moderates.

In California, there aren't very many purple areas. The state has strongly Democratic regions and strongly Republican regions — and the Democrats dominate.



In campaigns for congress, the incumbent almost always has the upper hand. But we're about to meet a young Republican in California who's trying to defy that rule. The combination of redistricting and a young challenger with impressive fundraising skills has turned a race that shouldn't be competitive into a toss-up. NPR's Tamara Keith has this story from California's Central Valley.




The director of the Secret Service assured a Senate committee, today, that a prostitution scandal involving his agents never compromised security. Mark Sullivan also apologized for behavior he said was reckless. It was Sullivan's first public testimony since news broke last month of Secret Service employees picking up prostitutes before a presidential visit to Colombia. He insisted this was an isolated incident.

But NPR's Tamara Keith reports, some on the committee weren't buying it.

Members of Congress are often criticized for what they do — or rather, what they don't do.

But what about what they say and, more specifically, how they say it? It turns out that the sophistication of congressional speech-making is on the decline, according to the open government group the Sunlight Foundation. Since 2005, the average grade level at which members of Congress speak has fallen by almost a full grade.

The partisan divisions on Capitol Hill are numerous — but Wednesday morning, about two-dozen members of Congress did something entirely nonpartisan. They ran in a 3-mile race for charity, along with their staffs and teams from the executive and judicial branches and the media (including NPR).

The ACLI Capital Challenge is an annual tradition that dates back to 1981, and one senator has run the race every time: Dick Lugar, R-Ind. But Wednesday's race was also his last.

The fallout from banking giant JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion — and counting — loss has made its way into the presidential campaign. The president and presumptive GOP challenger Mitt Romney have very different views about the regulation of Wall Street, in particular the Dodd-Frank financial systems overhaul law.

Mitt Romney is from Michigan, a state he has said he hopes to win in November. But the likely Republican presidential nominee has very publicly opposed the government bailout of the auto industry.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Republican Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana has lost his bid for re-election. In Tuesday's primary, he was defeated by Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock.

In Indiana, Republican primary voters Tuesday will decide whether to give GOP Sen. Richard Lugar the opportunity to seek a seventh term in November's general election. A recent independent poll shows him in trouble in his own party, with his Tea Party-backed opponent, Richard Mourdock, in the lead.

Big spending by outside groups isn't just having an impact on presidential politics. Independent expenditures are creating some big waves in congressional races as well. Take the YG Network and the Republican primary in the Indiana Senate race.

YG Network describes itself as supporting center-right policies and the policymakers who fight for that agenda. YG is short for "Young Guns" — a brand created in part by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The YG Network and two similarly named sister organizations were started late last year by former Cantor aides.



Here's one thing Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio did not address at that meeting today. It's an idea Rubio has floated recently: an alternative to the DREAM Act. That's the measure backed by the White House which would create a path to citizenship for young people brought to the country illegally so long as they go to college or serve in the military. The bill never made it out of Congress. NPR's Tamara Keith explains Rubio's version.

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a GOP measure to cut taxes on small businesses.

Now, the mental image most of us have of a small business is probably something like this: a handful of employees, a shop, maybe a restaurant or a little tech firm.

It turns out the reality of the nation's 28 million small businesses is, in many cases, quite different.

House Republicans say their tax cut would help millions of small businesses.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on a small-business tax cut bill offered up by Republicans. It's just the latest piece of legislation to focus on small businesses, which are widely praised in the political discourse as engines of job creation. The adoration is nearly universal — and it reflects something beyond economic reality.

"Small businesses create 2 out of every 3 jobs in this economy, so our recovery depends on them," President Obama said in 2012 at a New Jersey sandwich shop where he met with small-business owners.