Frank James

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.

"The Two-Way" is the place where NPR.org gives readers breaking news and analysis — and engages users in conversations ("two-ways") about the most compelling stories being reported by NPR News and other news media.

James came to NPR from the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for 20 years. In 2006, James created "The Swamp," the paper's successful politics and policy news blog whose readership climbed to a peak of 3 million page-views a month.

Before that, James covered homeland security, technology and privacy and economics in the Tribune's Washington Bureau. He also reported for the Tribune from South Africa and covered politics and higher education.

James also reported for The Wall Street Journal for nearly 10 years.

James received a bachelor of arts degree in English from Dickinson College and now serves on its board of trustees.

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It's All Politics
3:10 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

House Republicans May Get To Immigration, Just Not Now

House Speaker John Boehner isn't necessarily walking away from an immigration law overhaul this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 6:31 pm

In politics, it always comes down to timing. And right now, it appears the timing just isn't right for congressional Republicans to take up an immigration overhaul.

If you read between the lines, that's what Speaker John Boehner was saying when he talked earlier in the week about how "difficult" the immigration issue is. And it's what GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell was saying when he indicated earlier in the week that he didn't see immigration overhaul happening this year at all.

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It's All Politics
9:48 am
Fri February 7, 2014

What If Hillary Clinton Doesn't Run?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks to the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans on Jan. 27.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 1:13 pm

The groundwork being laid for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 overlooks a single, almost unthinkable scenario: What if she doesn't run?

After all, while that might sound like heresy to the various Democratic groups now raising money, locking down political talent and generally acting as a campaign-in-waiting on her behalf, it's not certain she will run.

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It's All Politics
5:22 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Senate Retreats Offer Chance To Bond, Plot Strategy

President Obama's motorcade returns to the White House after visiting with Senate Democrats at their retreat at Washington Nationals Park.
Carolyn Kaster AP

It was annual Senate retreat time in Washington this week, a moment when senators get away from the U.S. Capitol, free themselves of their staffs and daily legislative, office and fundraising chores, and try to gain some fresh perspective.

They didn't go far, mind you. Senate Democrats met Wednesday at Washington Nationals Park about a mile and half away from Capitol Hill, still in sight of the Rotunda. Republicans merely repaired to their usual place across the street from the Capitol, the Library of Congress.

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It's All Politics
3:26 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

RNC's Priebus Insists Minority Outreach Effort Is Built To Last

Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music gospel choir perform Tuesday at the Republican National Committee's awards lunch at Washington's Howard Theatre.
Frank James NPR

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 9:56 am

Much of politics is about symbols and gestures. And there were plenty of them at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Under Chairman Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee vows to be much more serious about outreach to African-Americans than ever before.

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It's All Politics
12:59 am
Wed January 29, 2014

5 Things We Learned From The President's Speech

President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Larry Downing Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 7:21 am

Much of what was in President Obama's fifth State of the Union address was expected — it was signaled for days leading into the speech. Even so, there were a few revealing moments.

Here are five that stood out:

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It's All Politics
5:49 am
Tue January 28, 2014

5 Things To Expect In Obama's State Of The Union Address

President Obama gestures to Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner before giving his 2013 State of the Union address.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 12:35 pm

As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, he does it against a backdrop of some of the lowest voter-approval ratings of his presidency, with a divided Congress that has largely stalled his second-term agenda and with Washington's collective focus starting to shift toward the midterm elections and beyond.

Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:

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It's All Politics
4:19 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Michigan Governor: Immigrant Influx Could 'Jump-Start' Detroit

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing for changes to federal law to allow more skilled immigrants into the country. Snyder, a Republican, has proposed funneling 50,000 skilled immigrants into Detroit over five years as a way to rejuvenate the moribund city.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 8:09 am

Michigan's Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was in Washington this week to talk about immigration reform. I got a few minutes with him before his appearance with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So, of course, the first thing I asked was how the troubles of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell might affect the Republican brand.

Not surprisingly, Snyder, a very successful business leader in his first term as governor, politely sidestepped that question.

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It's All Politics
6:05 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Latest 'Rising Stars' Highlight GOP's Outreach To Women

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day (third from right) introduce the group's latest "rising stars" Thursday in Washington: Alison Howard (from left), Chelsi P. Henry, Monica Youngblood, Kimberly Yee and Alex Smith.
Andrew Harnik The Washington Times/Landov

As if to underscore GOP efforts at outreach to female voters, a breakout session of the Republican National Committee's latest "rising stars" at the group's winter meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., entirely comprised young women.

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It's All Politics
2:13 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Obama's Marijuana Remarks Light Up Legalization Debate

President Obama graces the cover of Cannabis Now magazine at the HempCon medical marijuana show, May 24, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 3:50 pm

That President Obama could openly speculate about marijuana being less dangerous than alcohol — and embrace the state-level legalization of the drug — is a measure of just how far the nation has moved since the 1980s.

Back then, the Reagan administration's approach was absolute: "Just Say No." It's more complicated today.

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It's All Politics
4:01 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Congress Vows To Step Up To Surveillance Policy Challenge

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., after President Obama's speech.
Charles Dharapak AP

If there was a consensus emanating from Congress Friday after President Obama's NSA reform speech, it was — not surprisingly — that Congress itself has a major role to play in the ultimate fix.

Whether from strong NSA supporters or agency critics, the reactions sounded similar: Congress intends to do much of the steering in the drive to overhaul the NSA's gathering of certain non-public information, especially consumer phone records, in the nation's counterterrorism efforts.

Even so, if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of politics in some of the reaction.

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It's All Politics
2:36 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

For Obama And Senate Democrats, The Goal Is Mutual Protection

Senate Democrats at the White House last fall during the government shutdown fight.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

For President Obama and Senate Democrats, who gathered in a White House meeting Wednesday, it's all about mutual aid at this point.

If Obama is to maintain any leverage in Congress, he needs Democrats to keep control of the Senate since the House appears likely to remain in Republican hands. And if his second term agenda has any hope of being achieved — such as tackling income inequality, overhauling immigration or reaching a durable nuclear deal with Iran — he'll need a Democratic Senate majority working side-by-side with him.

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It's All Politics
4:48 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

5 Takeaways From The Omnibus Spending Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where a massive spending bill, aimed at funding the government through October and putting to rest the bitter budget battles of last year, is getting generally positive bipartisan reviews.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 5:13 pm

Regular order. That phrase refers to Congress conducting business in a methodical way, like it used to back before "dysfunctional" came to seem an official and permanent part of Congress' name.

When the House and Senate appropriations committee chairs announced late Monday evening that they had agreed on how to allocate the $1.012 trillion in federal spending, it was yet another step on the path to regular order that Congress forced itself to return to after years of regular disorder, best symbolized by last year's partial government shutdown.

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It's All Politics
9:16 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Bridge Scandal Creates Unique Hurdles For Christie

Democratic New Jersey Assemblymen (from left) Lou Greenwald, John S. Wisniewski and Vincent Prieto take questions at a news conference announcing a renewed investigation into the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 10:23 am

By most accounts, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie passed the leadership challenge posed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

But the political storm created by the George Washington Bridge scandal is testing him in different ways, fueled by a combination of factors that make it difficult even for a politician as manifestly self-assured as Christie.

Christie will have a promising opportunity Tuesday to move beyond the mess caused by the politically inspired closing of toll lanes on the nation's busiest bridge in his State of the State speech.

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It's All Politics
5:27 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Will Bad Jobless Data Spur Action On Unemployment Insurance?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cited the bad December jobless numbers as a reason Congress should extend federal unemployment insurance.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Just as the Senate seemed to descend into another round of partisan gridlock, this time over extending emergency jobless benefits, the arrival of a surprisingly weak December jobs report raised the pressure on Congress to act.

The question is whether news that the economy created a mere 74,000 jobs last month — far fewer than the 200,000 forecasters predicted — delivered enough of a jolt to Capitol Hill, where what seemed like bipartisan progress on the issue early in the week had reverted to partisan nastiness.

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It's All Politics
5:24 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

A Newly Potholed Bridge Pops Up On Christie's Road To 2016

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conducts a lengthy news conference Thursday about his administration's role in traffic tie-ups on the George Washington Bridge.
Jeff Zelevansky Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has found the George Washington Bridge in his way on the road to a potential 2016 presidential run. Right now, it's still an open question whether he'll get over it.

Thursday's marathon news conference was certainly an important moment in that journey. The heretofore 2016 Republican frontrunner apologized and took responsibility for members of Team Christie exacting political revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., by closing lanes to the nation's busiest bridge in September, causing major traffic snarls.

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It's All Politics
3:16 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Gates Memoir Could Prove Helpful To Hillary Clinton In 2016

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes in his new memoir that Hillary Clinton "is a superb representative of the United States all over the world."
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 4:34 pm

In his new memoir, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a fairly serious charge against Hillary Clinton that likely will hound her if she decides to run for president in 2016: that she admitted in his presence that there were political considerations in her opposition to the U.S. military surge in Iraq.

As soon as the first excerpts of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War surfaced, many Republicans pounced on Gates' recollection of the Obama-Clinton Iraq surge conversation.

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It's All Politics
1:07 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

GOP's 2014 Resolution: Keep Pounding Democrats On Obamacare

Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, said Tuesday the GOP will continue to point the finger of blame for the Affordable Care Act at vulnerable Democrats.
Damian Dovarganes AP

When a reporter asked Reince Priebus Tuesday if Republicans would respond to a question about any issue by somehow directing the conversation back to the Affordable Care Act, the Republican National Committee chairman answered tongue-in-cheek.

"The answer is Obamacare," he said. "No, I'm just kidding."

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It's All Politics
3:09 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

4 Lessons From Liz Cheney's Ill-Fated Senate Run

Liz Cheney campaigns in Casper, Wyo., on July 17, one day after announcing her GOP primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi.
Matt Young AP

Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 5:26 am

Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, ended her Wyoming Senate primary challenge Monday, saying in a statement that a family health situation is responsible for her decision. (ABC News reports that sources close to Cheney said one of her daughters has diabetes.)

Even before family health issues arose, Cheney's apparently dimming prospects against GOP Sen. Mike Enzi would have been enough to give pause to many candidates.

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It's All Politics
3:08 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

House GOP Puts Another 'Target' On Obamacare

House Republicans plan to start the new year with a vote on HealthCare.gov that will place Democrats in a politically tough spot.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 6:32 pm

Updated at 7:55 p.m. ET

When Congress returns next week, House Republicans will welcome their Democratic colleagues with a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't vote.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has let it be known that the House will vote on legislation ostensibly meant to protect Americans from HealthCare.gov data breaches. Several Republicans have introduced HealthCare.gov-related security bills, so Cantor has plenty of material to work with.

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It's All Politics
11:22 am
Fri January 3, 2014

7 Political Dates To Watch In 2014

Vice President Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud President Obama as he gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Feb. 12, 2013.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 4:01 pm

With November midterm elections looming, 2014 promises much more political catnip than 2013.

It's a year with a full roster of House, Senate and gubernatorial races, but 2014 is also likely to prove to be another critical period for the Affordable Care Act as an important deadline comes early and the Supreme Court takes up another aspect of the health law.

Here are some of the most important dates to watch:

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It's All Politics
11:26 am
Tue December 31, 2013

2013: The Year In Political Screw-Ups

The partial federal government shutdown was a political misstep that will be remembered for years to come.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 12:34 pm

If anything defined 2013, it was the political misstep. There were so many gaffes, flaps, scandals and ill-advised moves that voters were often left scratching their heads at the political class's uncanny knack for diminishing its profession.

Here are eight of the more memorable screw-ups:

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It's All Politics
1:06 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

5 Achievements Of The 113th Congress (So Far)

Congress managed to get a few things accomplished in 2013, with an emphasis on "few."
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

The 113th Congress, which just ended its first year, has come to be defined more by what it hasn't done than what it has. With two warring and ideologically polarized parties controlling either end of Capitol Hill, Congress has more or less become a quagmire for policy.

Still, one of the least productive Congresses of the modern era was able to accomplish a few things in 2013. Here are five of them:

1. Going Nuclear

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It's All Politics
5:42 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Obama Zings Friends And Foes Alike In Year-End News Conference

A few of President Obama's comments at his year-end news conference were the kind that could rankle political allies and opponents alike.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 7:01 pm

It's the season of peace and goodwill, but President Obama may have tested the limits of both with some comments at his end-of-year news conference.

Asked if he would negotiate with congressional Republicans about the debt ceiling, Obama said he wouldn't do so over raising the limit, though he was willing to talk with Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee chairman, about other issues, like tax reform.

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It's All Politics
6:31 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Will 2nd-Term Obama Show More Mercy Through Pardons?

President Obama speaks to reporters Wednesday in the Oval Office. On Thursday, Obama announced that he was granting a series of pardons and clemencies.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 6:47 am

President Obama came to office after bemoaning the disparity in sentences for crack versus powder cocaine offenses, and with a background as a community organizer and constitutional law teacher that had some progressives anticipating a robust use of the Constitution's "reprieves and pardons" power.

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It's All Politics
9:32 am
Wed December 18, 2013

5 Things We Learned From The Budget Debate

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., takes a break from the Senate floor Tuesday after a bipartisan budget compromise cleared a procedural hurdle.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 3:08 pm

Now that the bipartisan budget agreement has passed the Senate and is headed for the president's desk, it's a good time to consider some of the takeaways from the past two weeks of congressional Sturm und Drang.

Here are five:

Congress still works, sort of.

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It's All Politics
2:46 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Bridge Controversy Could Take Toll On Chris Christie's Future

The George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., on Sept. 2, just days before lanes were closed under mysterious circumstances.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 3:17 pm

Were access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the nation's busiest span, closed as political retribution against a mayor who didn't publicly endorse New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's re-election?

The governor denies that politics played a role in the traffic-snarling decision, but the controversy has put an ever-growing stain on Christie's glossy November re-election victory. And the episode could have an impact on Christie's White House ambitions.

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It's All Politics
4:02 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

New Year Likely To Ring In Old Debt Ceiling Fight

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (right), accompanied by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, takes reporters' questions during a Dec. 11 news conference.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 5:00 pm

At the moment, Washington fiscal policy is a good news, bad news story.

The good news is that the budget agreement, overwhelmingly passed by the House last week in a bipartisan vote, is likely to be approved by the Senate this week. That takes another costly government shutdown off the table.

The bad news? Another debt ceiling fight, with all the attendant risks of a U.S. government default, appears to be right around the corner.

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It's All Politics
5:03 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Newtown Anniversary Marked By Gun Control Stalemate

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, at a gun show in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in October. Giffords was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. She and Kelly have since founded a political action committee to push for tougher gun laws.
Tim Roske AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 5:44 pm

In the wrenching days and weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, many on both sides of the gun control debate thought that horror had so shifted the political winds that stricter federal gun laws would surely result.

That, of course, didn't happen.

On the surface, it may look like the gun lobby ultimately won the political battles that mattered in the past year. After all, Congress failed to pass tougher gun laws. But the reality is more mixed; the result was more of a stalemate.

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It's All Politics
4:18 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Boehner Blasts Tea Party Groups Over Budget Deal Criticism

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise during a Thursday news conference on Capitol Hill.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Some moments feel like turning points. Speaker John Boehner's rhetorical takedown of his party's Tea Party faction seems like one such moment.

For two days running, Boehner, R-Ohio, has made clear that he's heard just about enough from conservative advocacy groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks.

On Wednesday, he called them "ridiculous." On Thursday, he said "they've lost all credibility."

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It's All Politics
5:25 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Mary Landrieu Wrestles An (Obamacare) Alligator

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is facing a tough re-election bid.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:37 am

In any conversation about vulnerable Senate Democrats, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana rises straight to the top of the list.

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