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
6:58 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Friday Morning Political Mix

Some things even Washington dysfunction can't touch, like the sight of a new day dawning near the Washington monument.
J. David Ake AP

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 7:57 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies. We're now only a little more than three days away from a federal government shutdown if Congress and President Obama don't reach an agreement on a stop-gap budget measure by Monday evening.

So we start our daily look at some of the morning's more interesting political items there.

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It's All Politics
4:46 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Countdown To Shutdown: It's GOP Senator Vs. GOP Senator

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., looks at a countdown-to-shutdown clock during a news conference in the Capitol on Thursday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 4:55 pm

Thursday's highlights (and lowlights):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raised the possibility that the Senate might be able to finish its work on the budget bill by the end of the day, sending it to the House sooner rather later. If Republicans went along, that would give the House more time to act to avert a government shutdown next week.

Perhaps predictably, Republicans didn't go along. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in particular.

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It's All Politics
7:13 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Thursday Morning Political Mix

A statue of George Washington, in the U.S. Capitol's Rotunda.
SAUL LOEB AFP/Getty Images

Good morning, fellow political junkies.Today finds the Senate in continued debate aimed at reaching a legislative agreement that keeps the federal government open into the new fiscal year which starts Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing mood among congressional Republicans to test President Obama's resolve to not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling in a few weeks.

Here are some politically-connected items or themes that caught my eye this morning.

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It's All Politics
4:30 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Countdown To Shutdown: The Ted Cruz Show Comes To A Close

Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan visited with mothers and babies at a Capitol Hill Obamacare event Wednesday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 5:08 pm

Wednesday's Highlights

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ended his marathon Senate floor speech at noon when his appointed time ran out.

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It's All Politics
6:57 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Wednesday Morning Political Mix — Sept. 25, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz, worked a rare Senate overnight shift as he kept up a lengthy diatribe against Obamacare (with many digressions.)
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 9:21 am

It's Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, which puts us five days away from a possible federal-government shutdown that would begin Oct. 1 if Congress fails to pass a stop-gap spending bill.

So the drama in the Senate over the spending bill leads the day's interesting political items and features Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. At this writing, Cruz was in the last gasps of an anti-Obamacare talkathon. That's where we start:

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It's All Politics
7:14 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Tuesday Morning Political Mix

Yes, we know this is the Capitol Hill Peace Monument. But it seems a handy symbol for the partisan spending showdown in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 2:06 pm

A brief and abstract chronicle of some of Tuesday's more interesting political stories, the kinds of stories that might get people who like politics talking around a water cooler, if people still did that sort of thing.

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It's All Politics
5:03 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Some GOP Leaders Tee Up Cruz For Blame If There's A Shutdown

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is becoming the face of a possible government shutdown over Obamacare, and that has many fellow Republicans bashing him for what they see as an ill-conceived gambit.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 9:36 am

Just a week before the federal government could shut down if no agreement is reached to fund it past the end of September, it's anyone's guess whether Democrats and Republicans will avoid plunging over this particular cliff.

More certain, however, is that if a shutdown happens over Obamacare and Republicans wind up taking the heat, many GOP fingers of blame will point squarely at Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Texas Republican will likely become the face of the 2013 shutdown, just as Newt Gingrich became the poster boy of two government shutdowns of the mid-1990s.

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It's All Politics
9:09 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Monday News Clips: What We're Reading

J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 5:11 pm

We're kicking off a new morning routine in which we'll get the day started on NPR's It's All Politics" blog by sharing a handful of political stories that caught our interest or that we'll be watching.

Here are a few of them for Monday, Sept. 23:

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It's All Politics
12:53 pm
Sun September 22, 2013

EPA Gives Coal-State Democrats A Chance To Sound Republican

State and local leaders break ground at a Louisville, Ky., coal-burning power plant in November 2012.
Dylan Lovan AP

For Democrats running in coal-producing states like Kentucky and West Virginia, the Environmental Protection Agency's new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants provide a carboniferous chance to demonstrate independence from President Obama.

Those Democrats will probably take advantage of every chance they get to separate themselves from the president in voters' minds, since their Republican opponents will be working overtime to portray them as reliable Obama votes if they're elected to Congress.

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It's All Politics
9:56 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Food Stamp Fight: Great For GOP Base But Not For Outreach

During George W. Bush's presidency, Republican leaders won praise for expanding food assistance. Now the House GOP is drawing criticism for cutting it.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 1:34 pm

The Republican-controlled House's vote to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program is just the latest example of how the GOP balance of power has shifted rightward over the past decade.

President George W. Bush isn't fondly remembered by progressives for much. But anti-hunger advocates credited him during his administration for strongly supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the formal name for food stamps) and other policies to help unemployed or low-income workers and their children escape the fear of not knowing where their next meals would come from.

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It's All Politics
4:03 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Conservative Lobbyist Derails Bipartisan 'Science Laureate' Bill

The U.S. Capitol at sunrise.
Jason Reed Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 9:24 am

No one who's been paying attention for, say, the past few decades, needs to be reminded of how extremely polarized Washington is.

So it's usually good news when Democrats and Republicans can come together on an issue, as they did recently to support the idea of creating the new honorary position of "Science Laureate of the United States."

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It's All Politics
3:02 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Atheists Start PAC To Elect Nonreligious Candidates

Bishop McNeil, who isn't a cleric despite his name, speaks to reporters Wednesday at a news conference to introduce the Freethought Equality Fund PAC.
Frank James NPR

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 3:13 pm

Americans who count themselves among the "nones" — as in atheists, agnostics or those of no definite religious affiliation — have launched a new political action committee.

The goal? To support the election of like-minded lawmakers or, at a minimum, candidates committed to upholding the constitutional separation between church and state.

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It's All Politics
3:17 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

William Daley Has Left The Arena

William Daley, who was briefly President Obama's White House chief of staff, has long relished being the guy behind the guy who got elected. So his exit from the Illinois governor's race makes a certain kind of sense.
Paul Beaty AP

Originally published on Tue September 17, 2013 4:45 pm

When William M. Daley — son and brother of famous Chicago mayors, former Obama White House chief of staff and all-around Democratic pooh-bah — was President Clinton's commerce secretary, he kept in his office a framed passage from Theodore Roosevelt's "Citizenship in a Republic" speech.

"It's not the critic who counts. ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

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It's All Politics
12:28 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Summers' End: A Metaphor For Obama's Economic Agenda

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2011.
Michel Euler AP

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 2:35 pm

By taking his name out of consideration for the Federal Reserve chairmanship this weekend, Lawrence Summers became a metaphor for the difficulties President Obama has had in pursuing his economic agenda.

And the end of Summers, at least as Ben Bernanke's potential successor, signaled that the president's inability to get traction on his economic agenda is likely to get worse, not better. Now even lawmakers in his own party are willing to break with him on high-profile economic decisions.

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It's All Politics
3:35 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Vote For The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 7:36 pm

How do you break out of the pack if you're in a mayoral race with dozens of other candidates?

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It's All Politics
4:33 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Congress Searches For A Shutdown-Free Future

House Speaker John Boehner tried to sound optimistic Thursday that his Republican conference would find a way to avoid a government shutdown.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

There's a lot of searching on Capitol Hill but no discovery yet of a way to avoid a federal government shutdown at the start of next month.

Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are searching for enough House GOP votes for a spending bill that could pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate and keep the government open past Sept. 30.

Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers are searching for a way to repeal the Affordable Care Act with the help of the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama.

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It's All Politics
4:18 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Congress Looks Beyond Syria To Its Next Fight

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio (right) leads members of Congress as they step outside the Capitol on Wednesday to attend a ceremony in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With him are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Now that Congress' extraordinary Syria debate is on hold, at least for now, the next upcoming drama is really a return to much more familiar territory: how will congressional leaders get enough votes to pass legislation to keep the government from going off yet another metaphorical cliff.

Until Wednesday, it looked like Congress was moving toward a vote this week to fund the government past September, when the fiscal year ends, and into December — thus avoiding a shutdown. But that vote was postponed until next week at the earliest.

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It's All Politics
9:53 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Obama's Problem: The Path Forward In Syria Is No Clearer

President Obama walks out of a meeting with the Senate Democratic Caucus at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Michael Reynolds EPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 4:08 pm

With the highly anticipated Syria speech behind him, the path ahead for President Obama's effort to get congressional authorization of military strikes in Syria is no easier than before. In fact, post-speech, it seems more obstacle-strewn and steeper than ever.

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It's All Politics
10:25 am
Tue September 10, 2013

A Viewer's Guide To Obama's Syria Speech

President Obama walks toward the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 11:14 am

If ever a speech seemed to be President Obama's last, best chance to win public and congressional support for his plan to launch military strikes against Syria, it's his prime-time talk to the nation Tuesday.

With polls indicating that 60 percent of Americans oppose action against Syria for using sarin gas and congressional approval looking ever more like a long shot, Obama's speech is a high-stakes endeavor.

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It's All Politics
4:14 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Opponents of Syria Strikes Gain Edge In Lobbying Fight

President Obama answers a question regarding the situation in Syria during his news conference at the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Sat September 7, 2013 4:35 am

The interest groups opposed to U.S. military strikes against Syria had a very good week. That made it a very bad week for President Obama and those who support his plans.

Anna Galland, executive director of the liberal MoveOn.org — which opposes military action in Syria — said that by midweek, her group's members reported making 10,000 calls to Congress, contributing to an avalanche of calls from citizens opposed to military strikes.

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It's All Politics
4:52 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

What If Congress Votes 'No' On Syria?

President Obama attends a White House meeting on Syria Tuesday with congressional leaders.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 5:30 pm

With Republican House leaders lining up behind President Obama's planned U.S. military strike on Syria, the chances for congressional authorization seemed higher on Tuesday than they did over the weekend.

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It's All Politics
8:44 pm
Sat August 31, 2013

Question For Obama In Congress: Can He Get The Vote On Syria?

President Obama speaks in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday, joined by Vice President Biden, to announce that he wants congressional approval to attack Syria.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat August 31, 2013 8:18 pm

Now that President Obama has turned to Congress for authorization to launch punitive military strikes against the Syrian government for using chemical weapons, can he get it?

As a former Defense secretary might have said, the answer to that question is a known unknown. That's especially true in a GOP-led House that's typically opposed to the president. The chances are better in the Senate with its Democratic majority.

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It's All Politics
5:33 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

6 Things To Keep In Mind As Obama Confronts Syria

President Obama pauses after answering questions from the news media during his meeting with Baltic leaders at the White House on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 6:07 pm

As President Obama attempts to make good on his threats to punish Syrian officials for crossing a "red line" by allegedly using deadly chemical weapons, he's being buffeted by political crosscurrents.

Some arise from the structure of U.S. democracy itself, and the balance of powers between the branches. Others emerge from the nation's particular state of mind after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here are six points to keep in mind as Obama considers how best to demonstrate American resolve to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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It's All Politics
3:28 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Impeach Obama! (And FDR, Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, Etc.)

Michigan Rep. Kerry Bentivolio listens at a Nov. 4, 2012, rally in Livonia, Mich. The suburban Detroit congressman has said it would be a "dream come true" to seek the impeachment of President Obama.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 3:35 pm

Based on what we know now, President Obama is as likely to be impeached as he is to be a lottery pick in next year's NBA draft.

Yet it's equally unlikely that calls for his impeachment will end anytime soon. Adding fuel to the fire recently was Obama's old friend from his Senate days, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who suggested Obama had come "perilously close" to meeting the impeachment threshold.

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It's All Politics
4:13 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

For Obama, Outrage Over Syria Is The Easy Part

A young girl receives treatment at a makeshift hospital in Damascus, Syria, after a suspected chemical weapons attack by the military.
AP

Originally published on Mon August 26, 2013 4:25 pm

The present Syrian crisis ranks among the most vexing moments of President Obama's presidency.

The recent heart-rending images of Syrian civilians, many of them young children apparently killed by chemical weapons used by the government of Bashar Assad, have raised the volume on calls for the president to act.

But while there's a clarity to the outrage itself, for Obama things quickly get murky.

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It's All Politics
4:29 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Is This The Beginning Of Obama Unbound?

President Obama speaks at a town hall-style meeting at SUNY Binghamton on Friday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Are we seeing the beginning of a trend from the occupant of the Oval Office — a President Obama unbound?

That's the question after Obama cast aside his usual caution while speaking at a town hall-style meeting in Binghamton, N.Y., on Friday. Asked about his proposals for attacking soaring higher education costs, Obama said:

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It's All Politics
4:00 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Polite Reception For Obama College Cost Plan Belies Hurdles

President Obama takes the stage at the University at Buffalo on Thursday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 4:47 pm

The big idea in President Obama's new proposal for tackling the growing crisis in college affordability can be boiled down to this: linking federal higher education aid to a new grading system that would rate colleges and universities on the "value" they provide students.

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It's All Politics
4:17 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Gender Gap Doesn't Budge In Virginia Governor's Race

Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, (left), is trailing Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe (right) among female voters.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 5:05 pm

Here's one takeaway from a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday: Republicans have their hands full if they hope to close the gender gap in the Virginia governor's race.

The poll of likely voters reports that Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a 6-percentage-point overall lead in his contest with Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

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It's All Politics
3:41 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

A Defense For Ted Cruz: Founders Weren't U.S. Born Either

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 10.
Justin Hayworth AP

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 3:54 pm

If Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) really wanted to put some positive spin on his birth in Canada, he could point out that none of the first seven presidents were born in the United States either.

Of course, that was because the U.S. didn't exist when presidents from George Washington through Andrew Jackson were born. They were all technically British subjects at birth. Martin Van Buren, born in 1782 in Kinderhook, N.Y., was the first president actually born in the U.S.

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It's All Politics
9:42 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Obama's College-Cost Tour Is A Chance To Get Past Climbing Walls

The climbing wall at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Such amenities have been cited as evidence of wasteful spending on college campuses.
AP

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 10:34 am

President Obama, back from his vacation, is scheduled to address the college affordability crisis in a campaign-style bus tour that will take him to New York and Pennsylvania.

The tour, which takes place Thursday and Friday, is part of the president's overarching effort to highlight his agenda for middle-class Americans and to raise pressure on congressional Republicans to act on his second-term priorities.

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