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.

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.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

HERMAN CAIN: With a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD REACTION)

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

NPR's Tamara Keith has this look back at the Cain Train.

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, it is widely expected the committee will admit it has failed.

The STOCK Act, a bill that would ban members of Congress from trading stock based on nonpublic information they get because they're lawmakers, has 61 co-sponsors and counting. And after years of languishing with only one hearing, the measure is getting one in the House Financial Services Committee.

What's remarkable about this is that the STOCK Act had just nine co-sponsors last week. What changed? The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes did a story about congressional insider trading.

Part of an ongoing series

Being unemployed for more than two years changed the way Ray Meyer looks at politics. He has always leaned Republican and used to have little sympathy for those who were receiving unemployment benefits.

Second in a three-part series

These days it can feel like the country is unsteady — politically, economically. In a search for the way forward, scholars and politicians often turn to their fundamental beliefs. NPR is taking a look at some of the most influential philosophers whose ideas molded the present and could shape the future. You might not know all their names, but you're certainly familiar with their ideas. They are woven into the fabric of our society.

When talking to people who have given to a candidate's campaign, you'd expect to find true believers.

"I liked what I heard, and he seemed to be the kind of person that I would like to see be president of the United States," says Carl Ploeger, who has donated twice to embattled GOP hopeful Herman Cain.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

When a Chicago woman came out yesterday to publicly accuse Herman Cain of an unwanted sexual advance, it marked a shift in this story. Up to that point, the three previous accusations had been anonymous. The Republican presidential candidate has firmly denied all the accusations of harassment, including yesterday's, which the woman claimed had occurred in 1997, when Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association.

GOP presidential contender Herman Cain may have a difficult time getting his campaign back "on message" after a week spent responding to allegations of sexual harassment. Attorney Gloria Allred held a news conference in New York on Monday afternoon for a woman who says she was sexually harassed by Cain.

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SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Quite a week for Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. He came to Washington, D.C. for a series of public events and meetings with members of Congress, but decade-old sexual harassment allegations dogged him all week long, and then late yesterday the story took another turn when the lawyer for one of the accusers made a public statement. NPR's Tamara Keith has the latest.

In all, 619 different groups and corporations said they intend to lobby around the work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, better known around Capitol Hill as the supercommittee. All of them mentioned the supercommittee or the legislation that created it in their mandatory third-quarter lobbying disclosure forms. Here is an alphabetical list of the organizations:

The deficit reduction committee, the so-called supercommittee, has less than a month to agree on massive spending cuts and deficit reduction. And so the race is on — not only for lawmakers but for interest groups, trade associations and corporations. An NPR analysis finds there are hundreds of them that want to influence the outcome.

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.

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