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.

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

The Affordable Care Act should dominate Wednesday's news cycle thanks to scheduled high-profile appearances by President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to defend the law.

Good Tuesday morning, fellow political junkies.

As you go through your day, keep this in mind: at least you're not Marilyn Tavenner. When critics of the Obama administration's botched launch of the Affordable Care Act call for heads to metaphorically roll, Tavenner, the top official of the Health and Human Services agency that oversaw the ill-fated website project, is high on that list.

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

It's the last week of October. That means the administration has just a month to meet its self-imposed deadline to have the Affordable Care Act website running as efficiently as it and millions of Americans had originally envisioned.

But the first item in our Monday political mix of some of the more interesting tidbits that caught my eye this morning indicates why setting such a deadline might be easier than meeting it.

Jeffrey Zients isn't exactly a household name. But if he can cure what ails the Affordable Care Act website, he'll be one of the best-known figures in the Obama administration.

Zients (rhymes with Heinz) is the professional manager President Obama turned to in order to solve the by-now-infamous problems with the federal government's health care exchange website.

President Obama radiated confidence when he took to the Rose Garden earlier this week to convince Americans that the flaws in the Affordable Care Act website would be fixed.

It's understandable that the president himself might be upbeat about the prospects of resolving the problems currently plaguing the technology behind the law.

The hottest hot seat in Washington is the one occupied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose office confirmed Monday she'll testify about the Internet disaster that is HealthCare.gov, the Affordable Care Act website.

After successfully staring down congressional Republicans in the shutdown-debt ceiling fight, President Obama pivoted to immigration in a move with almost no downside.

That makes it perfect as the next vehicle for him to use to cause the GOP major indigestion.

Before being re-elected last year, President Obama said he hoped the Republican "fever" of opposition to him would break during his second term. But if the just-completed standoff is any indication, that temperature is still spiking.

With the double crises of a partial government shutdown and a potential debt default resolved, it's a good time to consider some of the lessons we learned from the dysfunction and drama of recent weeks.

Here are 10 of them:

Shutting Down The Government Is Not A Winning Political Strategy

Since the start of the fiscal standoff that led to a government shutdown and a flirtation with a historic debt default, Democrats have been led by the tag team of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

At times, their tactics resembled the good cop, bad cop routine where one officer offers the suspect a cup of coffee and the other smacks it from the suspect's lips. Reid, of course, is the smacker.

Day 15 of the government shutdown started with as much promise as any recently: There was a bipartisan proposal by Senate leaders to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

But any hopes were quickly dashed when leaders of the Republican-controlled House said they would offer a competing proposal because of their dissatisfaction with the Senate effort.

The Senate's Bipartisan Proposal

The Senate agreement between Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came after weekend negotiations.

Happy Friday, fellow political junkies. It's the 11th day of the partial federal government shutdown, 2013 edition.

President Obama and House Republicans at least opened a line of communications before the second week of the shutdown ended, so that was good news.

Less positive was that it came only a week before the Oct. 17 expiration date Treasury Secretary Jack Lew gave for when he would run out of tricks to keep the U.S. government from defaulting on its obligations.

Day 10 of the partial government shutdown brought a flurry of excitement — enough to get Wall Street's animal spirits going as investors were optimistic that the U.S. might avoid a default.

Unfortunately, furloughed federal workers who don't know when they'll be paid next weren't as sanguine. The day's highlights:

Boehner's Proposal

Good morning, fellow political junkies. It's Day 10 of the federal government's partial shutdown. And while it's a dreary, rainy day in Washington, there did appear to be more glimmers of hope this morning than in recent days.

Today's theme is movement, as in, there seem to be some tentative steps towards resolving the current fiscal impasse as President Obama and House Republicans are scheduled to meet at the White House later Thursday.

Are House Republicans still seeking Democratic concessions on the Affordable Care Act? Or have they switched their sights to even bigger targets: federal spending on entitlements like Medicare and Social Security?

The answer on Wednesday depended on which Republican you asked.

Paul Ryan's Pitch

Good morning, fellow political junkies. It's Day 9 of the partial federal government shutdown. Global financial markets at this point still appear to expect sanity to eventually prevail in the Washington fiscal standoff. We'll have to see if they're right.

The day's big news is expected to be President Obama's choice to head the Federal Reserve of the candidate thought to be his second choice since his first proved politically problematic.

Here are some of the more interesting politically related items that caught my eye this morning.

On Day 8 of the federal government's partial shutdown, President Obama called House Speaker John Boehner. But the morning phone call produced no movement toward resolution, according to readouts by aides to both men.

Here are some of Tuesday's news highlights:

President Obama

Obama gave his first lengthy press conference since early August, answering questions for more than an hour.

The latest House GOP gambit in the fiscal fight is ... wait for it ... a supercommittee.

But Republicans aren't calling it a supercommittee since that's the term for the failed panel that brought us the the sequester.

Good morning, fellow political junkies. It's Day 8 of the partial shutdown of the federal government. Among the only certainties: many federal workers are a day closer to missing a paycheck and the nation is a day closer to hitting the debt ceiling.

Good Monday morning, fellow political junkies. The partial shutdown of the government enters its second week and on Day 7 of the crisis neither side appears to have softened its position.

At least furloughed federal workers got the good news over the weekend that Congress had approved giving them backpay for the time they are locked out of their jobs.

Here are some of the more interesting news items with greater or lesser political import that caught my eye this morning.

Before President Obama canceled his Asia trip, some of us wondered how he could possibly leave the U.S., especially for the exotic resort island of Bali, during the federal government shutdown.

Forget the logistical complications caused by having so many staffers unable to work the trip. What about the optics of having the president at a lush tourist destination while hundreds of thousands of government workers were furloughed and worried about missing paychecks?

Obama solved that potential problem by canceling his overseas trip, which would have started Saturday evening.

Happy Friday, fellow political junkies. Of course, it's hard to be happy if you're one of the more than two million federal workers either furloughed or working without pay, or one of the millions of other Americans whose lives are disrupted by official Washington's dysfunction. It's Day Four of the federal government shutdown, 2013 edition. And an end to the disagreement still doesn't seem in the offing.

On that grim note, here are some items of political interest worth mulling over this morning.

Good morning, fellow political junkies. As we enter Day 3 of the federal government shutdown, the impasse appears no closer to a solution. Nothing like a way forward seemed to come from President Obama's White House meeting Wednesday evening with congressional leaders.

But, then, we didn't expect much from it since the president's people said he wouldn't be negotiating.

Shutdown Diary: Day 2

Oct 2, 2013

Wednesday's Highlights:

White House

Day 2 of the federal government shutdown found President Obama summoning congressional leaders to the White House to urge House Republicans to pass legislation to reopen agencies and raise the debt ceiling to avoid a first-ever default by the U.S. (Nothing was resolved; here's the story.)

It's Day Two of the Federal Government Shutdown, 2013 edition with no end in sight.

So there's a heavy focus on shutdown-related items or themes today in this morning's political mix of items and themes that caught my eye:

Day 1 of the federal government shutdown, 2013 edition, was business as usual, at least when it came to each side trying to win the message war and keep the pressure on the political opposition in the hope of getting them to blink first.

President Obama had a White House Rose Garden event to mark what also was the first day individuals were able to enroll in the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges. With real people who would benefit from the law arrayed behind him in a photo op, he used the moment to blast Republicans.

If you're wondering how long the shutdown will last, well, don't hold your breath.

As of this writing, there are no indications that talks are underway — or even in the offing.

Indeed, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected House legislation Tuesday morning calling for a House-Senate conference to try to settle the disagreement behind the first federal government shutdown in 17 years.

Monday's Highlights:

Only hours before a partial shutdown of the federal government would take effect, House Republicans still hadn't arrived at a temporary spending bill that Senate Democrats were willing to approve to keep government workers on the job. A closure appeared inevitable.

On Monday afternoon, Senate Democrats rejected a stopgap spending bill passed by the House over the weekend because it contained anti-Obamacare measures that Democrats found objectionable.

Friday's highlights:

As expected, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed its own version of a short-term spending bill. It's the version the House approved last week, minus language that would defund Obamacare. That effectively tossed the ball back to the Republican-controlled House.

And President Obama warned House Republicans to avoid the twin disruptions of a government shutdown (at midnight Monday) and a debt default (in mid-October).

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.

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.

Pages