Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to arbitration at the Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters, and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she made disparaging comments about him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb" comments about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":

Donald Trump wrapped up his public tryout of potential vice presidential candidates in Indiana Tuesday night with Gov. Mike Pence giving the final audition.

The Indiana governor's stock as Trump's possible running mate is believed to be on the rise, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also atop the list. Sources tell NPR the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is close to making a decision, which he's widely expected to announce by Friday.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The unassuming hero of Jonas Karlsson's clever, Kafkaesque parable is the opposite of a malcontent. Despite scant education, a limited social life, and no prospects for success as it is usually defined, he's that rarity, a most happy fella with an amazing ability to content himself with very little. But one day, returning to his barebones flat from his dead-end, part-time job at a video store, he finds an astronomical bill from an entity called W.R.D. He assumes it's a scam. Actually, it is more sinister-- and it forces him to take a good hard look at his life and values.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Donald Trump picked a military town — Virginia Beach, Va. — to give a speech Monday on how he would go about overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs if elected.

He blamed the Obama administration for a string of scandals at the VA during the past two years, and claimed that his rival, Hillary Clinton, has downplayed the problems and won't fix them.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The season for blueberries used to be short. You'd find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer.

Now, though, it's always blueberry season somewhere. Blueberry production is booming. The berries are grown in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest — not to mention the southern hemisphere.

But in any one location, the season is still short. And this means that workers follow the blueberry harvest, never staying in one place for long.

Pages

Congress At Impasse Over Must-Pass Measures

Dec 13, 2011
Originally published on December 13, 2011 12:29 pm

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.

This was, of course, preceded by the part of the dance where the Democratic Senate offered and failed to pass its own version, because it couldn't overcome a Republican filibuster.

"Every hour they delay and every day they filibuster is one more the Senate by necessity will have to stay in Washington to get its work done," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the floor.

On the line are extended unemployment benefits for millions who have been out of work more than six months, and a payroll tax holiday that if it isn't extended would mean $1,000 less in take-home pay next year for the average family.

Before the end of the year, Congress also has to act on the so-called doc fix, otherwise Medicare reimbursements for doctors would drop drastically. And there are numerous tax fixes that add up to billions of dollars.

It's a lot. But Boehner said Monday the House will vote on a bill that takes care of all these things and more.

"I do believe it's going to pass with bipartisan support and when it comes to jobs, the American people can't wait, so we're going to take action," he said.

But even if he's right about bipartisan support in the House, the path to passage in the Senate is virtually nonexistent. That's because the House bill contains a number of provisions a majority of Democrats don't support: The bill would significantly cut back benefits for the long-term unemployed. And most notably it would force the Obama administration to act within 60 days on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

"The American people want jobs," Boehner said. "This is as close to a shovel ready project as you're ever going to see."

The pipeline would bring oil from Canada to refineries in the South. Republicans call it a job creator. Democrats are worried about possible environmental impacts. The Obama administration says it needs until 2013 to make a decision.

This is a fight that's been raging for some time and is now attached to the end-of-year must-pass legislative discussions.

"It's time to stop the posturing," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Here's a bill that contains top priorities from both sides. Let's take it up and pass it without any more theatrics."

If the past is any guide, the theatrics this week are only getting started. Democrats are still insisting that the payroll tax holiday be paid for with a surtax on income over $1 million a year.

"Should we ask the wealthiest in America to pay a little more in taxes so that we can provide a payroll tax cut for almost 160 million Americans?" asked Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Il., the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. "What we hear from the other side of the aisle over and over again is 'no.'"

In fact, they've heard it in the form of failed bills twice in the past two weeks.

The thing Democrats really want is the thing Republicans hate. And the thing Republicans want is the thing Democrats are against. And yet, somehow between now and Christmas, most political watchers believe the partisan differences will quietly be worked out.

Members of Congress will make it home for the holidays with plenty of presents for their constituents in the form of a payroll tax holiday, extended unemployment benefits and a whole sleigh full of other end of year fixes.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Lawmakers will be among those working hard this week so they can get away for the holidays. Here's NPR's Tamara Keith with a look at measures now in Congress that are seen as must-pass.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: This is the part of the tango of Congress where the Republican House offers a plan.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: The House is going to do its job and it's time for the Senate then to do its job.

KEITH: And the Democratic Senate balks. This was, of course, preceded by the part of the dance where the Democratic Senate offers and fails to pass its own version, because it can't overcome a Republican filibuster.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Every hour they delay and every day they filibuster is one more the Senate by necessity will have to stay in Washington to get its work done.

KEITH: Those voices were House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. On the line are extended unemployment benefits for millions who have been out of work for more than six months, and a payroll tax holiday that if it isn't extended would mean a thousand dollars less in take-home pay next year for the average family. Before the end of the year, Congress also has to act on a so-called doc fix; otherwise Medicare reimbursements for doctors would drop drastically. And there are numerous other fixes that add up to billions of dollars. It's a lot. But Speaker Boehner says today the House will vote on a bill that takes care of all of these things and more.

BOEHNER: I do believe it's going to pass with bipartisan support, and when it comes to jobs, the American people can't wait, so we're going to take action.

KEITH: But even if he's right about bipartisan support in the House, the path to passage in the Senate is virtually nonexistent. That's because the House bill contains a number of provisions a majority of Democrats don't support. The bill would significantly cut back benefits for the long-term unemployed. And most notably it would force the Obama administration to act within 60 days on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Again, Speaker Boehner.

BOEHNER: The American people want jobs. This is as close to a shovel-ready project as you're ever going to see.

KEITH: The pipeline would bring oil from Canada to refineries in the South. Republicans call it a job creator. Democrats are worried about possible environmental impacts. The Obama administration says it needs until 2013 to make a decision. This is a fight that's been raging for some time and is now attached to the end-of-year must-pass legislative discussions. Here's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: It's time to stop the posturing. Here's a bill that contains top priorities from both sides. Let's take it up and pass it without any more theatrics.

KEITH: If the past is any guide, the theatrics this week are only getting started. Democrats are still insisting that the payroll tax holiday be paid for with a surtax on income over a million dollars a year. Dick Durbin is the number two Democrat in the Senate.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Should we ask the wealthiest in America to pay a little more in taxes so that we can provide a payroll tax cut for almost 160 million Americans? That's it. What we hear from the other side of the aisle over and over again is no.

KEITH: In fact, they've heard it in the form of failed bills twice in the past two weeks. And so the thing Democrats really want is the thing Republicans hate. And the thing Republicans want is the thing Democrats are against. And yet somehow, between now and Christmas, most political watchers believe the partisan differences will quietly be worked out. And everyone will make it home for the holidays with plenty of presents for their constituents in the form of a payroll tax holiday, extended unemployment benefits, and a whole sleighful of other end-of-year fixes. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.