This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, we'll get an update on the humanitarian crisis in Syria. But first, we turn to an issue that affects one out of every seven humans in America, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP. Back in 2009, in the depths of the recession, President Obama increased SNAP benefits using stimulus funds, but the temporary increase expired this past Friday.
This week, the political headlines are expected to be dominated by several important off-year elections whose outcomes seem a foregone conclusion, if you believe the polls.
Democrat Terry McAulliffe in Virginia and Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey have significant polling leads in their governor's races. In New York City, Democrat and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio appears poised to win in a blowout.
Now, during the government shutdown, many House Republicans said the policy was unwise, but persisted for weeks in voting with their speaker, John Boehner. One reason was party loyalty. Another reason, according to analysts, was fear. Lawmakers did not want to run the risk of a challenge in a Republican primary from candidates saying they weren't trying hard enough.
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Last month's government shutdown could deliver its first political victim tomorrow. Republican Ken Cuccinelli is trailing in the Virginia Governor's race. During a campaign appearance this weekend, President Obama tried to tie Cuccinelli to the shutdown, and also to the Tea Party. Cuccinelli, in turn, tried to link his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, to the troubled rollout of Obamacare.
Voters in Virginia and New Jersey go to the polls Tuesday to pick their next governor. NPR's Scott Horsley joins host Arun Rath from Northern Virginia, where President Obama just held a rally for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor.
Tuesday's election is seen as a key off-year contest, and a test of strength for both parties leading up to the 2014 elections. But it's beginning to look like a rout. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli by as much as 12 points. The race appears to have turned into a referendum on Cuccinelli's conservative views.
This week, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, testified before Congress about the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov website. It was the latest attempt at damage control by the Obama administration since the site went live a month ago.
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SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: The website has never crashed. It is functional but at a very slow speed and very low reliability - and has continued to function.