When it comes to things like the economy, taxes, health care and education, is it better to live in a red state or a blue state?
Some argue that red-state tendencies toward lower taxes and less regulated, more free-market systems make them ideal places to work and raise a family. But others counter that residents of blue states are wealthier, have more educational opportunities and benefit from a commitment to a social safety net.
Two wily veterans of Congress' fiscal wars will lead the budget talks scheduled to start Wednesday: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the heads of the House and Senate budget committees.
As the 29 lawmakers on the budget conference committee — 22 from the Senate and seven from the House — sit down to begin negotiations, they'll have in Ryan and Murray two lawmakers who from most accounts get along well despite their many differences.
While Congress tries to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the Affordable Care Act website, it's got other problems on its mind. Leading the list is the inability of lawmakers to carry out their most fundamental constitutional responsibility: appropriating the money needed to run the government in a timely fashion.
This month's shutdown was only the most recent fallout of the breakdown in appropriations. Some lawmakers say the Republican ban on earmarks nearly three years ago has only made things worse.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. More hearings come today on the messy rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will face questions from the House, Energy and Commerce Committee. Now, yesterday, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid testified before a different committee. Marilyn Tavenner offered consumers an apology for the problems at the health care.gov website.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
Today, something uncommon is happening on Capitol Hill. Not one, but two conference committees are meeting to work out the differences between House and Senate on the budget and the farm bill. This is the way Congress was designed to work. These days, those sorts of committees are quite rare.
To talk about what's at stake, we're joined by NPR congressional correspondent, Tamara Keith. Good morning.
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.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Secretary Sebelius on who's responsible for 'this debacle'
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"You deserve better. ... I apologize. ... I'm accountable to you."
That's what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Americans on Wednesday morning during a Congressional hearing into problems with the Obama administration's HealthCare.gov website and Republicans' concerns about the Affordable Care Act.
Opponents of Alabama's strict immigration law are declaring victory Tuesday, as the state agreed not to pursue key provisions of a measure critics had called an endorsement of racial profiling. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal of a federal court's ruling that gutted the law.
In recent weeks, the White House staff has pleaded in a couple of high-profile embarrassments that the president did not know. As we just heard from Ari, it's been reported that President Obama did not know until recently that German Chancellor Merkel's communications had been intercepted. It's also been said that he was unaware of problems with the rollout of healthcare.gov.