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.

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News
12:30 am
Sun July 14, 2013

A Bipartisan Duo Takes Tax Pitch On The Road

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. left, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., speak about overhauling tax policy to an audience at the 3M tech company on Monday.
Hannah Foslien AP

Originally published on Sun July 14, 2013 12:11 pm

Congress is setting up for a showdown this fall on the budget, the debt ceiling and possibly immigration.

But another item on the agenda hasn't been getting as much attention: changing tax policy. The chairmen of the two tax-writing committees have been working for years, holding hearings, releasing white papers, even hosting bipartisan tax chat lunches at a pub — often with little notice.

Dave Camp is a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Max Baucus is a Montana Democrat and leads the Senate Finance Committee.

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Politics
5:16 am
Sat July 13, 2013

If The IRS Targeted The Left, Too, Will The House Hear It?

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland is a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He's released documents that suggest that the IRS targeted progressives as well as Tea Party groups.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Sat July 13, 2013 11:43 am

The House Oversight Committee will hold its latest hearing next week into how the IRS handled the applications of groups seeking tax exempt status. The hearings have morphed from a scandal over the targeting of Tea Party groups into something broader.

It all started when a report from IRS Inspector General J. Russell George said groups with Tea Party in their name were targeted for extra scrutiny for possible political activity. When asked if progressive groups were also targeted, he said no.

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It's All Politics
7:44 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Top Democrat Says Documents Show IRS Also Targeted Liberals

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (right) speaks with the committee's ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, during a hearing last month.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 10:04 am

Newly released documents appear to further undermine the idea that Tea Party groups were the only ones given extra scrutiny by the IRS for potential political activity.

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Politics
2:53 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Resurrected Farm Bill Passes Without Food Stamps Component

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 3:55 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The farm bill is back. Three weeks ago, the House surprised Hill watchers when Democrats and Republicans alike voted against the bill. Well, today, they passed it - narrowly. In today's bill, though, a huge component was missing. As NPR's Tamara Keith reports, House leaders stripped out the section of the bill that deals with food stamps.

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NPR Story
2:21 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Conservative Group Picks Primary Fight With GOP Incumbent

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, is being challenged in next year's Republican primary by a candidate backed by the Club for Growth.
John Miller AP

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 5:40 pm

An influential conservative group is going after longtime Republican Rep. Mike Simpson from Idaho — and it's getting started nearly a year in advance of the 2014 primary.

The Club for Growth is throwing its weight behind GOP challenger Bryan Smith, calling him a fiscal conservative: anti-tax and pro-growth. The lawyer from Idaho Falls is the first candidate endorsed through a website the club launched earlier this year called PrimaryMyCongressman.com.

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It's All Politics
3:12 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Inspector General Changes Tune On IRS Scandal

Outgoing acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steve Miller (right) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George are sworn in before a full House Ways and Means Committee hearing in May.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 11:10 am

Changing its story. Walking it back. Clarifying.

Whatever you call it, the IRS inspector general now has a different account of what investigators knew about the ideologies of the groups that underwent extra scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status.

Inspector General J. Russell George explained in a letter released Thursday morning that investigators knew all along "progressives" were listed in documents used by IRS agents to screen applications.

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It's All Politics
4:32 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Democrats Want Answers On 'Progressives' Targeted By IRS

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., listens as ousted IRS Chief Steve Miller and J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testify during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on May 17.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 5:07 pm

Congressional Democrats say Tea Party groups weren't the only ones being targeted by the Internal Revenue Service. And they have released some documents that they say prove it.

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Politics
12:11 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

4 Facts You Might Not Have Known About The IRS Scandal

Dennis Brack Landov

Originally published on Mon July 8, 2013 11:52 am

For a little more than a month now, we've been reporting on the IRS's flagging of Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny. Through it all, some basic questions remain: Who ordered the targeting? And why?

We don't have any satisfying answers to those questions yet — and it seems neither do the congressional investigators. But along the way, as new revelations have trickled out, we've noticed some surprising and even puzzling facts about the situation that haven't gotten much attention.

Here are four of them:

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It's All Politics
7:34 am
Wed June 19, 2013

IRS Staffer: 'What I Did Was Not Targeting'

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (right) speaks with the committee's ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, earlier this month, during a hearing on IRS conference spending.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:18 am

Another interview with a key IRS employee, another oblique connection to Washington, D.C., and yet still no explosive revelations in the scandal surrounding the agency's targeting of Tea Party groups.

That, it seems, was precisely the point of Rep. Elijah Cummings' decision to release 205 pages of redacted interview transcripts Tuesday (here and here).

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It's All Politics
10:15 am
Tue June 18, 2013

6 Surprising Things About The IRS Scandal

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, leaves a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in May.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 11:24 am

Hundreds of pages of transcribed interviews reveal that IRS employees in Washington were involved at an early stage in the improper targeting of Tea Party groups — but at least so far the trail stops well short of the White House.

Based on interviews with two longtime IRS employees working in the Cincinnati field office, there's no smoking gun, no direct connection to the Obama administration or even any indication that those involved in the flagging of conservative groups had political motives.

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Politics
1:18 am
Tue June 11, 2013

How The Senate Farm Bill Would Change Subsidies

Third-generation Oklahoma farmer Scott Neufeld says crop insurance is important to his family's business.
Tamara Keith NPR

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 1:40 pm

The Senate voted Monday to approve its version of the farm bill, a massive spending measure that covers everything from food stamps to crop insurance and sets the nation's farm policy for the next five years.

The centerpiece of that policy is an expanded crop insurance program, designed to protect farmers from losses, that some say amounts to a highly subsidized gift to agribusiness. That debate is set to continue as the House plans to take up its version of the bill this month.

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It's All Politics
12:58 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Conservative Advice To GOP: Don't Legislate, Focus On Scandals

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 2:25 pm

Heritage Action, the political activist offshoot of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has some advice for House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor: focus on the scandals plaguing the Obama administration and stay away from legislation that could "highlight major schisms" within the House Republican Conference.

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It's All Politics
12:51 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Cantor's Rebranding Effort Tested By House Republicans

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has been pitching a GOP rebranding effort he calls Making Life Work. The agenda is aimed at creating "conditions of health, happiness and prosperity" for American families, he says.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 9:43 am

When the House votes Wednesday on a bill called the Working Families Flexibility Act, it will be the latest test of a Republican effort at rebranding.

The architect of that effort in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has so far had a mixed record.

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It's All Politics
3:12 am
Sun April 28, 2013

House Leadership Crashes Into Outside Hurdles On Bills

House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on April 18.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sun April 28, 2013 4:40 pm

The House was set to vote this week on a bill modifying the president's health care law. The Republican bill was supported by the leadership, but ran into trouble and was pulled from the floor before the scheduled vote.

It's an example of the kind of obstacles Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, faces in getting legislation through the House. In many recent cases, his problem hasn't been the Democrats as much as members of his own party, backed by proudly conservative outside groups.

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National Security
3:51 am
Thu April 25, 2013

Should Air Traffic Controllers Be Included In Furloughs?

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:46 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Air travelers are growing less and less happy. Automatic budget cuts are now leading to hundreds of flight delays, about half of all delayed flights this week.

NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Up until this point, the effects of the sequester have been scattered and hard to pin down: hiring freezes, delayed park openings. But then the furloughs of air traffic controllers the Federal Aviation Administration had been threatening for months hit and, bam, the sequester got real, real fast.

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It's All Politics
3:46 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

How Congress Quietly Overhauled Its Insider-Trading Law

Vice President Biden and members of Congress watch as President Obama signs the STOCK Act on April 4, 2012. A year later, Congress moved to undo large portions of the law without fanfare.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

The legislative process on Capitol Hill is often slow and grinding. There are committee hearings, filibuster threats and hours of floor debate. But sometimes, when Congress really wants to get something done, it can move blindingly fast.

That's what happened when Congress moved to undo large parts of a popular law known as the STOCK Act last week.

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It's All Politics
1:35 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

On Message: Who Wants To Cut Social Security?

A sign outside the White House on Tuesday protests part of President Obama's proposed federal budget.
Kevin G. Hall MCT/Landov

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 2:09 pm

The president's $3.77 trillion fiscal 2014 budget plan is expansive. But the part getting the most attention is his proposal to change the way the government calculates inflation using a measure known in economics-speak as chained CPI.

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It's All Politics
1:04 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Searching For The Sequester In The Middle Of Ohio

In Columbus, Ohio, signs of the sequester were hard to find.
Kiichiro Sato AP

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 7:59 pm

It's been a little more than a month since the start of the sequester — the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in because Congress couldn't agree on something better.

Before it hit, there were dire and at times very specific predictions of job losses, furloughs and program cuts — many of them from the Obama administration.

Of course, it's still early. Everything you hear today about the effects of the sequester could and probably will change over the coming weeks and months.

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It's All Politics
1:42 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Opposition Research Boot Camp: Learning To Dig For Political Dirt

Opposition research is becoming a given in politics, sometimes even at the local level.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon April 22, 2013 6:29 pm

Opposition research exists mostly in the political shadows. So perhaps it's fitting that this boot camp is in an generic conference room in a generic airport hotel outside of Washington, D.C.

It's run by private investigator Larry Zilliox, who specializes in opposition research. He allowed me to attend a session, but not to take pictures.

Zilliox is cagey about his clients: "As a general rule, it suits me best not to comment on who I've worked for. Everybody is better off that way."

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It's All Politics
4:32 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

NRA-Driven Gun Provisions Pass Along With Spending Bill

Customers shop for guns at Freddie Bear Sports sporting goods store in Tinley Park, Ill., in January. One of the gun provisions in the spending bill prevents the Justice Department from requiring gun dealers to conduct an inventory to see if guns are lost or stolen.
Scott Olson Getty Images

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a temporary measure to keep the government funded through the end of September. Government shutdown averted.

But it turns out the continuing resolution didn't just address spending. It contains six measures that limit how federal agencies deal with guns.

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Politics
3:10 am
Thu March 21, 2013

House, Senate Budget Plans Offer Different Future

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., holds a copy of his budget plan during a news conference last week. On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House narrowly passed the measure. The Senate is not expected to follow suit.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 11:36 am

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's House GOP budget balances in a decade and re-shapes Medicare. That is, it would if the measure passed by the House on Thursday ever became law — which it won't.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray's Democratic budget raises almost $1 trillion in taxes by closing loopholes and adds $100 billion in new spending on infrastructure. But it won't become a reality, either.

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It's All Politics
2:38 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

How The Federal Budget Is Just Like Your Family Budget (Or Not)

Is your family budget really like the federal budget?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 5:51 pm

The House has begun debate on its budget resolution, with a vote expected later this week. And as supporters talk about this budget, there's one comparison you hear a lot.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "Every family in America has to balance their budget. Washington should, too."

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.: "You know, every family in America understands the necessity of a balanced budget."

Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.: "This is how every family tries to live in good times and in bad. Your government should do the same."

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It's All Politics
2:24 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

On Message: The Battle To Define 'Balanced' Budget

A member of the House Budget Committee holds a copy of the Republican budget proposal on Tuesday in Washington.
Gary Cameron Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 4:12 pm

In the ongoing Washington budget battles, one word gets more of a workout than most: balanced.

This single word illustrates the vast distance between the parties. Democrats and Republicans are working from very different definitions of the term in discussing their budget proposals being unveiled this week.

What Democrats are saying: A balanced budget is deficit reduction through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. As in: We want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit.

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It's All Politics
1:45 am
Wed March 6, 2013

The Boehner Rule? Speaker Bucks House GOP For Some Legislation

House Speaker John Boehner answers reporters' questions after the weekly House Republican caucus meeting with (from left) Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Steve Daines on Tuesday.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 9:18 am

House Speaker John Boehner held a news conference the day after the November election.

"The American people have spoken," he said. "They've re-elected President Obama. And they've again re-elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives."

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It's All Politics
4:05 am
Sat March 2, 2013

GOP On The Sequester: Many Messages But Mostly The Same Point

House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media after a meeting with President Obama on Friday.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat March 2, 2013 9:04 am

In the days leading up to the sequester taking effect Friday, Democrats on Capitol Hill had a very unified message.

"We're seeking to provide the American people with a balanced approach. Again, that's what the American people want," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at a press conference.

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It's All Politics
1:13 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

On Message: What Boehner's Saying (And What He's Not) About Sequester

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, discusses the sequester Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 12:33 pm

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It's All Politics
12:50 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

On Message: What Obama's Saying (And What He's Not) About Sequester

President Obama speaks Tuesday about the sequester in Newport News, Va.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 12:34 pm

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It's All Politics
3:49 am
Sat February 23, 2013

Senate Decisions Could Put Lindsey Graham's Seat At Risk

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voices his opposition to President Obama's choice of former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as secretary of defense, on Capitol Hill last week.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 9:55 am

It seems Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has done his best in recent weeks to get as much ink as possible, talking about things that play well with the conservatives in his home state of South Carolina, like Benghazi and gun rights.

Graham also held up the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to get more answers about what happened in Benghazi, even as he admitted Hagel had nothing to do with it. But his opposition might have more to do with home state politics than the nomination itself.

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It's All Politics
3:18 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Sequester In South Carolina: A Tale Of Fighter Jets And Preschools

Four F-16s from the 77th Fighter Squadron of Shaw Air Force Base fly over Darlington Raceway before a NASCAR race in Darlington, S.C., in May 2012.
Geoff Burke Getty Images for NASCAR

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 4:47 pm

In Sumter, S.C., home of Shaw Air Force Base and the 20th Fighter Wing, cars sport bumper stickers that say, "Jet noise is the sound of freedom."

Throughout the day, F-16s on training runs blast from a runway on base, disappearing into the foggy sky. But if automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts slated for March 1 go into effect, there will be a lot less of that sound.

"To cut to that level, we just could not pay for the amount of flying hours that we currently have," says Capt. Ann Blodzinski, the base's chief of public affairs.

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It's All Politics
3:40 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

As Spending Cuts Loom, Alarm Bells Begin To Sound

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey (from left), Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Undersecretary of Defense and Comptroller Robert Hale wait for a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Military leaders are warning Congress about the effects of the sequester.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 4:27 pm

Senate Democrats offered an alternative Thursday to the sequester, the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to hit March 1.

Despite dire warnings in congressional hearings this week, many on Capitol Hill seem resigned to the sequester.

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