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.

It's still far too early to know whether Congress will actually be able to achieve a comprehensive overhaul to the nation's immigration laws. All that's certain at this stage is that lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide, and in both chambers, continue to act as though they think they can.

Anyone looking for a glimmer of bipartisanship in Washington might want to pay attention to the medical device tax that is part of Obamacare. It took a notable, if largely symbolic, hit this week from the left and the right.

The 2.3-percent excise tax on devices ranging from MRI machines to pacemakers to stethoscopes was meant to raise $20 billion over 10 years to help pay for extending health care coverage to the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.

But so far it has raised more ire than revenue.

Vice President Joe Biden told All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block in an interview Wednesday that he and the Obama administration plan to continue to fight for a ban on assault weapons to be included in a larger bill in Congress.

That despite signs that such a ban doesn't have enough support, even from members of Biden's own party, to make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio conservative Republican who recently said he now supports same-sex marriage because he has a gay son, evidently has plenty of company.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests that many Americans have changed their minds — going from opposing to supporting same-sex marriage — because they personally know someone who is gay.

One of the most interesting observations we've seen regarding the Republican National Committee's latest effort to win the hearts and minds of minorities, women and young voters was to be found on a blog that promotes a

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

If Republicans hope to recapture the White House in the foreseeable future, they basically need to sound and campaign more like Democrats.

It was one of the most anticipated moments at this year's large gathering of conservative activists.

What would Mitt Romney say in his first major speech since he lost the presidential election and, even more importantly, how would the crowd treat him?

The next Republican presidential primary is so far off that some of those attending the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday could be spotted wearing stickers for two potential candidates: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

It's just too early to choose.

Which way the Republican Party?

In the hope of getting answers to that and other questions, many activists, party big wigs and political journalists have descended on a hotel in a Washington suburb to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference, which started Thursday.

This annual CPAC gathering is the first since President Obama thwarted Republican efforts to retake the White House, a defeat of Mitt Romney that many in the GOP didn't see coming.

Like the famous cherry blossoms forecast to bloom in a few weeks, this time of year is also marked by the arrival of competing, partisan federal budget proposals that political foes immediately declare dead-on-arrival, though not so dead that they can't be used as campaign fodder.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) got the process underway Tuesday by introducing the House Republican budget for the coming fiscal year, DOA because it has no chance of getting through the Democratic Senate or to be signed by President Obama.

Anyone still looking for Dr. Ben Carson to apologize for criticizing President Obama's policies to his face at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, won't hear one in his conversation with host Michel Martin's of NPR's Tell Me More.

The February jobs report was just the latest proof that the economy doesn't really care how much it confounds the messaging strategies of Washington's political class.

News that the economy created 236,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, its lowest level in more than four years, caught nearly everyone by surprise after economists forecast perhaps 171,000 new jobs.

Caught between the gritty political realities of needing cash and being linked to a political leader who has repeatedly denounced money's influence in Washington while raising record sums, former campaign aides to President Obama appeared to side with the money.

That had opened officials now heading Organizing for Action — which was formed from the Obama for America campaign committee to promote the president's second-term agenda — to charges of hypocrisy.

President Obama recently acknowledged the obvious: He doesn't have the supernatural powers necessary to do a mind meld, Jedi or otherwise, with Republican congressional leaders that would lead to pacts on fiscal policy or anything else for that matter.

But if he doesn't have the power to force meetings of the minds with his Republican opponents, he can at least still get meetings with them.

Popping up on the president's schedule all of a sudden was a Wednesday night dinner at a Washington, D.C., hotel with a group of GOP senators.

With President Obama nominating Ernest Moniz to be the nation's next energy secretary, he continued a relatively recent trend of putting scientists atop a part of the federal bureaucracy once overseen by political types.

If confirmed by the Senate, Moniz, an MIT physicist, will follow Nobel laureate Steven Chu, a University of California physicist who served as Obama's first-term energy secretary.

The fight over reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is now behind us. But like much of what happens in Washington, the process wasn't pretty.

In the debate leading up to Thursday's House vote, you had Democrats accusing Republicans of continuing a "war on women," and Republicans accusing Democrats of crass political pandering.

The victory of a pro-gun-control candidate in the Illinois Democratic primary race to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was also a political win for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose superPAC backed the winner over a candidate it linked to the NRA.

But Robin Kelly's victory Tuesday was, for Bloomberg, more than just another achievement on the gun control front. It was one more win in Bloomberg's unique assault on what he views as the public health problems of our time.

President Obama has for weeks warned congressional Republicans and the American public of the dangers facing the nation from the sequester budget cuts.

Failing to reach a deal between the White House and Congress by Friday could lead to some young children being dropped from Head Start, the FBI furloughing agents and fewer food inspectors, according to the president.

If the cuts unleash these and other harms, like longer lines at airports, Congress and voters won't be able to say they weren't warned.

To those who closely follow the voter ID wars, Hans von Spakovsky is a household name, one of the nation's leading crusaders against voter fraud, and also one of its more controversial. Days before the 2012 election, The New Yorker profiled him as "the man who has stoked fear about imposters at the poll."

By now, it's widely accepted that indiscriminate spending cuts in defense and domestic programs due to start March 1 are likely to occur owing to the failure of President Obama and the Republican-led House to reach an agreement to avoid the budgetary cleaver.

So now, the contest boils down to each side scampering for the higher ground of moral indignation.

The potential Democratic Party contest for a U.S. Senate seat between 89-year-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg and 43-year-old Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker had been shaping up to be a generational battle royale.

Alas, it won't happen now that Lautenberg has announced that he won't run for re-election in New Jersey's 2014 Senate race. In a statement, the octogenarian senator said:

President Obama's second inaugural address was widely perceived as a throwing down of the gauntlet in how it framed his progressive faith in government and challenged his Republican political opponents in any number of ways.

Given that, expect to see more glove-throwing Tuesday as the president delivers the first State of the Union speech of his second term.

Some observers are wondering why American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-inspired superPAC, would bother to run a political attack ad against Hollywood star Ashley Judd, an outspoken supporter of President Obama who has said she's mulling a 2014 run against Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The controversy over President Obama's targeted-killings-by-drone policy is a reminder that the default position of presidents in times of crisis is generally to side with national security over civil liberties.

(Revised on 2/6/1013 at 12:28 pm ET to include FCC comment.)

In Washington, there's always one kind of alleged war or another against some group or idea — the war on women, the war on religion and the war on the Second Amendment come quickly to mind.

This week, many of us became aware of another supposed conflict we had never heard of: essentially, a war on Wi-Fi.

Of all the individuals in President Obama's first-term Cabinet, physicist Steven Chu was arguably the least likely to be found in official Washington.

The Energy Department secretary, after all, was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from the University of California, Berkeley, the first science laureate to serve as a Cabinet secretary.

So what did we learn from Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel's sometimes rocky confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee?

1) We learned that the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska with the reputation for speaking his mind and not sticking to his party's talking points has through the years said lots of things that could be used against him in such a setting.

And they were. Repeatedly.

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