Ari Shapiro

In the final leg of the campaign in Iowa, the Republican presidential candidates are talking about judges. No one has made them a bigger issue than Newt Gingrich.

Overhauling the judiciary has become one of his key proposals on the stump.

Conservatives have used "activist judges" as a battle cry for many election cycles now. But in Iowa, the issue has special resonance since the judiciary became a potent political issue two years ago.

The last American troops are coming home from Iraq this month, and President Obama is marking the occasion with a series of events to commemorate the conclusion of the war.

On Wednesday at Fort Bragg, N.C., he and the first lady will thank troops for their service.

This event is a decade in the making, with far-reaching implications including domestic political consequences.

At the end of this month, a payroll tax cut is set to expire that the White House says would result in a tax increase of about $1,000 per year on most middle-class families. The benefit is popular with the American people, which may be one reason President Obama has been relentlessly promoting it.

The president argues that extending the payroll tax "holiday" through 2012 is vital to the economy. Republicans in Congress are divided over that, but they strongly disagree with the president's plan to pay for it with a surtax on millionaires.

A group of more than 100 volunteers helped decorate the White House this year, covering the mansion in Christmas trees, cookie ornaments and several versions of the Obamas' dog, Bo. The real stars, however, were the military families who joined the celebration.

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Four years ago in Florida, Mitt Romney failed to persuade Republicans that he should be the party's nominee for president. He aims to make sure that doesn't happen this time. Romney made two quick campaign stops in that state yesterday. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports he made a special effort to appeal to Florida's Latino voters.

Tucked away in a corner of the White House's Old Executive Office Building, an office that most people have never heard of affects millions of Americans' lives. It's the last hurdle that every proposed regulation must surmount before seeing the light of day. And a new study of this obscure part of the government suggests that President Obama is altering more of those regulations than President George W. Bush did.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep. Congress threatened itself with punishment if it failed to act. Lawmakers promised automatic spending cuts if a special committee failed to reduce the deficit. Now that they have failed, some want a way out of the punishment with which they had threatened themselves. This may be just one more episode in a long fight over taxes and spending, as we hear from NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Through the ups and downs of the Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has remained in effect the front-runner.

He has done so even without holding as many rallies, town hall meetings or meet-and-greet events as some of the other candidates. He's also done fewer media appearances.

President Obama has a low-key day in Hawaii Monday, before he flies to Australia and Indonesia. His weekend was full of diplomatic meetings at a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders. The president believes the U.S. has not paid enough attention to that region over the last decade. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, he's promising to devote more resources the Pacific Rim.

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