Scott Horsley | WYPR

Scott Horsley

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

Horsley spent a decade on the White House beat, covering both the Trump and Obama administrations. Before that, he was a San Diego-based business reporter for NPR, covering fast food, gasoline prices, and the California electricity crunch of 2000. He also reported from the Pentagon during the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining NPR in 2001, Horsley worked for NPR Member stations in San Diego and Tampa, as well as commercial radio stations in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire. Horsley began his professional career as a production assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

Horsley earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and an MBA from San Diego State University. He lives in Washington, DC, with his dog, Rosie.

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President Obama plans to meet this spring with Pope Francis.

On Tuesday, a White House spokesman announced the president will visit the Vatican as part of European trip in March. The president is said to be looking forward to talking with the pope about their "shared commitment to fighting poverty" and income inequality.

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The Justice Department will answer a challenge Friday morning to a controversial provision in the new health care law. It requires most employers that offer health insurance to include birth control at no cost.

A group of Catholic nuns has objected to that, and this week they won a temporary reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It's an unusual test case, but it won't be the last one.

The House adjourned for the holidays Thursday night after passing a two-year budget agreement. But despite pressure from Democrats, the deal did not include an extension of the long-term unemployment benefit program.

While the issue may be reconsidered in January, more than a million Americans will lose their benefits between Christmas and New Year's.

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Enrollment in the federal government's new health insurance exchange picked up sharply in November, but the number of people signing up for coverage still trails original forecasts. Officials from the Obama administration say they expect the pace of enrollments will continue to increase now that the insurance website is working more smoothly.

Users have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that begins in January.

The Obama administration says it has patched hundreds of software bugs infecting the government's health insurance website. That includes the notorious "prison glitch."

Martha Freeman of Pennsylvania encountered the bug when she tried to sign up for coverage for herself and her adult children. The website wanted documentation of the children's incarceration status.

Never mind they'd never been in prison. The website was soon locked up.

Freeman figured she was stuck in solitary, until she called the toll-free help line and discovered she wasn't alone.

As technical problems with the government's new health insurance marketplace slow the pace of sign-up, a variety of "fixes" have been proposed. But some of these would create their own challenges. In rough order from least to most disruptive, here are some of the ideas:

1) Fix the website on schedule
This is everyone's favorite idea. The Obama administration says it hopes to have HealthCare.gov working smoothly for most users by the end of November, though it's not clear that target will be met.

This week, Congress dedicates a new bust of Winston Churchill in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. The sculpture is meant to honor the British statesman's legacy of determination and resolve.

It's also a salute to Churchill's friendship with the United States — summed up in an oft-quoted line that Maine Sen. Angus King used during the recent congressional debt-ceiling debate.

As King put it: "Winston Churchill once famously observed that Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else."

Americans started thinking differently about U.S. dependence on imported oil 40 years ago this Sunday. Decades later, the U.S. is in the midst of a homegrown energy boom.

The oil embargo began in 1973. The United States had long taken cheap and plentiful oil for granted when Saudi Arabia shocked the country by suddenly cutting off all direct oil shipments in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel. Other Arab countries followed suit.

Prices soared. Gasoline lines stretched for blocks. Richard Nixon became the first of many U.S. presidents to call for energy independence.

The government shutdown grinds on with no immediate relief in sight.

President Obama says he's willing to talk with Republican lawmakers about adjustments to the health care law and other issues, but only after they re-open the government and lift the threat of a federal default.

"I'm happy to negotiate with you on anything. I don't think any one party has a monopoly on wisdom. But you don't negotiate by putting a gun to the other person's head," Obama says.

Experts in negotiation say the president's stance may be justified, but it's also risky.

This week's government shutdown could be just a warmup for an even bigger budget battle in a couple of weeks.

Congress has to raise the limit on the amount of money the federal government is allowed to borrow by Oct. 17. If the debt ceiling is not raised on time, President Obama warns that Washington won't be able to keep paying its bills.

"It'd be far more dangerous than a government shutdown, as bad as a shutdown is," Obama said Tuesday. "It would be an economic shutdown."

Drawn-out fights over spending bills are nothing new for Congress. But that's where the fights used to stay: in Congress. The rest of the country didn't have to pay much attention to countdown clocks and all this drama.

"In the '60s and '70s down until 1980, it was not taken that seriously at all," says Charles Tiefer, a former legal adviser to the House of Representatives, who now teaches at the University of Baltimore Law School. In the old days, he says, when lawmakers reached a budget stalemate, the federal workforce just went about its business.

President Obama's health care law has so far survived challenges in Congress and the courts. But its biggest test could begin next week. That's when the online marketplaces offering health care coverage to the uninsured are set to start signing people up. The question is, will they come?

President Obama took his fiscal fight with congressional Republicans to America's heartland Friday. Speaking at a Ford assembly plant near Kansas City, Mo., Obama warned that the federal government could turn into a "deadbeat" unless Congress passes a stopgap spending bill and agrees to raise the debt limit within the next few weeks.

A surprise agreement between the U.S. and Russia, announced Saturday, calls for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons by mid-2014. The deal follows a chaotic week of seat-of-the-pants foreign policy.

Performing on the international stage, Obama and his Cabinet secretaries have offered up one plot twist after another, though it often seems as if the actors are working without a script.

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President Obama will stand in the symbolic shadows of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln Wednesday, as he marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Aides say Obama will use the opportunity to celebrate the progress that's been made, thanks to the civil rights movement. He'll also discuss the work that he says still has to be done to realize King's dream of racial justice in America.

That includes fighting to protect voting rights and building what the president calls "ladders of opportunity" for poor people of all races.

President Obama toured Pennsylvania and New York by bus on Thursday and Friday to promote his college affordability plan.

He's proposing a affordability-rating system that would steer federal aid, but a budget battle with Congressional Republicans is looming.

'A Major Debate'

The tour had a back-to-school theme, but at his stop on Thursday, the fall semester hasn't even begun. Obama spoke to a packed high school gym in Syracuse.

It's back-to-school season for college students — and President Obama plans to be right there with them.

The president will spend the next two days on a bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania that includes stops at three colleges and a high school. At each stop, he'll be talking about ways to make college more affordable.

The president's big black bus will make its first stop at the University at Buffalo on Thursday — the same day incoming freshmen will be moving in, hauling suitcases and mini-refrigerators.

President Obama is in Northern Ireland Monday — the first stop on a three-day European visit that includes a G-8 summit meeting and a side trip to Berlin.

The president begins his tour with a speech in Belfast, celebrating Northern Ireland's peace process and urging young people in the country to keep it moving forward.

Later, Obama joins leaders of other industrial countries at a remote golf resort in County Fermanagh for talks on Syria, trade and the global economy.

White House economic adviser Alan Krueger took some ribbing from his boss this week. President Obama noted that Krueger will soon be leaving Washington to go back to his old job, teaching economics at Princeton.

"And now that Alan has some free time, he can return to another burning passion of his: 'Rockanomics,' the economics of rock and roll," the president said. "This is something that Alan actually cares about."

President Obama fired a warning shot Tuesday in the battle over Senate confirmations: He nominated three new judges to the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, and he challenged Senate Republicans not to stand in their way.

Obama complained about procedural roadblocks that have tied up many of his previous nominees — sometimes for years.

President Obama surrounded himself with college students at the White House on Friday and warned that the cost of student loans is about to go up.

Interest rates on government-backed college loans are set to double July 1 — unless Congress agrees on a fix before then. Obama has threatened to veto a House-passed bill that would let the cost of student loans go up and down with the market.

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