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Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at

Articles by Tom Howell Jr.

This Wednesday, April 23, 2014, photo shows electronic cigarettes and accessories displayed at a store in Chicago. For the first time, a government survey released on Thursday, April 16, 2015, says U.S. teen cigarette smoking fell below 10 percent, but dramatic increases in teens puffing electronic cigarettes and hookahs offset the use of traditional nicotine products like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Teen smoking fell as e-cigarette use boomed: CDC

Teenage use of e-cigarettes tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to a government study released Thursday that says use of electronic butts among middle and high school students now outpaces conventional cigarettes or any other tobacco product. Published April 16, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, followed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, following a GOP strategy meeting. In a direct challenge to the White House, a Senate committee pushed toward a vote on a bill that would give Congress a chance to weigh in on any final nuclear agreement that can be reached with Iran. The top Republican leaders in the House and Senate insisted on Tuesday that lawmakers have a say. Boehner said "Congress should absolutely have the opportunity to review this deal," telling reporters. "The administration appears to want a deal at any cost."  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Senate votes to negotiate final, GOP-driven budget with House

The Republican-led Senate voted Wednesday to enter final budget talks with allies in the House, clearing the way for a plan that seeks balance within a decade while cuing up a coveted path to repealing Obamacare. Published April 15, 2015

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine IRS challenges in implementing the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ** FILE **

IRS commish: Tax season 'better than anticipated' this year, despite Obamacare horror tales

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress Wednesday that Obamacare's first dance with tax season has gone relatively smoothly and will only get better in coming years, despite horror stories about erroneous forms, surprisingly high tax penalties and faulty income estimates that forced some to pay back health-exchange subsidies. Published April 15, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, following a Senate policy luncheon.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Senate passes Medicare overhaul, ending 'doc fix' ritual

The Senate rallied late Tuesday to pass a landmark Medicare overhaul that locks in doctors' rates while requiring wealthier seniors to pay more, erasing an awkward ritual in which Congress ignored scheduled provider cuts each year without funding a permanent fix. Published April 14, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. participates in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 24, 2015, with members of the House GOP leadership. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Budget, Medicare spending deadlines loom before Congress

Fresh from a two-week vacation, Congress is back and already struggling to meet a pair of looming deadlines, with no prospect for a budget and little progress on breaking a stalemate on Medicare spending. Published April 13, 2015

Uninsured rate continues to drop in Obamacare era: poll

The uninsured rate continued to drop in the age of Obamacare, according to a survey released Monday that showed a 1 percentage point dip from the final quarter of 2014 to the start of this year. Published April 13, 2015

Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat (Associated Press)

Senate faces deadline on medical funding bill

Senators return to work Monday facing an immediate deadline for a bill to avert major pay cuts for doctors who treat Medicare patients, but grumbling among conservative fiscal hawks and some liberals could force the Senate to miss the cutoff. Published April 12, 2015

Republicans work against deadline to pass budget; Obamacare hopes hang in balance

Congressional Republicans are likely to miss an April 15 deadline the law sets for passing a unified budget, with lawmakers set to return from a two-week break on April 13, with plenty of differences still to hash out between the House and Senate over everything from the size of spending cuts to revamping Medicare. Published April 9, 2015

In this Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 photo, a laptop shows the web site during an Affordable Care Act enrollment event at the Fort Worth Public Library in Fort Worth, Texas. (Associated Press) ** FILE **

Health care coalition demands better data from Obamacare

Insurers, a tech company and advocacy groups banded together Thursday to demand that Obamacare provide better data to consumers on price and quality, saying it's easier to compare hotel rooms than it is to choose between health care plans. Published April 9, 2015

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said the "doc fix" would cost taxpayers a net $141 billion over the next decade, and would bring Congress disrepute. (Associated Press)

Conservatives push back against 'doc fix'

Conservatives are pressing GOP congressional leaders to scrap or alter the Medicare doctor payments deal they struck with Democrats last month, insisting that Congress at least find a way to pay for all of the reforms so taxpayers don't get stuck with higher bills or debt later this decade. Published April 8, 2015

President Barack Obama speaks during his visit to Howard University in Washington, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Obama visited the university's medical center to discuss the impact of climate change on public health and steps his administration is taking to reduce the health impacts of climate change on communities. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Obama: Health law deserves an '8' out of 10

President Obama gives his signature health law an "8" on a scale from 1 to 10, saying there is still room to improve the 2010 overhaul that's been a political flashpoint since passage. Published April 8, 2015