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Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected].

Articles by Tom Howell Jr.

In this Oct. 6, 2015, file photo, the website, where people can buy health insurance, is displayed on a laptop screen in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Milwaukee wins Obamacare signup contest, visit from president

President Obama will visit Milwaukee in the coming weeks to celebrate its winning effort in a tourney to see which city could drive its uninsured population into the Obamacare marketplace, the White House said Friday. Published February 12, 2016

CDC Director Thomas Frieden testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on emerging health threats and Zika virus supplemental request.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

CDC chief: Link between Zika, birth defect 'increasingly certain'

Evidence that the Zika virus causes serious birth defects is growing stronger by the day, the head of the Centers for Disease Control said Thursday as he lobbied Congress to approve President Obama's $1.8 billion request to the fight the rapidly spreading disease at home and abroad. Published February 11, 2016

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the fiscal 2017 HHS budget. Burwell has ashes on her forehead, Wednesday being Ash Wednesday.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

HHS: Look at uninsured rate, not Obamacare signups

President Obama's top health official told Congress Wednesday that Obamacare is making "historic" strides, even if 2016 enrollment on its web-based exchanges amounted to little more than half of what budget scorekeepers initially projected. Published February 10, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2016, as he announces the formation of six committee-led task forces charged with developing agendas on national security, tax reform, jobs, health care reform, elimination of poverty, and more. Ryan also pledged that House Republicans will schedule time this year to vote on legislation reforming the criminal justice system. (Associated Press) **FILE**

GOP eyes Obamacare replacement by summer

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has instructed his health care task force to "go big and go bold" in its push to replace Obamacare with a clear GOP alternative for voters this year -- preferably before Congress breaks this summer for the 2016 party conventions, a powerful House Republican said Wednesday. Published February 10, 2016

Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican (Associated Press) **FILE**

Tax forms pose new wrinkle in Congress's 'Obamacare exemption'

Capitol Hill lawmakers and staff are receiving tax-reporting forms that describe Congress as a large employer subject to Obamacare's "employer mandate," even as the administration describes the massive law-making body as a small business in other paperwork. Published February 10, 2016

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, decried his Republican colleagues for what he said is a weak response on clearing funds to fight Zika and the Flint, Michigan, lead-poisoned water problem. (Associated Press)

Democrats say Republicans not serious on Zika, Flint lead

Senate Democrats accused the GOP majority Tuesday of paying lip service to lead-poisoned families in Michigan and waffling in its response to the Zika virus that's threatening U.S. shores, signaling they will use both crises as a prism for each party's philosophy on federal intervention. Published February 9, 2016

President Barack Obama meets with members of this national security team and cybersecurity advisers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington,Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. At right is Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Obama uses budget to bolster his health care legacy

President Obama used his final budget proposal Tuesday to try and shore up his health care legacy before he leaves office, tweaking Obamacare's contentious "Cadillac" tax and enticing holdout states to expand Medicaid even as he targets a devastating heroin epidemic that's got the attention of both parties. Published February 9, 2016

With the first case of sexual transmission confirmed in the U.S. last week, the White House announced Monday that President Obama will request $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika at home and abroad. (Associated Press)

White House requests $1.8 billion from Congress to fight Zika virus

The World Health Organization said Monday it wants to fast-track a better test for the Zika virus as dozens of countries cope with yet another scary pandemic, saying doctors on the front lines should at least be able to single out the disease from similar infections in hard-hit Latin America. Published February 8, 2016

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell (center) tours a health insurance enrollment event at Southwest General Hospital in San Antonio on Jan. 29, 2016. Burwell was in San Antonio to encourage residents to enroll in health coverage through the federal marketplace. (Associated Press)

HHS chief says next president should preserve Obamacare's gains

President Obama's top health official said Friday the next administration should push for universal coverage by solidifying Obamacare's gains in taxpayer-subsidized coverage, urging holdout states to expand Medicaid and prodding Congress to revamp U.S. immigration laws. Published February 5, 2016

In this Oct. 6, 2015, file photo, the website, where people can buy health insurance, is displayed on a laptop screen in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Obamacare hits 12.7M customers for 2016, HHS reports

Roughly 12.7 million people have selected plans on Obamacare's exchanges, the administration said Thursday, giving the first comprehensive look at potential enrollment in the third year of the health overhaul. Published February 4, 2016

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., flanked by Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, as senators returned to work following the snowstorm that crippled the Mid-Atlantic region. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Senate Democrats block energy bill amid Flint standoff

Senate Democrats filibustered a bipartisan energy bill Thursday after Republicans refused to include $300 million in federal aid for Michigan residents afflicted by lead-tainted water in Flint. Published February 4, 2016

Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, center, leaves court with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, left, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in New York. Shkreli, who has become the poster child of pharmaceutical-industry greed after hiking the price of an anti-infection drug by more than 5,000 percent, is scheduled to appear at a congressional hearing on Thursday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

'Pharma bro' Martin Shkreli rebuffs Congress through silence

Martin Shkreli, the so-called "pharma bro" whose brash style won him few friends before an indictment for securities fraud, refused to answer Congress' questions Thursday about why he jacked up the price of a decades-old drug more than 50-fold. Published February 4, 2016

A bottle of "water from Flint" sits in front of Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb.  3, 2016, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine the ongoing situation in Flint, Mich. Flint is under a public health emergency after its drinking water became tainted when the city switched from the Detroit system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. The city was under state management at the time. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Michigan official apologizes for Flint crisis

Michigan should have acted sooner to correct the Flint water crisis, the state's top environmental official told Congress Wednesday, saying officials got caught up in technical compliance with the law instead of making sure residents had safe drinking water. Published February 3, 2016

David Vitter (Associated Press/File)

Sen. David Vitter reignites 'Obamacare exemption' fight

Sen. David Vitter this week will reignite his one-man crusade to find out how Congress managed to "exempt" itself from Obamacare by keeping an employer subsidy that everyday Americans cannot enjoy under the 2010 health overhaul. Published February 2, 2016

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., talks at a news conference in Rockville, Md., on Monday, March 9, 2015 after announcing endorsements for his candidacy for U.S. Senate.   Van Hollen announced last week he would seek the Senate seat that will be vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who announced last week she won’t run for re-election in 2016.  (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Democrats foil GOP repeal of Obamacare

House Democrats sustained President Obama's veto of an Obamacare repeal Tuesday, defeating the GOP's deepest salvo yet against the controversial health law but delivering a rallying cry to conservative Republicans in a pivotal election year. Published February 2, 2016

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2010 file photo, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate approved a long-delayed bill to boost energy efficiency Friday that includes incentives to cut energy use in commercial buildings, manufacturing plants and homes. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)

Democrats tell GOP to disband Planned Parenthood 'witch hunt'

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday told House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to "immediately disband" a taxpayer-funded probe into Planned Parenthood, saying a Texas grand jury's decision to indict the abortion provider's opponents had discredited a select committee tasked with scrutinizing groups that harvest fetal tissue. Published February 2, 2016

A man plays his guitar while he begs for money in front of a closed down business in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, on June 29, 2015. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Congress explores fiscal control board for Puerto Rico

House members and financial experts said Tuesday a "team of neutrals" is needed to oversee Puerto Rico's budget and get its fiscal house in order, as the island scrambles to pay its debts and stave off drastic service cuts to its 3.5 million residents. Published February 2, 2016

Affordable Care Act navigators help guide those looking for insurance during an enrollment event in San Antonio. (Associated Press)

Obamacare enrollment sets record with younger, healthier customers

The administration declared victory for Obamacare on Monday, saying the third year of sign-ups on the health care exchanges went smoothly and set an enrollment record, with customers younger and healthier than they have been in the past. Published February 1, 2016

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington on various topics including the Zika virus in Washington on Jan. 29, 2016. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Congress pushes Obama administration for answers on Zika

Congress asked the Obama administration Monday if it is doing enough to understand and combat the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne agent that is threatening the U.S. from Latin America and has been linked to a serious birth defect. Published February 1, 2016