Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

May 31, 2013

  • Federal Program for Distressed Homeowners Is Extended

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    Despite signs of revival in housing, the Obama administration announced on Thursday an extension of its principal program for helping distressed homeowners to get mortgage modifications and avoid foreclosure.

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  • Texas Man Being Questioned in Mail Threats to Obama, Bloomberg: Sources

    By Jonathan Dienst and Pete Williams, NBC News

    A person of interest is being questioned in connection with threatening letters sent to President Barack Obama, Mayor Bloomberg and the mayor's anti-gun group, according to law enforcement officials.

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  • The Two Faces of Michele Bachmann

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Michele Bachmann's national career has been marked by wild swings between directness and misdirection. At times, the Minnesota representative is the embodiment of Tea Party clarity. At other times, she breaks new ground minting fact-free claims that make it hard to trust politicians. One of the fact-checkers that she has kept so busy joked that her departure from Congress should be declared a national day of mourning.

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  • What Bachmann's Announcement Means for the Tea Party

    With Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's announcement that she will not not seek a fifth term in Congress marks a turning point in Congress for tea party-aligned conservatives. Janet Hook reports on the News Hub.

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  • The Long Haul in Syria

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    The civil war in Syria is heading in the wrong direction. In the last year, rebels had won control of big slices of territory, including much of the country's largest city, Aleppo. But those gains prompted a surge of military aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime: urban guerrillas from Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraq's Shiite Muslim militias, combat advisors from Iran's Revolutionary Guard and antiaircraft missiles from Russia (to prevent "hotheads" from trying to impose anything like a no-fly zone, an official in Moscow said Monday). As a result, the Assad regime has seized at least a temporary advantage.

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May 30, 2013

  • Comey In Line to Become FBI Director, Officials Say

    By Sari Horwitz and Peter Finn, Washington Post

    President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.

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  • Travels of the President Under a Microscope in an Era of Belt Tightening

    By Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

    Perhaps it is nothing more than an accident of timing that as federal workers brace for a summer filled with unpaid furlough days, their leaders are traveling the nation and globe on trips that exude luxury.

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  • Sequester Not Biting District Yet

    By Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post

    In the months since the automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequester took effect, the Washington area has added 40,000 jobs. Income-tax receipts have surged in Virginia, beating expectations. Few government contractors have laid off workers.

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  • Richest 20 Percent Get Half the Overall Savings From U.S. Tax Breaks, CBO says

    By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

    The 10 largest breaks in the U.S. tax code will save taxpayers more than $900 billion this year, with a little more than half the benefits flowing to the richest 20 percent of households, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.

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  • Pakistan Says U.S. Drone Killed Taliban Leader

    By Mark Mazzetti and Declan Walsh, The New York Times

    Less than a week after President Obama outlined a new direction for the secret drone wars, Pakistani officials said that a C.I.A. missile strike on Wednesday killed a top member of the Pakistani Taliban, an attack that illustrated the continued murkiness of the rules that govern the United States’ targeted killing operations.

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  • China Goes "Hogwild"

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

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May 29, 2013

  • McConnell Campaign Ad Uses IRS Scandal Against Obama

    By Jeff Zeleny, ABC News

    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is seizing on the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service in a new campaign advertisement, using vintage video footage of Richard Nixon to amplify his criticism of President Obama and his administration.

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  • Bachmann's Departure Relieves GOP Headache

    By Reid Wilson

    Rep. Michele Bachmann's decision to retire from Congress next year in the face of investigations by at least five different government agencies will bring to a close a political career full of sound and fury, signifying -- well, not much.

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  • Death of $500 Deductibles?

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • GOP Districts Have Become Whiter, More Conservative

    By Susan Davis and Alan Gomez, USA Today

    Momentum to overhaul the nation's immigration laws is fueled by the growing political influence of Hispanics in America, but in the U.S. House there is diminishing incentive for Republicans to support the effort because their constituents have become whiter, more conservative and less diverse than the nation as a whole.

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  • Born to Run

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie toured the rebuilt New Jersey Shore Tuesday and stopped by an arcade booth called Touchdown Fever. The game offered a stuffed bear to anyone who could toss a football through a tire. President Obama tried five times and missed. Gov. Christie threw the football through the tire on his first try. Obama gave him a high five. Christie then gave Obama the bear he won.

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May 28, 2013

  • Can A Polarized America Help Obamacare?

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    In America the Polarized, almost every issue is viewed through a partisan lens. The most recent trio of troubles to hit the White House--IRS, Benghazi, and DOJ--has elicited predictably partisan feelings. According to an ABC/Washington Post poll released this week, 74 percent of Republicans believe that the GOP-led investigation into the attacks on an American consulate in Libya is legitimate, while 71 percent of Democrats see this as nothing but political opportunism. A Pew poll finds that Republicans are paying much closer attention to all three of these issues than Democrats.

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  • Obama Keeps Distance From Torture Debate, At Least For Now

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    In his Thursday, President Obama discussed drone warfare and the Guantanamo detention camp. But a third controversial issue went largely unmentioned: the use of interrogation methods that are tantamount to torture.

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  • The Cruz Missile

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t have as many friends as he says he does. In the latest round of Cruz’s simmering debate with Sen. John McCain (who labeled Cruz a "wacko bird"), Cruz spoke of "my friend, the senior senator from Arizona" while painting him as out of touch with his party and country. It usually takes a while for senators to learn how to weaponize compliments and imprecations of friendship, but Cruz is a quick study. After a patient attack on McCain's understanding of history, Cruz said: "I know my friend from Arizona is well aware of that because he is such an esteemed historian of this body." Like use of the word "frankly," which in Washington means just the opposite, Cruz’s sentence is best read in reverse: McCain is neither a friend, esteemed, nor a historian. (He is still, however, from Arizona.)

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  • How to Save the GOP

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    The party is in desperate straits. It has lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. It consoles itself with a majority in Congress, but even there its ranks are dwindling. On nearly every issue of national significance—from social affairs to fiscal matters to foreign policy—its positions are increasingly out of step with those of the majority of Americans. Riven by factions, it sometimes seems more like a collection of squabbling interest groups than a coherent political entity. People have started muttering that it might become merely a regional concern, or even go the way of the Whigs and die out.

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