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!

Sep 20, 2013

  • Who Voted for the House Short-Term Budget Plan?

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    The House passed a short-term spending plan Friday morning that would continue funding government operations through mid-December and withhold funding for President Obama’s signature health-care law, the opening act in what promises to be a several-act drama over how to pay for government operations and raise the federal debt limit.

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  • Lawmakers Scale Back Ambitions as Government Shutdown Looms

    By Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post

    When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor rolled out a list of Republican demands this week for raising the federal debt limit, there was a surprising omission: any real plan to tackle the debt.

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  • The GOP’s Suicide Squeeze

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    During the periodic budget fits that have seized Washington for the last several years, President Obama and his team have made a consistent claim about negotiating with Republicans. No matter what the president tries, or whom he negotiates with, the White House can never make progress because congressional Republicans are controlled by a hard-right faction that refuses to compromise or accept anything less than total victory. According to Obama, that is what killed the famous “grand bargain” talks with House Speaker John Boehner in the summer of 2011, and it's what killed the so-called Supper Club negotiations on the budget this summer with Republican senators. Now the GOP is handing the president more evidence for his claim. Republicans, including staunch conservatives, admit that a small band of ultrapure conservatives have forced the larger congressional GOP membership into a witless act of blundering self-destruction.

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  • House Approves GOP Plan to Slash Food Stamp Funding

    By Ed O'Keefe and Niraj Choksi, The Washington Post

    House Republicans narrowly approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s food stamp program Thursday that would slash about $39 billion in funding over the next decade, cut aid to about 4 million Americans in the next few years and shift the burden of providing aid to some of the nation’s poor to state governments.

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  • What Can the Colorado Recall Tell Us About 2014?

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    Last week, Republicans successfully recalled two sitting Democratic state legislators who supported gun control legislation, including one from a district that gave Obama almost 60 percent of the vote. In the aftermath of this surprising outcome, many Democrats blamed “voter suppression,” arguing that an inability to vote by mail disenfranchised their base. Meanwhile, Republicans involved in the recall fight called it a victory for those who “will not tolerate an imposition of un-checked government over-reach on their lives.” Moreover say those Republicans, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who signed the gun legislation into law, will be extremely vulnerable in 2014.

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  • Iran Said to Seek a Nuclear Accord to End Sanctions

    By Thomas Erdbrink and Mark Landler, The New York Times

    Iran’s leaders, seizing on perceived flexibility in a private letter from President Obama, have decided to gamble on forging a swift agreement over their nuclear program with the goal of ending crippling sanctions, a prominent adviser to the Iranian leadership said Thursday.

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Sep 19, 2013

  • Obama Accuses GOP Faction of Trying to 'extort' Him on Healthcare

    By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama on Wednesday accused Republicans of using extortion in trying to kill his signature healthcare plan just days before it is implemented.

    Speaking to business leaders, Obama criticized what he called “that faction” of the GOP that is willing to consider shutting down the government or defaulting on the debt to gut the Affordable Care Act.

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  • Would a Government Shutdown Really Be All That Bad for Republicans? Yes

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Go ahead, shut it down! That's the new cheer from the conservatives pushing to defund Obamacare. To their lily-livered compatriots who worry that the Senate will reject the defunding gambit, resulting in a shutdown when the federal government runs out of money at the end of this month, they claim that wouldn't actually be so bad: Americans, they say, would cheer the Republicans for sticking to their principles and opposing the unpopular health-care legislation.

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  • House to Vote on Deep Cuts to Food-Stamp Program

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    The years-long fight over federal funding for food stamps is set for another showdown Thursday when House Republicans plan to vote on a proposal to dramatically curtail aid to needy Americans. Every Democrat is expected to vote against the proposal.

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  • And what’s right with President Obama?

    By Todd S. Purdum and John F. Harris, Politico

    The British have a saying about the twin rules of journalism: first simplify, then exaggerate.

    Perhaps Barack Obama can comfort himself with the reality that his current travails are both more complicated in their causes and less dire in their consequences than they are being portrayed in the Washington echo chamber.

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  • Tweeting From the Trail: How to save presidential campaign coverage before 2016.

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    In the 2016 presidential campaign there will be lots of unexpected twists, but one thing is certain: A lot of us are going to find the process frustrating and shallow. That is the trajectory of American elections, and it is getting worse. The rise of Twitter and other instantaneous forms of communication have made the news cycle shorter and its content less meaningful. Rising partisanship means more flash-point moments to excite the devoted but leave everyone else exhausted.

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Sep 18, 2013

  • Budget Office Warns That Deficits Will Rise Again Because Cuts Are Misdirected

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    As the White House and Congress careen toward another fiscal showdown, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned on Tuesday that President Obama and lawmakers have been cutting the wrong kind of federal spending as they try to avoid the unsustainable buildup of debt that is projected in the coming decades.

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  • As Budget Fight Looms, Obama Sees Defiance in His Own Party

    By Peter Baker and and Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times

    For four years, President Obama counted on fellow Democrats to rally to his side in a series of epic battles with Republicans over the direction of the country. But now, deep in his fifth year in office, Mr. Obama finds himself frustrated by members of his own party weary of his leadership and increasingly willing to defy him.

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  • Navy Yard Shooting Unlikely to Jump-Start the Debate Over Tougher Gun Control Laws

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    The deadly shootings at the Washington Navy Yard have quickly, and predictably, resurrected the debate about tighter federal gun laws, but there is little expectation that the tragic event will generate enough political momentum to produce any new legislation.

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  • Democrats: Still Not Enough Support for Gun Bills

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The day after a mass shooting in the nation's capital that left 12 Navy Yard workers dead, top Democrats said the tragedy has not changed the political reality in Congress, where any legislation affecting gun owners' rights does not have the support to pass.

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  • Officials: Edward Snowden's Leaks Were Masked By Job Duties

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    More than three months after Edward Snowden revealed details of NSA secret surveillance activities, intelligence officials are still assessing the fallout from the former contractor's disclosures. But they already know how the Snowden leaks happened.

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  • On Foreign Policy, a Consistently Inconsistent President

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    In the wake of his dizzying reverses over chemical weapons in Syria, President Obama has been blasted as inconsistent, impulsive and amateurish in his conduct of foreign policy. But when you look at his actions rather than his words, there's more consistency than meets the eye. Consider the evidence.

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Sep 17, 2013

  • Obama: Shooting Victims Were "Patriots"

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    President Obama promised a thorough and "seamless" investigation into shootings at the Washington Navy Yard that killed military and civilian personnel and injured others during a melee that gripped the nation's capital on a drizzly Monday morning.

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  • Audit: Felons Gained Access to Military Sites

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    At least 52 convicted felons have received routine unauthorized access to military installations in recent years, according to a federal watchdog report on security at several U.S. Navy installations set for release in the coming days.

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  • Why Hasn't Obama Nominated Yellen to Fed Already?

    With Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

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