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!

Oct 21, 2013

  • Despite setback, GOP has impressive budgetary wins

    by Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Democrats who gloat over Republicans' bad week in Congress might pause to recall that conservatives still own major victories from past budget showdowns. And these wins may again thwart Democrats' hopes of changing tax-and-spend policies in two-party talks beginning anew in the Capitol.

    Read more
  • Bipartisan Deals Can Only Pass Inside a Narrow Window. Here Are the Dates.

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    While Congress now seems entirely at the mercy of its own internal dysfunction, there will come a time next year when, in theory at least, House Republicans will be in the best position to vote on divisive issues such as immigration or maybe even a long-term budget deal.

    Read more
  • Government shutdown: Plenty of lessons to go around

    by Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Obama and the Democrats won; Republicans and the tea party lost. And both sides are gearing up for next time. Now that our recent brush with financial crisis is behind us, it's time to start planning for the next one.

    Read more
  • Americans Felt Betrayed by the Shutdown

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Could Americans really get any angrier at Washington? Even before the recent government shutdown, congressional approval hovered around 10 percent, a minority thought the country was on the right track, and a “throw the bums out” mentality was rampant. Railing against the toxic mess in D.C. has been a winning strategy for politicians from Barack Obama on down for years now.

    Read more
  • You Have Questions About The NSA; We Have Answers

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The revelations by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has raised many complicated issues. NPR's national security correspondent Tom Gjelten answers questions submitted by NPR listeners and readers.

    Listen to the report

Oct 18, 2013

  • Two Parties Start Work to Avoid Repeat Crisis

    By Jackie Calmes and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times

    With the government reopened and a debt default averted for now, Congressional negotiators on Thursday plunged into difficult budget talks to avoid a repeat crisis within months, and quickly agreed to lower their sights from the sort of grand bargain that has eluded the two parties for three years.

    Read more
  • The Challenge for Lawmakers to Give Up Their Pay

    With Jeff Zeleny, ABC News

    Watch more
  • Can Obama Seize The Moment And Make Washington Work?

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    It’s rare when a president is given an opportunity to reboot in the middle of a term, but that’s what the end of the government shutdown has provided President Obama. The question now is: What will he do with it?

    Read more
  • Obama’s Edge Over G.O.P. Is Still Unclear After Victory in Standoff

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    As the Senate voted Wednesday night on a bipartisan deal to reopen the government and avert a national default, President Obama emerged from the Oval Office prepared to head to the White House briefing room to deliver a televised statement. But he was thinking beyond the moment.

    Read more
  • Analysis: Republicans Reassess After Shutdown Debacle

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    The GOP establishment has embarked, once again, on a round of soul-searching. But this time, the question is: What will it take to save the Republicans from the self-destructive impulses of the tea party movement?

    Read more
  • Winning!

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    At his Thursday press conference, President Obama declared, "There are no winners"—just before he proceeded to act like a man who had just won. The morning after the budget crisis ended, the president's remarks were extensive and clear about who was to blame for the 16-day standoff that cost the economy roughly $24 billion, by one estimate.* The president outlined all that had been sacrificed—from slowed economic growth and higher deficits to America's damaged credibility in the world. He suggested his opponents were too witless to avoid being cowed by bloggers and talk radio, and had risked the very American experiment our predecessors spent two centuries building. The public, which had overwhelmingly blamed Republicans, no doubt knew who he was talking about and who to blame. If it wasn’t clear, the president had a piece of advice for those Republicans: Rather than trying to "break" the government because they disagreed with him, they should "go out there and win an election."

    Read more
  • The Ties That Bind

    By Todd Purdum, Politico

    Some first-blush post-mortems of the Great Seinfeld Shutdown of 2013 have missed one bigger point.

    John Boehner may have got next to nothing in his 16-day standoff with the White House — except a reprieve from the red-hots in his own caucus who are grateful for the rope he gave them. But Barack Obama got not much more. The president’s “victory” is so far only a ticket to fight the same battles all over again early next year.


    Read more

Oct 17, 2013

  • Government Reopens After Shutdown; Obama Urges Congress to Resist ‘Extremists’

    By Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

    Federal agencies, parks, museums and monuments began to reopen Thursday morning, after a chastened Congress ended a bitter funding standoff that triggered a 16-day government closure and drove the nation toward the brink of default.

    Read more
  • Obama Wins

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    President Obama said he wouldn’t negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt limit and funding the government, and he never really needed to pick up the phone. The deal that passed both houses of Congress Wednesday achieves both goals, with minuscule concessions from the president's side. In the crude analogy of two cars playing chicken, the president's opponents pulled over. After 16 days of a government shutdown, the Republican Party has achieved its lowest approval ratings in recorded history, the president's health care plan is unscathed, and the GOP’s civil war still roars. Proof was on the cable television split-screens. As Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was announcing the bipartisan deal that ended the standoff, Sen. Ted Cruz was holding his own press conference denouncing the Senate establishment that had caved.

    Read more
  • Boehner's Jam: Caucus Loves but Won't Follow Him

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Congress' debt-and-spending breakthrough crystalized a political contradiction.

    House Republicans refuse to let their supposed leader, Speaker John Boehner, steer them toward big policy decisions, leaving him to endure repeated public embarrassments. Yet they rally around Boehner as much as ever, affirming his hold on the speakership Wednesday even as they choked down a Democratic-crafted bill to reopen the government, lift the debt ceiling and give Republicans only a few small concessions.

    Read more
  • Can Congress Get Past Political Differences?

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    Watch more
  • The Conservative War on the GOP

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    On his radio show recently, Glenn Beck urged his listeners to “defund the GOP.” Sarah Palin has threatened to leave the Republican Party; Rush Limbaugh calls it “irrelevant.” The Senate Conservatives Fund has targeted mainly incumbent Republican senators for defeat. Erick Erickson, one of the right’s most prominent commentators, wonders if what's coming is “a real third party movement that will fully divide the Republican Party.”

    Conservatives have declared war on the GOP.

    Read more
  • Shutdown Resolution May Just Push Washington’s Dysfunction into 2014

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    Washington, once again, has stepped back from the brink. But does the rout of tea party Republicans suggest an end to the dysfunctional cycle in which governing consists of lurching from crisis to crisis?

    Don’t count on it.

    Read more

Oct 16, 2013

  • Signs Indicate That Obama’s Debt Ceiling Gamble May Be Paying Off

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    More than two years ago, President Obama was still in the thick of his previous showdown with Republican House leaders over the nation’s debt limit when he called five senior advisers into his office. He did not ask their advice, one said. Rather, he told them, in a way that brooked no discussion: From now on, no more negotiating over legislation so basic and essential to the economy, and the country.

    Read more
  • Top House Democrat Warns: ‘Economy Is On The Edge Of A Waterfall’

    By Jeff Zeleny, ABC News

    Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, issued an urgent warning Tuesday night about the consequences of a partial government default, declaring: “The economy is on the edge of a waterfall.”

    Read more