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 11, 2013

  • G.O.P. Eyes Hard Line Against Health Care Law

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    The House Republican leadership signaled Tuesday that Republicans would support an essential increase in the nation’s debt limit in mid-October only if President Obama and Democrats agree to delay putting his health insurance program into full effect — a demand that sets the stage for another economically risky confrontation.

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  • House Republicans battle over leaders’ new budget bill

    By Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post

    House Republican leaders unveiled a plan Tuesday to keep the government open past Sept. 30, but were scrambling to build support within their own ranks after conservatives savaged the proposal for failing to defund President Obama’s health initiative.

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  • Immigration Legislation Booms in State

    By Reid Wilson, Washington Post

    The drive to reform the nation’s immigration laws may be stalled in Congress, but the national debate it has inspired is at least partly responsible for a spike in new laws passed in state legislatures around the country.

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Sep 10, 2013

  • Russian Proposal Could Offer Obama Escape From Bind

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama woke up Monday facing a Congressional defeat that many in both parties believed could hobble his presidency. And by the end of the day, he found himself in the odd position of relying on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, of all people, to bail him out.

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  • Obama in the Box

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    President Obama is on the verge of creating a new foreign policy dictum: A national security threat requiring military action that cannot be justified without congressional approval isn't enough of a national security threat to get congressional approval. This isn't an iron clad truth yet, but as the president faces enormous hurdles convincing Congress to support his action in Syria, it defines the fix he is in.

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  • Senate Delays Syria Vote As Obama Loses Momentum

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    President Obama's push for congressional approval for military airstrikes in Syria ran aground Monday, forcing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to delay a procedural vote as opposition builds among senators in both parties.

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  • Bashar al-Assad: A Tyrant in Full

    By James Kitfield, National Journal

    Perhaps it’s the mournful gaze, or the starched Western suits, or the quiet reticence of a middle son who grew up in the shadow of a more dynamic brother. There might even be a trace of the eager-to-please manner of the ophthalmologist he seemed destined to become. Whatever it is about his demeanor, powerful men and women chronically underestimate Bashar al-Assad.

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  • Jewish Lawmakers Under Pressure on Syria

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    With John Kerry and other supporters of U.S. military action against Syria comparing Damascus to Nazi Germany, the Obama administration is putting extraordinary pressure on members of Congress to approve a strike meant to punish Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons.

    But even Jewish members of Congress – for whom such Holocaust references are particularly powerful – are struggling with whether to authorize action. In fact, while Jewish lawmakers are more supportive of military strikes than the House and Senate at large, they remain divided.

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  • The United States of Weakness

    By John F. Harris and Alexander Burns, Politico

    Red lines that may or may not be real, retaliatory strikes that may or may not be hours from launch, congressional debates that may or may not be necessary for the president to do what he wants—whatever that happens to be this hour.

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Sep 09, 2013

  • Will US Strike Syria Without House Majority Vote?

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • Congress Returns With Long To-Do List, Short Timetable

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Congress returns Monday with 39 legislative days scheduled before the end of the year to debate the most consequential foreign policy vote under President Obama, resolve pressing budget deadlines and determine whether an immigration overhaul has a fighting chance before the 2014 elections.

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  • Syria Adds to Congress' Already Heavy Fall Agenda

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Congress’ September agenda, already destined to be tense and dramatic, got worse while lawmakers were away this summer. Now they end their five-week recess by plunging into an emotional debate over whether to launch missile strikes against Syria.

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  • Obama to Visit Capitol Hill to Make Case for Syria Strike

    By Jeff Zeleny, ABC News

    President Obama is planning to visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday, making his case on Syria face-to-face with senators, ABC News has learned.

    The president is scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats at their weekly policy luncheon, two Democratic aides said, intensifying his outreach as part of the administration’s push for military strikes with Syria. He could also meet with other members of Congress, particularly those who remain undecided on Syria, officials said.

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  • To Strike, Or Not To atrike, Syria?

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    After two weeks of furious debate about whether the United States should attack Syria, the arguments on both sides are now clear.

    Haven't been paying attention? Still undecided? Here are the most cogent arguments for and against a military strike.

    First, the case for intervention.

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Sep 06, 2013

  • White House Looks to Syria Vote as Rudder for Rest of Term

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama and his advisers view the coming decision on military action against Syria as a potential turning point that could effectively define his foreign policy for his final three years in office. As he lobbied world leaders at a summit meeting here in person and members of Congress back in Washington by telephone on Thursday, Mr. Obama argued that a failure to act would be an abdication of the so-called indispensable role played by the United States since the end of the cold war, leaving no one to step in when international bodies fail to.

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  • Obama, From Russia, Urges U.S. Lawmakers to Back Strike on Syria

    By Ed O'Keefe and Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

    President Obama scrambled with senior advisers Thursday to soften resistance to a military strike against the Syrian government among U.S. lawmakers and some of Obama’s most reliable global allies.  Obama has staked the credibility of the United States — and his presidency — on his call for a military operation to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last month.

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  • Pentagon Is Ordered to Expand Potential Targets in Syria With a Focus on Forces

    By David Sanger and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    President Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.

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  • The Fun-House Mirror That Is the Syria Decision

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Alan Lowenthal has a headache.  Who can blame him? The freshman House member, a California Democrat, is genuinely torn—torn up, really—over whether to vote for military strikes against Syria. After a classified briefing Wednesday in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he was heading back to Long Beach, no closer to a decision than before.

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  • August Town Halls Tell Us Nothing

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    Before Syria took center stage this weekend, the media attention on Congress had been focused on what Members learned while home for August recess. Given the large number of important issues Congress will have to confront this fall – immigration, health care, the debt ceiling, sequestration, etc. – it would make sense to hear what regular Americans have been telling their local representatives about those issues over the summer recess.

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Sep 05, 2013

  • Obama Says ‘World Set a Red Line’ on Chemical Arms

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama declared on Wednesday that the confrontation with Syria over chemical weapons was not a personal test for him but for Congress, the United States and the world as he worked to strengthen support at home and abroad for a punitive strike.

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