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 24, 2013

  • Fighting Continues for Fourth Day at Kenyan Mall

    By Nicholas Kulish, Jeffrey Gettleman, and Alan Cowell, The New York Times

    A bloody standoff at a Kenyan shopping mall entered its fourth confused day on Tuesday as government forces said they were picking off the militants who stormed it, while a group claiming to be connected to the attackers said militants inside the mall were still resisting the government assault.

    Read more
  • Terror Group Al Shabaab Pushed to Recruit Americans

    With Pete Williams, NBC News

    Al Shabaab was blamed for two bombings in the capital of Uganda two years ago that killed 75 people, and attacks against the government of Somalia. The group has tried to entice westerners to join, but the Somali-American community has made efforts to stop their recruitment.

    Watch more
  • Iran’s UN Diplomacy Leaves Hard Work on a Nuclear Deal

    By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg News

    With international talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear weapons program now set to resume, world powers will test whether the country is moderating its policies or merely its rhetoric.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in New York with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Sept. 26 in the highest-level formal talks between the two nations since before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, joined by their counterparts from five other powers and Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Iran also will participate in nuclear negotiations in Geneva in mid-October.

    Read more
  • Obama, Bill Clinton to Launch Health Law Push

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    As House Republicans try to throttle the nation's health reform law, President Obama this week will try to nurture it -- and to make his pitch, he’s enlisting help from President Clinton.

    Read more
  • Reid Vows Health Law Will Not Be Defunded

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that Republicans face two options by week's end: accept a stopgap spending bill that leaves untouched President Obama's health care law, or shut down the government.

    Read more
  • The Long Game

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Hillary Clinton, in her first interview after leaving the State Department, offered a wise metaphor about the current state of presidential election madness. “This election is more than three years away, and I just don’t think it’s good for the country,” she told New York magazine, referring to the fevered speculation about her possible candidacy. “It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there, and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important; in fact, maybe you came to the party to talk to that particular person, and they just want to know what’s next,” she says. “I feel like that’s our political process right now. I just don’t think it is good.”

    Read more

Sep 23, 2013

  • Budget Drama Unfolds Again, With Obamacare Center Stage

    Susan Davis, USA Today

    A political drama unfolds in the nation's capital this week as Republicans attempt to dismantle President Obama's health care law, using two budget deadlines that threaten a government shutdown and a national default as their leverage.

    Read more
  • Kenya Mall Carnage Shows Shabab Resilience

    By Nicholas Kulish, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    The ferocious armed political movement known as the Shabab is on the ropes in Somalia, losing territory and influence in its home country.

    Yet this weekend the Shabab showed that they are as dangerous as ever as a terrorist force, keeping Kenyan forces at bay through two days at the Westgate mall in Nairobi even as the militants mounted a coordinated attack against African Union forces in Mogadishu, according to senior American counterterrorism and diplomatic officials.

    Read more
  • Obama Wants "Action" From Iran Ahead of Talks

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    President Obama is looking for "concrete action" from Iran before discussing any potential relief from crippling international sanctions imposed since 2006 to constrain Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.

    The White House declined Friday to describe the “actions” sought by the administration as a test of Iran’s seriousness under newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, but Obama’s advisers re-emphasized that “a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States.”

    Read more
  • The Government Versus Small Businesses

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    Federal immigration agents showed up on Valentine's Day and turned Mark Sellew's life upside down. They wanted his employment records. They wanted to see if the workers at his nursery were legal. And to Sellew's horror, 140 of them couldn't prove it. If he wanted to stay in business, he had to dump them—as soon as he could—just as his busiest landscaping season was approaching and his need for manual labor was at its highest.

    Read more
  • U.S. Disability Rolls Swell in a Rough Economy

    By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post

    The huge mills along the Penobscot River roared virtually nonstop for more than a century, turning the dense Maine forests into paper and lifting the thousands of men who did the hot and often backbreaking work into the middle class.

    But the mills have struggled in recent years, shedding thousands of jobs. Now this area, whose well-paying jobs provided an economic foothold for generations of blue-collar workers, has become a place where an unusually large share of the unemployed are seeking economic shelter on federal disability rolls.

    Read more

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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more

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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more
  • 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.

    Read more