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 13, 2013

  • More Tea Party Troubles for the GOP

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    As the GOP leadership in the House struggles to unite its fractious members around a deal to avoid a government shutdown or a default on the nation’s debt, polling from Pew out this week shows why that may be harder than ever.

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  • The Day John Boehner Admitted He's Totally at a Loss

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    On Tuesday, after John Boehner’s last gambit to pass a government-funding bill ran aground in the face of a Tea Party revolt, a reporter asked the House speaker if he had any idea what he’d do next.

    “No. Do you have an idea?” Boehner replied, according to Politico. “They’ll just shoot it down anyway.”

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Sep 12, 2013

  • A Rare Public View of Obama’s Pivots on Policy in Syria Confrontation

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    When President Obama strode into the Rose Garden last month after a week of increasing tension over Syria’s use of chemical weapons, many assumed it was to announce that the attack that had been broadly hinted at by his own aides had begun. Instead, he turned the decision over to Congress. And when Mr. Obama appeared on television Tuesday night, a speech initially intended to promote force made the argument for diplomacy.

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  • Obama’s War-and-Diplomacy Appeal on Syria Presents Fresh Risks to Administration

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    It’s been said there are no do-overs in life. But President Obama may be getting the closest thing to it with his abrupt turn toward diplomacy on Syria. Still, it is a path as fraught with problems and risks for the president as was his inability to win public and congressional support for targeted strikes.

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  • Obama's Syria Strategy: Deft Improvisation or Impulsive Risk-Taking?

    By Christi Parsons and Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times

    In the last two weeks, President Obama has brought the United States to the brink of another military operation, then backed off unexpectedly. He went abroad and tried to rally international partners to join his cause, but returned empty-handed. He launched one of the biggest public relations and lobbying campaigns of his presidency, then aborted the mission. He called the nation to its televisions to make the case for using force, but made the case for more diplomacy.

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  • Kerry Consults Kissinger on Getting to Yes With Russians

    By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg News

    Secretary of State John Kerry consulted with Henry Kissinger, the 90-year-old embodiment of Cold War foreign policy, before heading off to negotiate with his Russian counterpart over Syria’s chemical weapons.

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  • Senate Sets Aside Resolution on Military Strike Against Syria

    By Karen DeYoung and Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post

    The Senate on Wednesday at least temporarily put aside a resolution to authorize the use of force against Syria as the Obama administration appealed for patience while it explored Russia’s proposal to monitor and ultimately destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

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  • GOP Split on 'Obamacare' Delays Budget Vote

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    A divide within the Republican Party over whether to use upcoming budget votes to defund and delay President Obama's health care law forced House Republicans to push off until next week a vote on a stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government running through mid-December.

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Sep 11, 2013

  • Obama’s Plea

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    President Obama’s address about his Syria policy felt like the policy itself at times. He went ahead with it just because he promised he would. The purpose of the East Room address was to rally the country and members of Congress to support a military strike against Syria, but the Congressional vote to do so has been postponed while a possible diplomatic solution is pursued. So the president’s speech was like delivering a locker room speech after the rain delay had been called.

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  • President Obama’s Zig vs. Zag

    By John Harris, Politico

    Two weeks of zig-zag foreign policy by President Barack Obama — marching to war one moment, clinging desperately to diplomacy the next — culminated Tuesday night, appropriately enough, in a zig-zag address to the nation that did little to clarify what will come next in the Syria crisis but shined a glaring hot light on the debate in the president’s own mind.

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  • An Unlikely Evolution, From Casual Proposal to Possible Resolution

    By Peter Baker and Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times

    The afternoon gathering of world leaders was just breaking up in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday when President Vladimir V. Putin walked over to President Obama and began chatting casually. Mr. Obama suggested they sit down, and the two pulled chairs into a corner of the room.

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  • 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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