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!

Jan 16, 2014

  • John Kerry's bicycle diplomacy in the Middle East

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Peace negotiations, a wise U.S. diplomat once said, are like riding a bicycle: No matter how slow you're moving, it's best to keep going — because if you try to stand still, you'll fall.

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  • Is Chris Christie presidential?

    By Gloria Borger, CNN

    It's a cliche of American presidential politics -- the president we elect is always a reaction to what came before. As in: Nixonian shenanigans eventually gave rise to Jimmy Carter's self-righteousness. Clintonesque parsing gave way to George W. Bush's plain speaking. Bush's plain speaking begat Barack Obama's lofty speechifying.

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Jan 15, 2014

  • Obama to Place Some Restraints on Surveillance

    By Peter Baker and Charlie Savage, The New York Times

    President Obama will issue new guidelines on Friday to curtail government surveillance, but will not embrace the most far-reaching proposals of his own advisers and will ask Congress to help decide some of the toughest issues, according to people briefed on his thinking.

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  • N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers

    By David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, The New York Times

    The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

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  • Congress set to pass $1.1 trillion spending plan

    By Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post

    Congress is on the verge of adopting a federal budget this week without the threat of a government shutdown or any other form of economic or political crisis, a development so unusual that the institution suddenly does not resemble its most recent partisan self.

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  • The Presidential Power Paradox

    As Bridgeimbroglio unfolds in New Jersey, we are likely to get to a forensic tour through Chris Christie's administration. Democrats in the Legislature are investigating, the U.S. attorney is too, and the news media are picking through every trash bin. The Political Institute of Dark Arts is also probably doing an in-house review to see how someone could so badly mishandle the use of intimidation and political pressure.

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  • Christie faces speculation about aides’ real motives in New Jersey bridge scandal

    By Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa, Washington Post

    Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) struggled Tuesday to regain his footing, giving an address in which he called upon the state to refocus on his agenda. But his inability to explain the actions of top aides and allies in causing a massive days-long traffic jam has spawned a storm of conjecture about what their real motives may have been.

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Jan 14, 2014

  • Lawmakers release $1 trillion spending bill

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    House and Senate negotiators unveiled a $1.012 trillion spending bill late Monday to fund the government until October and eliminate the threat of another shutdown during that time.

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  • Lawmakers unveil massive $1.1 trillion spending bill in bipartisan compromise

    By Lori Montgomery and Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post

    Congressional negotiators unveiled a $1.1 trillion funding bill late Monday that would ease sharp spending cuts known as the sequester while providing fresh cash for new priorities, including President Obama’s push to expand early-childhood education.

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  • The winners and losers of the new spending bill

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    Congressional negotiators released the details of a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year and end the lingering threat of another government shutdown.

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  • 24 Percent of Obamacare Enrollees Are Under 35, Data Show

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    Size matters when it comes to measuring the public’s embrace of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. So the first demographic dissection of enrollment through the federal and state insurance marketplaces offered a cautiously optimistic picture of how things are working, according to administration officials.

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  • Surveillance Controversy: NSA Versus Tech Companies

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    National Security Agency officials say their relations with tech companies have been strained by the news of the agency's surveillance programs. Tech fortunes rest on the ability to keep their users' data secure, but the NSA wants access to that data.

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Jan 13, 2014

  • The Era of Big Legislation is (Almost) Over

    By Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post

    Today, negotiators are expected to unveil a more than $1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year that should be easily passed by the end of the week. Later this month, a conference committee is expected to put the finishing touches on a long-delayed Farm Bill. And completion of those two big bills will come just a few weeks after Congress passed a bipartisan budget agreement with very little resistance.

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  • Energy 2014: New Battles Loom in a Long War

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    This is the year President Obama could spark a war. And it won't be overseas.

    In key states important in a midterm election year, conservative activists and coal country representatives have joined forces to accuse Obama and congressional Democrats who support him of trying shutter an industry. These efforts, Republicans say, are killing jobs and making electricity more expensive for consumers.

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  • Critics Say Chemical Spill Highlights Lax West Virginia Regulations

    By Coral Davenport and Ashley Southall, The New York Times

    Last week’s major chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, which cut off water to more than 300,000 people, came in a state with a long and troubled history of regulating the coal and chemical companies that form the heart of its economy.

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  • Christie bridge controversy exposes a GOP rising star to new scrutiny

    By Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa, Washington Post

    The brash qualities that have made Chris Christie one of the fastest-rising stars in politics — and a putative Republican front-runner for the presidency in 2016 — are suddenly looming as the biggest threat to his future prospects.

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  • Republicans Want to Talk Education, but Will They Fund It?

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    The GOP's response to President Obama's income-inequity message is to push job-training and education proposals. Those could work, helping people to get the skills they need to start climbing the economic ladder again. But first, Republicans in Congress would have to agree to do something more than talk about it. They may even have to cough up some money for it.

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Jan 10, 2014

  • Obama Seeks Balance in Plan for Spy Programs

    By Peter Baker and Charlie Savage, The New York Times

    As he assembles a plan to overhaul the nation’s surveillance programs, President Obama is trying to navigate what advisers call a middle course that will satisfy protesting national security agencies while tamping down criticism by civil liberties advocates.

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  • How damaged is Chris Christie?

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    Two months after winning reelection in a landslide, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has hit the lowest point of his political career.

    The fall came quickly for the brash governor. His reputation for blunt talk and his seeming enthusiasm for confronting anyone who disagrees with him always have been part asset and part liability. The worry for Christie is that the scandal over massive traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, ordered by his own people, could tip the scales decisively in the direction of liability.

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  • Christie’s Jenga Tower

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    For two hours New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did a full hangout, or at least as close as we're likely to get in politics these days. He held a marathon press conference to respond to the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal that exploded Wednesday and imperiled his presidential aspirations. He announced that he was firing the staffer responsible, cutting some ties with one of his top political aides, and investigating what other abuses might be left uncovered. He then took round after round of questions in which he fulfilled most of the compulsory requirements of the public self-flagellation routine. He apologized, took responsibility, called himself “embarrassed and humiliated,” said the "buck stops here," expressed regret, denounced the activity several times as "callous" and "stupid," and announced that he was visiting the injured parties today.

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