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!

Dec 30, 2013

  • What to expect from DC in 2014

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • Red, blue states move in opposite directions in a new era of single-party control

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    Political polarization has ushered in a new era in state government, where single-party control of the levers of power has produced competing Americas. One is grounded in principles of lean and limited government and on traditional values; the other is built on a belief in the essential role of government and on tenets of cultural liberalism.

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  • A Beltway pundit's cloudy crystal ball

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    To err is human. To err twice a week, you have to be a columnist.

    In 2012, I cemented my reputation as a pundit by making some notable blunders — predicting, for example, that the presidential election would be too close to call. The race was "unpredictable," I wrote, "razor close."

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  • Jobless Benefits Halt May Be Key Issue in Midterms

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    If lawmakers decide next month to end a high-stakes impasse over extending long-term unemployment insurance benefits that expired Saturday, an estimated 1.3 million jobless Americans may receive compensation for three additional months or longer.

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  • Kerry’s Energizer Bunny Diplomacy Takes Risks for Wins

    After less than a year as secretary of state, John Kerry has emerged as a relentless evangelist for can-do -- or try-to-do -- diplomacy who’s taken risks, veered off-script and notched some tangible if tentative wins.

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Dec 24, 2013

  • This year’s 5 key congressional moments

    With Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post

    Despite the historic lack of productivity, it was a busy year on Capitol Hill with shutdowns, shootings, filibusters, historic budget deals and scandal.

    Which moments were most important and memorable? Here’s a quick video essay

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  • The Battle Within the Democratic Party

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Things are not going well for Democrats. Riding high just weeks ago after Republicans shut down the government, the party now finds itself in a swoon: President Obama’s ratings have hit an all-time low. The implementation of healthcare reform remains a mess. Vulnerable Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from the White House, and the party is on track to lose seats in the House and Senate next year.

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  • A toast to the bad old days

    By Todd S. Purdum, Politico

    The Democratic president was at loggerheads with the House Republican leader after a rancorous session of Congress. A liberal White House adviser badmouthed the leader to the press, and the president had to apologize. In the end, a bipartisan Christmas spirit prevailed, and the business of governing got done.

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  • Obamacare Good Enough for Obama?

    With Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    Bloomberg’s White House Correspondent Julianna Goldman reports on President Obama signs up for a bronze plan on the D.C. Health Exchange.

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  • Korea Execution Is Tied to Clash Over Businesses

    By Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

    The execution of the uncle of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, had its roots in a firefight between forces loyal to Mr. Kim and those supporting the man who was supposed to be his regent, according to accounts that are being pieced together by South Korean and American officials. The clash was over who would profit from North Korea’s most lucrative exports: coal, clams and crabs.

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Dec 23, 2013

  • Obamacare Deadline: Must Enroll by Midnight

    With Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    Julianna Goldman updates the latest Affordable Care Act news.

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  • For official Washington, a truly horrible year

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Who had the worst year in Washington? The answer is easy: official Washington.

    In the past year, Americans witnessed the diminishment of President Obama’s political standing and credibility; the least productive Congress in decades; a partial shutdown of the government caused by a misguided tea party Republican strategy; the deeply flawed implementation of the Affordable Care Act; and the legal and political fallout from revelations about the National Security Agency’s intelligence-gathering activities.

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  • Make Mistakes. Admit Them. Try Again.

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Presidents aren’t allowed to admit mistakes in public. So when President Obama was asked during his news conference today what mistake he had committed in the last year, he gave a mushy answer. George W. Bush had trouble with the same question. President Obama answered at greater length than Bush—580 words!—but with the same lack of substance. He talked about his health care website and how lines of communication were blurry and the procurement process wasn’t very good. Those are problems, not mistakes, and certainly not mistakes he made.

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  • US releases more documents on surveillance origins

    By Kimberly Dozier, Associated Press

    The director of national intelligence on Saturday declassified more documents that outline how the National Security Agency was first authorized to start collecting bulk phone and Internet records in the hunt for al-Qaida terrorists and how a court eventually gained oversight of the program.

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  • What Snowden started

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Edward Snowden should be proud.

    Until this week, the National Security Agency could argue that its massive effort to collect every American's telephone records had been approved, at least tacitly, by all three branches of government.

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Dec 20, 2013

  • A Legacy in the Balance on Surveillance Policies

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    For President Obama, the proposed overhaul of the American surveillance state confronts him with a fundamental choice: Will he become the commander in chief many expected in 2008 or remain the one he became in 2009? Or is there a balance in between?

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  • Analysis - U.S. surveillance case: Tech may clash with 18th Century right

    By David Ingram and Joan Biskupic, Reuters

    A judge's bid this week to stop the U.S. government from collecting Americans' phone records raises a question that the U.S. Supreme Court has confronted before: at what point should modern technology force judges to revisit legal precedents?

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  • Lew sends letter to Congress warning of debt limit

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

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  • Congress approves reforms to address sexual assault, rape in military

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Congress passed a broad set of changes to U.S. military personnel policy late Thursday, forcing the Pentagon to revamp how it deals with cases of sexual assault and rape in the ranks.

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  • 13 Unlikely Congressional Newsmakers of 2013

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    We all knew coming into 2013 that Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan would be important in the ongoing budget squabble. We also knew that Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz would be worth watching.

    But there are several lawmakers who made the spotlight this year, even if only briefly, that we didn't anticipate. Here are 13 of our favorite unlikely newsmakers.

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