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 06, 2013

  • Everyone Hates Washington, but Democrats More Vulnerable

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    If there were a theme for 2014 midterms, it would be "fear and loathing of Washington, D.C."

    Congress is as about as popular as gonorrhea. President Obama's approval ratings and personal ratings are at the lowest point of his presidency. Republicans, as well, have seen their favorable ratings hit all-time lows.

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Dec 05, 2013

  • Obama Presses Case for Health Law and Wage Increase

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    President Obama left the White House on Wednesday for one of the capital’s working-class neighborhoods to talk about the economy, not simply to divert attention from the troubles of his Affordable Care Act but also to explain how that law, for all of its flaws, fits into his vision for Americans’ economic security and upward mobility.

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  • Always Be Selling

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Like all retailers, the president is rolling out a big post-Thanksgiving sale. With the website up and running on Cyber Monday, he’s launched a three-week campaign to save Obamacare. On Tuesday he began by trying to remarket the product, touting the Affordable Care Act’s broad benefits and reminding people why he went to all this trouble in the first place. “For too long, few things left working families more vulnerable to the anxieties and insecurities of today’s economy than a broken health care system,” Obama said. On Wednesday the president explained how the health care law fit into his effort to resuscitate the American dream for the middle class, a project he's been grinding away with mixed success since his 2007 campaign. Then, at a second Wednesday event, the president attended a White House Youth Summit to make an extended and detailed pitch for how they could help push up health care enrollments. This is part of the nitty-gritty of convincing enough young, healthy Americans to participate in the federal exchanges so that the insurance pools aren't glutted with older, sicker Americans, driving up premiums. No soaring rhetorical heights here; this is the earthbound task of trying to make the law work. On Thursday evening, the president sits down with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at American University to pitch to that younger audience again.

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  • Report: NSA tracks billions of cellphones daily

    By Kimberly Dozier, Associated Press

    The National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

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  • Iran's Nuclear Deal Faces Big Test

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers will face its first test this weekend. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are due to make a long-delayed visit to a nuclear site in Iran where plutonium could be produced.

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  • In Obama’s Book List, Glimpses of His Journey

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama has never visited the rugged mountains of Chechnya, but if he digs into one of the novels he bought last weekend, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” he will be transported to a land of unremitting violence and tragedy, where the innocent are caught up in war as often as the guilty.

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Dec 04, 2013

  • Obama to Defend Health Law as Economic Benefit

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    President Obama leaves the White House on Wednesday for one of the capital’s most struggling neighborhoods to talk about the economy, not simply to divert attention from his troubled Affordable Care Act but to explain how that law, for all of its flaws, fits into his vision for Americans’ economic security and upward mobility.

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  • Obama acts to defend Obamacare and Democrats from GOP attacks

    By Christi Parsons and Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times

    Two turbulent months into the launch of the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace, President Obama moved to defend the law against Republican attacks Tuesday as the administration tried to deflect attention from the federal website's botched rollout.

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  • For Obama, it's all about Obamacare

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama's speech Tuesday announced the relaunch of his healthcare program's website. But he was also aiming to relaunch his entire second term, which has careened from high ambition to near-catastrophe in less than 11 months.


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  • Fast for immigration reform near the U.S. Capitol enters new phase

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Attempts to overhaul the nation’s immigration system have been stalled for months in the Republican-controlled House, where leaders are refusing to consider a bipartisan Senate proposal passed this summer. Consideration of the plan in the House — if it ever occurs — won’t come until sometime after a new budget agreement is enacted in mid-January.

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  • New Boehner Hire Supports Path to Citizenship

    By Fawn Johnson and Elahe Izad, National Journal

    House Speaker John Boehner's new staffer in charge of immigration policy has significant experience in drafting immigration legislation and pushing for reform. She wouldn't be coming to Boehner's office if House Republicans weren't serious about doing something on the issue. What that is remains to be seen.

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  • Detroit eligible for nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy filing, federal judge rules

    By Michael A. Fletcher and Reid Wilson, Washington Post

    A federal bankruptcy judge granted Detroit unprecedented powers Tuesday to shed billions of dollars in debt, including the ability to slash city employee pensions despite a state constitutional provision protecting them.

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Dec 03, 2013

  • Carney: President Will Enroll in Obamacare

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    President Obama intends to enroll for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday.

    “I know that he will, and has said that he will, or the White House has said that he will,” Carney said, “but I don’t have any update.”

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  • Health-Care Enrollment To Reach 100K Sign-Ups

    With Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

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  • Economists propose tax break to ease the burden for struggling two-worker families

    By Jim Tankersley, Washington Post

    Put yourself in the shoes of a store clerk and his family this holiday season. Say you earn $11 an hour, which is a bit less than the national average for retail salesmen. And say that’s not enough to feed, clothe and house your spouse and children to your satisfaction, so your wife decides to take a job in the same store, full time. How much of her earnings do you think will make it to your joint bank account at the end of the month?

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  • Some Democrats Keep Their Distance From Obama As Popularity Drops

    By Charles Babington, AP

    Democrats running for re-election in Arkansas, Louisiana and other Republican-leaning states faced enough problems before President Barack Obama's popularity swooned in November. Now they are awkwardly distancing themselves from him a year before the election, seeking the right balance between independence and betrayal.

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  • Congress grapples with how to extend plastic gun ban

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    A long-standing federal law banning guns that can go undetected by metal detectors and X-ray machines is set to expire next week, and it is not clear Congress can agree on how to extend the measure.

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Dec 02, 2013

  • Obamacare Website Sign-Ups Said to Reach 100,000 in Month

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    About 100,000 people signed up for health insurance through the online federal exchange last month, a roughly four-fold increase from October even as a team of U.S. government and contractor programmers was fixing the troubled Affordable Care Act website, said a person familiar with program’s progress.

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  • Punch Me

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    On Saturday, President Obama’s new Web startup——is supposed to work better. How much better is a little hard to pin down. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius says, "We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month." Considering the initial experience was a near total collapse, Sebelius is doing an excellent job at keeping expectations in the bargain basement. It is practically impossible for the site to fail at offering a "different user experience,” so her guarantee is perhaps the weakest promise one could make. The official promise is much more brave. According to a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the entire federal health care system, from beginning to end, will work as originally intended for the vast majority of users.

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  • The House and Senate Will Both Be in DC for a Total of 5 Days this Month

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    By year's end, lawmakers need to strike a new budget deal, approve a new farm bill and finish legislation that authorizes military pay and policy. With 30 days left in the month of December, there's still plenty of time, right?

    Not really.

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