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 31, 2014

  • Big Companies Join Obama in Initiative to Help Long-Term Unemployed

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama has persuaded some of the nation’s largest companies, including Walmart, Apple, General Motors and Ford, to revamp their hiring practices to avoid discriminating against applicants who have been out of work for a long stretch of time.

    Read more
  • Obama turns attention to federal job training

    By Christi Parsons, Tribune Newsapers

    President Obama sat down at his portable signing table at a gas engine plant here Thursday to order an across-the-board review of how to improve federal job training programs.

    Read more
  • House GOP unveils immigration 'principles'

    By Susan Davis and Alan Gomez, USA Today

    House Republican leaders unveiled on Thursday their principles for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. Their plan would require tighter border security and more interior immigration enforcement and allow the nation's undocumented immigrants to "get right with the law" and stay in the country.

    Read more
  • Will Immigration Reform Finally Happen?

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    In this snowbound summer town on the frozen Chesapeake Bay, about 100 reporters crammed into a maritime-themed restaurant, half a mile down the road from the hotel where the Republican members of the House of Representatives were holding their annual retreat. It was cold, and there was not enough coffee to go around.

    Read more
  • Turns Out, Joe Biden Was Right About Dividing Iraq

    By James Kitfield, National Journal

    In his new book Duty: Memoir of a Secretary at War, Robert Gates memorably impugns Joe Biden's judgment as "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." Central to his argument is Biden's opposition to the "troop surge" that President Bush and then-Defense Secretary Gates launched in 2007 to bolster a shaky government in Baghdad and save Iraq from a sectarian civil war.

    Read more
  • Executive Action

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    One hundred and seventy-nine years ago today, President Andrew Jackson had a close call. The 67-year-old president emerged from a funeral in the House chamber and was set upon by Richard Lawrence, a housepainter who was off that day. Initiating what would become the first assassination attempt in American history, Lawrence tried to fire his pistol. It made a large bang, but the president did not fall. The percussion cap had detonated, but the gunpowder failed to ignite.

    Read more

Jan 30, 2014

  • Touring States, Obama Pushes Modest Agenda

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    As President Obama took to the road on Wednesday to promote an “opportunity agenda” that he vowed to enact with or without Congress, lawmakers began sorting through issues on which they may yet come together during what promises to be a treacherous midterm election year.

    Read more
  • Obama takes agenda on tour, urging boost in minimum wage

    By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    He has taken to saying he has a pen and a phone that he can use to work around Republicans in Congress, but President Obama also has a jet and a helicopter.

    Read more
  • Obama Touts New Retirement Savings Plan

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    Accompanied by his Treasury secretary, President Obama flew to Pittsburgh Wednesday to unveil a new retirement savings vehicle for workers, and at the same time encouraged Congress to take up related legislation.

    Read more
  • The Farm Bill: Proof That Congress Is Getting Better

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    The farm bill passed the House with remarkable ease Wednesday. That's a big deal, and not just for those directly affected by the legislation (farmers and food-stamp recipients): It's the latest sign that Congress has rediscovered its ability to get things done.

    Read more
  • Top Intelligence Official Assails Snowden and Seeks Return of N.S.A. Documents

    By Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

    The nation’s top intelligence official on Wednesday delivered a scorching attack on Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, and called on him and his “accomplices” to return the trove of classified documents he took from the N.S.A.

    Read more
  • Low-income students falling behind on reading proficiency

    By Reid Wilson, Washington Post

    Learning to read by the end of third grade is crucial, those who study early childhood education say, because that’s the point at which children start using reading to learn other subjects. Those who are proficient in reading by the end of third grade are much more likely to graduate from high school, and to be economically successful as adults.

    Read more

Jan 29, 2014

  • In State of the Union Address, Obama Vows to Act Alone on the Economy

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday as he vowed to tackle economic disparity with a series of limited initiatives on jobs, wages and retirement that he will enact without legislative approval.

    Read more
  • Republicans to Obama: Not so fast

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    President Obama put Congress on notice Tuesday night that he is poised to act without their help, but congressional Republicans countered that a president can go only so far without the legislative branch, even one as unpopular as this.

    Read more
  • Slow Motion

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    “America does not stand still," said President Obama in his State of the Union address, "and neither will I." For the next hour the president plotted the path he would walk and the strides he would take to get around the members of Congress who had blocked his path before. But when the speech was over, the president hadn't moved very far at all. He was still a leader entangled by Congress and the Constitution.

    Read more
  • The State of the Union: Make it stop

    By Todd S. Purdum, Politico

    Blame Woodrow Wilson, who broke a century-old presidential tradition of delivering the State of the Union message only in writing. Blame Harry S. Truman, the first chief executive to make the address on television, or Lyndon B. Johnson, the first to do so in prime time.

    Read more
  • 6 Signs a Republican Senate Takeover Is Within Reach

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Republican gains and President Obama's weakness have Democrats on their heels, preparing to fight for Senate seats they never thought they'd have to defend and hoping that 2016 will give them a chance to win back the Senate if they lose it next year.

    Read more

Jan 28, 2014

  • Obama’s MacGyver Moment

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    In advance of President Obama's State of the Union address, he and his aides have been talking about his desk set. "I have a pen and I have a phone," the president has said, a declaration meant to convey that he will act if Congress doesn’t. "The president views the power of his presidency in two areas," political adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on CNN's State of the Union. "His pen, which is the executive orders, the presidential memorandums. Also the phone, where what he can do is he can pick up the phone, bring together American citizens, and business to commit on key issues."

    Read more
  • President Hopes His Pen May Be Mightier Than Gridlock

    With Tom Gjelten, NPR

    President Obama's aides have hinted that the president plans to make greater use of executive orders going forward, primarily in order to bypass a gridlocked Congress. To learn more about how past presidents have used these unchecked executive orders, Robert Siegel talks with Ken Mayer, an expert on presidential powers from the University of Wisconsin.

    Listen
  • Obama’s Puzzle: Economy Rarely Better, Approval Rarely Worse

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    President Obama will pronounce on the state of the union for the fifth time on Tuesday, and never during his time in office has the state of the economy been better — yet rarely has he gotten such low marks from the public for his handling of it.

    Read more