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 30, 2014

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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."

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • NBC/WSJ poll: Obama approval rating at 43%

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • Obama to Raise Minimum Wage Under Federal Contractors

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama plans to sign an executive order requiring that janitors, construction workers and others working for federal contractors be paid at least $10.10 an hour, using his own power to enact a more limited version of a policy that he has yet to push through Congress.

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Jan 27, 2014

  • For Obama, Investing in Brighter Futures Remains a Tough Sell

    By John Harwood, The New York Times

    Whatever President Obama has accomplished, he has made little headway on the goal he values most: government action to lift long-term economic prospects for average Americans.

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  • Topics Obama Won't Dwell Upon Tuesday Night

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    From Americans’ stagnant incomes to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and from pre-kindergarten classrooms to climate change, President Obama will have lots to say Tuesday evening.

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  • Poll Finds Little Faith in Nation’s Leaders

    By Dan Balz and Peyton M. Craighill, Washington Post

    President Obama will speak to the nation Tuesday night with approval ratings lower than for any of his previous State of the Union addresses and with Americans broadly pessimistic that he or lawmakers of either party will make good decisions for the future of the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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  • Afghanistan Exit Is Seen as Peril to C.I.A. Drone Mission

    By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    The risk that President Obama may be forced to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year has set off concerns inside the American intelligence agencies that they could lose their air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region.

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  • How Republicans Lost the Farm

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    On a recent Monday in San Antonio, Texas, Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, got up to speak to an auditorium full of farmers. Vilsack, a doughy, wavy-haired former governor of Iowa, wore a grim expression as he gripped the lectern.

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  • Meet the Romneys

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Mitt, the documentary about Willard Mitt Romney's two presidential campaigns, is not so much a campaign movie as it is a home movie. You can tell it's not a campaign movie because in the 90 minutes of behind-the-scenes private moments, none of the main characters utters a single swear word. If it were a political documentary, you'd have to send the kids to the other room. Instead, you should save a space on the couch for them to watch this story of a loving father and his family weathering the abuse of the modern political campaign with faith, good humor, and love.

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