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 14, 2014

  • 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.

    Listen here

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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  • A Democratic Party Divide That’s Not There

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    According to many in the punditocracy, there’s a liberal Democratic revolution bubbling just under the political surface that’s about to explode. Frustrated liberal revolutionaries led by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are committed to wresting power from the Democratic establishment, pushing the Democratic agenda to the far left and threatening Hillary Clinton’s chance at the 2016 nomination. But, if there is this liberal/moderate split in the Democratic Party, I haven’t seen any evidence of it.

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  • California Democrats will push background checks for ammunition

    By Reid Wilson, Washington Post

    Following passage last year of some of the strongest gun-control laws in the nation in the wake of the school shooting in Newton, Conn., leading California Democrats will open a new front in the fight against gun violence this year with a proposal to conduct background checks on people who purchase ammunition.

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Jan 09, 2014

  • Obama Said to Favor Limits on Spying on Foreign Leaders

    By Julianna Goldman, Chris Strohm and Margaret Talev, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama will call for tighter limits on U.S. spying on foreign leaders in response to a global uproar over government surveillance, according to an administration official familiar with the proposal.

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  • Grim Sequel to Iraq’s War

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    For two years, President Obama has boasted that he accomplished what his predecessor had not. “I ended the war in Iraq,” he has told audience after audience. But a resurgence by Islamic militants in western Iraq has reminded the world that the war is anything but over.

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  • Farm bill talks nearing conclusion with about $9 billion in food stamp cuts

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    Negotiations are almost complete on a long-overdue farm bill that will set new spending levels for the federal food stamp program and add yet another wrinkle to the national debate over income inequality as Congress mulls how to help unemployed and low-wage workers.

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  • ‘Great Society’ agenda led to great — and lasting — philosophical divide

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    The ambitious “Great Society” agenda begun half a century ago continues to touch nearly every aspect of American life. But the deep philosophical divide it created has come to define the nation’s harsh politics, especially in the Obama era.

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  • Will Christie Apologize?

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Lots of politicians get blamed for gridlock, but few can really grab it with both mitts and own it the way Gov. Chris Christie now can. One of his top aides gave the go-ahead to shut down traffic into Fort Lee, N.J., because the town's Democratic mayor wouldn't endorse Christie's re-election bid. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," wrote Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office.* Then, when the traffic was causing the predictable problems, Christie's aides appeared to delight in the fact that the ones being inconvenienced were likely to vote for Christie's opponent.

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  • Obama's Challenge: Disaffected Independents

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    One year ago, fresh off his re-election, support for President Obama was buoyed by Democratic-leaning independents who offered progressives a political leg up over the GOP. Their numbers helped Democrats leap ahead of Republicans in political identification and persuasion. But 12 months later, Americans are less enthused about the two major political parties, fed up with Congress, and increasingly mistrustful of government.

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  • House retirements fuel shrinking political center

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Two House Democrats announced Wednesday they will not seek re-election this November, providing Republicans with at least one opportunity to pick up a seat and further continuing a retirement trend among centrist lawmakers.

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Jan 08, 2014

  • Obama Urges Congress to Extend Jobless Aid

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    President Obama urged lawmakers Tuesday to adopt a three-month extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits that expired last month, saying he is "very appreciative" of Senate efforts that cleared a procedural hurdle shortly before his remarks.

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