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!

Feb 27, 2014

  • Republicans too focused on health-care law, some in GOP warn

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    Will the Affordable Care Act be the Republicans’ golden ticket in this year’s midterm election? Some worry that the GOP may be placing too big a bet on it.

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  • Nothin’ Doin’

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Washington is coasting. For the past several years, chroniclers of the relationship between the president and Republicans in Congress have searched in vain for new ways to describe chaos. When chaos wasn’t on order, the task was to find new ways to connote stasis—the lack of progress that filled the exhausted interregnum between periods of chaos.

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Feb 26, 2014

  • Trust Eroded, Obama Looks Beyond Karzai

    By Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

    President Obama, apparently resigned to President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States before he leaves office, told him in a phone call on Tuesday that he had instructed the Pentagon to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

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  • Putin Tests Russian Military as Ukraine Looks to EU

    With Indira Lakshmanan, Bloomberg News

    Bloomberg U.S. diplomacy correspondent Indira Lakshmanan examines Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a test of Russian military readiness and tension between Russia and Europe over Ukraine.

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  • Reid and McConnell agree: Tax overhaul will be difficult

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., don’t agree on much, but they found common ground Tuesday when they dampened expectations for an overhaul of the federal tax code this year.

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  • Why Lawmaking on a Grand Scale Is a Dying Art

    By Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    When Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.) laid plans to unveil a big tax reform bill this week, it was as if he was operating in some kind of time warp. No one seemed to have told the Ways and Means Committee chairman that Congress isn’t doing much legislating any more. And it hasn’t been for some time.

    Having enacted just 72 laws in all of 2013 – one of its least productive sessions ever – Congress is not just gridlocked. It is getting rusty at the art of legislating.

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  • Bill Clinton Says Defeating Mitch McConnell ‘Makes a Big Difference’

    By Shushannah Walshe and Jeff Zeleny, ABC News

    Former President Bill Clinton took center stage today in the most watched Senate race in the country, telling a crowd of 1,200 that “it makes a big difference” whether Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes wins in November.

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  • D.C. Email Jiujitsu

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    In school did you ever cram for a Shakespeare exam by reading a lot in one sitting? It temporarily rewired your brain. When from your hand let slip the rhyme’d page, backward did run the lines in your hot brain. Verily.

    This happened to me after watching the first eight episodes of House of Cards all at once. (I’m still in the first season; I also have a manual transmission). I felt the warp. I started thinking Congress was actually engaged in passing legislation. I walked around the house pursued by House Majority Whip Frank Underwood’s aphorisms. There are two kinds of SodaStream users in this world. … A real man can destroy his enemies just by hanging up his jacket. … Salt is for weaklings.

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Feb 25, 2014

  • Pentagon Officials Say They’re Willing to Assume Risks of a Reduced Army

    By Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker, The New York Times

    In shrinking the United States Army to its smallest size since 1940, Pentagon officials said Monday that they were willing to assume more risk the next time troops are called to war.

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  • Dingell retirement marks generational shift in House

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The storied career of the longest-serving lawmaker in the nation's history, Rep. John Dingell, is drawing to a close as he announced Monday that his current term will be his last.

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  • In John Dingell’s departure, a changing of the guard and the end of an old style of power

    By Karen Tumulty and Paul Kane, Washington Post

    In the arc of Rep. John D. Dingell’s storied legislative career, it is easy to discern the fading trajectory of power in Washington over the past six decades.

    He was the last of the true committee barons, one who muscled for legislative turf and who had been known to pound his gavel so hard it shattered.

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  • Wary Stance From Obama on Ukraine

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    Televisions around the White House were aglow with pictures of Ukrainians in the streets, demanding to be heard and toppling a government aligned with Russia. It was an invigorating moment, and it spurred a president already rethinking his approach to the world.

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  • House GOP tax plan would cut top rates but also hit high earners with a surtax

    By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

    The long-awaited simplification of the tax code being drafted by House Republicans would slash the top income tax rate to 25 percent from 39.6 percent and impose a surtax on some of the nation’s wealthiest households.

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Feb 24, 2014

  • Obama to unveil new manufacturing institutes in Chicago, Detroit

    By Christi Parsons and Melissa Harris, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama plans to announce on Tuesday the opening of two new manufacturing institutes in the Chicago and Detroit areas as part of a larger plan to use public-private partnerships to advance his agenda despite opposition from Republicans in Congress.

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  • Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level

    By Thom Shanker and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.

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  • Obama seeks to defuse tensions among Democrats

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    President Obama is stepping up his efforts to coalesce and energize the Democratic base for the 2014 elections, backing off on issues where his positions might alienate the left, and more aggressively singling out Republicans as being responsible for the country’s problems.

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  • 2014 Midterm races to test Tea Party power to last

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The 2014 primary election season that kicks off March 4 may serve as a test of the Tea Party's ability to shape the Republican Party.

    The movement that became a potent political force in the 2010 elections and helped Republicans retake control of the House is at war with the Republican establishment and taking on GOP incumbents in a handful of key races.

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  • Governors’ races offer a barometer for 2016

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    In Washington, the focus right now is on the Senate: Who will control it after the November midterm elections? But the National Governors Association winter meeting this weekend is a reminder that the outcome of this year’s gubernatorial elections will be equally important in shaping the political future.

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Feb 21, 2014

  • Republicans Should Tread Carefully On Minimum Wage

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    Lately, Republicans have been been pretty happy with government. Well, with one agency at least. Over the last two weeks the number crunchers at the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office have released reports that include some bad news for two significant legislative priorities of President Obama and Democrats--the Affordable Care Act and the minimum wage.

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  • CBO Data Could Spur Minimum Wage Hike to $9

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    If Congress decides $10.10 an hour is too steep a climb from the existing $7.25 federal minimum wage, might policymakers shake hands on an increase closer to $9 an hour?

    As the Congressional Budget Office and the White House continued to disagree Wednesday over the uncertainties and potential labor-market downsides of President Obama’s $10.10 proposal, their dispute -- in its fine print -- was about how much the minimum wage could rise before its evident benefits would erode.

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