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 23, 2011

  • Behind the Scenes of the House Republicans' Self-Inflicted Wound

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    There was no formal cease-fire. Speaker John Boehner didn’t even call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to offer up his payroll-tax sword of surrender. The great Christmas conflict over tax cuts ended at the staff level. Boehner’s chief of staff, Barry Jackson, cut the deal with Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone. If the weeklong tussle over a two-month or one-year extension of payroll taxes was over principle, the principal antagonist, Boehner, in the end, had neither the will nor the stomach to directly sue for peace.
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    House Speaker John Boehner announces a Payroll Tax Cut deal (CNN)

  • Bradley Manning Hearing Ends with No Clear Sign of Harm Done to U.S.

    By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

    After seven days of testimony and the submission of more than 300,000 pages of documents, a key question remains unanswered in the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning: How exactly did his leak of hundreds of thousands of secret documents, logs and at least one video - which he passed to WikiLeaks - directly harm U.S. national security?
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  • Gingrich Blasts Obama in VA Stop for Signatures

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is blasting President Barack Obama during a side trip to Virginia.
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  • Lawmakers Reach Deal on Payroll Tax

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    The ice cracked under House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday. A deal to quiet a bruising political eruption over the payroll tax finally took shape -- after relentless criticism from within GOP ranks that House Republicans had dug themselves knee-deep in quicksand. After days of thrashing and teeth-gnashing, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a way out of the mess with a statement underscoring similarities between the measures in the two chambers, rather than differences.
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  • Capital Corner: Safe Fiscal Bets Fading Away?

    WIth David Wessel, Wall Street Journal

    WSJ Global Economics Editor David Wessel discusses a shortage of low-risk bonds, what he terms 'super-safe financial assets', and the shortage's potential impact on the economy.

    Watch Video on Wall Street Journal

  • Whatever Happened to Sarah Palin?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Sarah Palin always had a knack for making a splash just when she was teetering on the edge of irrelevance. Which means as the Iowa caucus looms, she's bound to make an appearance sometime soon.
    Read More from National Journal

  • Newt Gingrich: Kibitzer-in-chief?

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    As Newt Gingrich will be the first to tell you, he is a man with a vast and deep résumé. One boast he has been offering lately makes the former House speaker and current presidential contender sound like a cross between Mr. Chips and Sun Tzu. “I am the longest-serving teacher in the senior military, 23 years teaching one- and two-star generals and admirals the art of war,” Gingrich said at the most recent GOP presidential debate in Iowa.
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  • Medicare Spending Growth Rising Slower but Enrollment Will Rise

    By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

    Throughout Medicare’s 46-year-old history, monitoring the cost of the government health plan for the elderly has been a bit like the old joke: No one asked if spending would jump. They only asked how high. But in early 2010, the number crunchers at Medicare headquarters in Baltimore saw something surprising: a sharp drop in the volume of doctor visits and other outpatient services. Instead of growing at the usual 4 percent a year, the number of claims was suddenly climbing by less than 2 percent. Was this a one-time blip, or a fundamental shift in how seniors were receiving care?
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Dec 22, 2011

  • Virgina Ballot Shows Gingrich Campaign Woes

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made a last-minute dash to get on the ballot for the Republican primary in Virginia, in another sign his campaign may not be ready for prime time and could struggle to beat President Barack Obama next year.
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  • China Reportedly Hacked Chamber Of Commerce

    by Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that hackers in China broke into computers at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, potentially accessing information about its operations and members. NPR's Tom Gjelten talks with Robert Siegel on what, if anything, the hackers could have accessed.
    Listen to Story on NPR

  • Gingrich Challenges Romney to ‘Test the Heat’ with One-on-One Iowa Debate

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Newt Gingrich fired back at Mitt Romney’s assertion that he can’t take the heat of a vigorous campaign, saying here Wednesday that he can “take the heat plenty well,” accusing his rival of hiding and challenging his rival to a one-on-one debate in Iowa next week to settle their differences.
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    GOP Presidential Candidate Newt speaks to reporters at a recent event. (CNN)

  • Chinese Hack Into US Chamber of Commerce, Authorities Say

    By Pierre Thomas and Olivia Katrandjian, ABC News

    For more than a year, hackers with ties to the Chinese military have been eavesdropping on U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials involved in Asia affairs, authorities say. The hackers had access to everything in Chamber computers, including, potentially, the entire U.S. trade policy playbook.
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  • A Long Goodbye to Afghanistan

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    This week, the last convoy of U.S. troops in Iraq drove noisily across the border into Kuwait and shut the gate behind them. The next drawdown comes in Afghanistan, where American forces are scheduled to disengage from most combat by the end of 2014. But the Afghanistan withdrawal won't be anywhere near as final as the one we just saw. U.S. military leaders are working on a new slimmed-down strategy that would keep some American troops in combat against the Taliban for years to come, long after 2014.
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  • Gingrich Uses Precious Time To Get On Va. Ballot

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Newt Gingrich is frantically playing catch-up in the Republican presidential race, spending precious time trying to get on Virginia’s primary ballot while his rivals campaign in crucial Iowa and New Hampshire. The former House speaker is paying a price for his late start in organizing. Gingrich had to leave New Hampshire on Wednesday and race to Virginia, where he needs 10,000 valid voters’ signatures by Thursday to secure a spot on the March 6 ballot.
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  • Obama Gets a Lift From Tax Battle With Republicans

    By Jackie Calmes, New York Times

    After a long stretch of high unemployment, legislative turmoil and, in turn, slipping public approval, President Obama seemed to regain his political footing this week with the help of House Republicans, whose handling of a standoff over payroll taxes had even leading conservatives accusing them of bungling the politically charged issue.
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  • Obama Makes Christmas Shopping Stop at Best Buy

    By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    The official White House line is that President Obama is delaying his Christmas trip to Hawaii on the off-chance that House Republicans will act on the payroll tax to his liking. But even as his press secretary was saying that during the afternoon briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Obama was unwittingly revealing another possible explanation: he hasn't finished buying his Christmas gifts yet.
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  • Benefits Fight Heats Up in Washington

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

    Labor to launch attacks on Republicans in benefits fight, with CNBC's Eamon Javers. "The Democrats are secretly loving this," he says. "

    Watch on CNBC

  • Gingrich Condemns Senate on Payroll Tax Vote

    By Trip Gabriel and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    Newt Gingrich put a pox on all parties in Washington on Wednesday for failing to pass a payroll tax extension, but he especially condemned the Senate, where Republicans joined Democrats to vote for a two-month extension of the tax break, which affects 160 million Americans. House Republicans under Speaker John A. Boehner rejected that plan.
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  • Obama, Senate Democrats Rally for Benefits Extension

    By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

    President Obama and Senate Democrats appealed to House Republicans on Wednesday to return to Washington and approve a two-month extension of benefits for American workers before they expire Dec. 31. The House GOP remains opposed to a short-term patch despite mounting opposition to the strategy, even from within the party.
    Read More

Dec 21, 2011

  • Congress's Payroll Standoff - Who Blinks First?

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    Less than two weeks remain – with a holiday in between – for Congress to keep alive a payroll-tax cut, unemployment insurance, and a “doc fix” patch. Here is how it could play out.
    Read More from National Journal