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 17, 2013

  • U.S. Sees Hazy Threat From Mali Militants

    By Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    As Islamic militants methodically carved out a base in the desert of northern Mali over the past year, officials in Washington, Paris and African capitals struggling with military plans to drive the Islamists out of the country agreed on one principle: African troops, not European or American soldiers, would fight the battle of Mali.

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Jan 16, 2013

  • In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    When the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wanted to promote more restrictions on firearms after the Connecticut school shootings in December, it turned to a firm to help publicize its position. The firm’s name? Point Blank Public Affairs.

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  • Spotty Records Weaken Background Checks

    By Laura Meckler and Jack Nicas

    Polls show that expanding background checks to cover all gun sales, not just those by licensed dealers, is one of the most popular measures being considered by the White House to curb gun violence.

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  • On the Debt Ceiling, the Question Is: WWTD?

    By Deborah Solomon, Bloomberg News

    What Would Treasury Do?

    As soon as Feb. 15, the U.S. will reach a tipping point where its financial obligations exceed available revenue. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates a $175 billion gap between payments and revenue in the month following what it calls "X-Date."

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  • For Democrats, Unity and its Pitfalls

    By Doyle McManus. Los Angeles Times

    It's hard to recognize the Democratic Party these days. In recent decades, it's been a divided, brawling tribe. But this year, Democrats are one big, happy family.

    Sure, there was grumbling from the left over President Obama's agreement to keep tax cuts in place for couples making between $250,000 and $450,000 a year. But that quickly gave way to satisfaction that Obama had won the "fiscal cliff" fight, and growing confidence that he can win the next round over the federal debt ceiling as well.

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  • For ‘Party of Business,’ Allegiances Are Shifting

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    Not for the first time, the White House made known on Monday that top administration officials had reached out to corporate executives for their help in getting Republicans in Congress to compromise on pending budget issues. But as both President Obama and industry chieftains are finding, today’s Republican Party is hardly so quick to bow to big business.

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Jan 15, 2013

  • Obama and G.O.P. Issue Challenges on the Debt Limit

    By Jackie Calmes and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times

    With each side claiming popular support, President Obama and Congress’s Republican leaders on Monday dug in on their conflicting positions about raising the nation’s debt limit, indicating that the president’s second term will open with a potentially perilous budget showdown.

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  • How Obama Is Winning Debt-Ceiling Politics—and Why It Doesn't Matter

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Why did President Obama have a press conference Monday? In calling on Congress to raise the debt ceiling, he mostly said the same things he's said before -- that a default or government shutdown would hurt the economy, that deficits must be reduced in a balanced way, and that he won't make deals over something that's fundamentally Congress's responsibility.

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  • Obama Defends His Record on Diversity in Appointments

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    Under fire for nominating a series of white men to top posts in recent days, President Obama vowed Monday that his second-term team would be diverse and urged critics not to “rush to judgment.”

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  • Rubio Tries to Outduel Obama on Immigration

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s newly unveiled proposal for sweeping immigration reform looms as a daunting leadership test for a freshman member of Congress on the fast track to the 2016 presidential campaign.

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  • 401(k) Breaches Undermining Retirement Security for Millions

    By Michael A. Fletcher, The Washington Post

    A large and growing share of American workers are tapping their retirement savings accounts for non-retirement needs, raising broad questions about the effectiveness of one of the most important savings vehicles for old age.

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  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas breaks seven-year silence

    With Jan Crawford, CBS News

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Jan 14, 2013

  • Coming Home

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    During the presidential campaign I kept a list of questions for the candidates. "Are you wearing underwear?" was not on it. But this was the question I yelled into the street as my 8-year-old daughter vaulted into the car before the drive to school. The election was over and I was on assignment. As part of Slate’s Reader Takeover, I asked readers which of the things that I’d neglected during my 16 months on the campaign trail I should return to, and write about. Slate readers, wise creatures, told me to reconnect with my children.

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  • How the Fiscal-Cliff Deal Will Define Obama's Second Term

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    The fiscal cliff was not the end. If anything, it was the beginning of a new season of crisis on Capitol Hill. Aren't you glad?

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  • Confronting Iran -- Again

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Here's a prediction I don't think I'll have to apologize for at the end of the year: Some time in the coming months, probably this spring, there will be another crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

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  • French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of U.S.

    By Mark Mazzetti, Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    French fighter jets struck deep inside Islamist strongholds in northern Mali on Sunday, shoving aside months of international hesitation about storming the region after every other effort by the United States and its allies to thwart the extremists had failed.

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  • The Shift of King Coal

    By Reid Wilson, National Journal's Hotline

    When West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller formally announced his decision to quit the Senate on Friday, he opened the next chapter in one of the few true historic shifts taking place in American politics. Even before his announcement, Republicans were eyeing his seat as a prime pickup opportunity, a reflection of the ascendance of the Republican Party in Appalachia, a shift in which working-class white voters who have reliably cast ballots for Democratic politicians for the better part of a century are moving inexorably, and perhaps permanently, toward the Republican Party.

    That's because in Appalachia, coal is still king.

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Jan 11, 2013

  • Biden Hints at "Universal" Gun-Buyer Background Checks

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    Racing to complete consultations with stakeholders in the national debate about guns and mass shootings, Vice President Biden suggested Thursday that “universal” background checks for all gun buyers will likely be one of the recommendations forwarded to President Obama by Jan. 15.

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  • Tough Path Seen by Obama on Ban of Assault Weapons

    By Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear

    While President Obama pledged to crack down on access to what he called “weapons of war” in the aftermath of last month’s schoolhouse massacre, the White House has calculated that a ban on military-style assault weapons will be exceedingly difficult to pass through Congress and is focusing on other measures it deems more politically achievable.

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  • Hagel’s Confirmation Proceedings Will Be Short on Old Senate Allies

    By Jeff Zeleny and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times

    For a man who spent 12 years in the Senate, Chuck Hagel will find himself with few close allies when the Armed Services Committee takes up his nomination to be secretary of defense this month.

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