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 13, 2014

  • 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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  • Jobless-Aid Bill Advances in the Senate

    By Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    Legislation to resurrect benefits for the long-term unemployed overcame an important procedural hurdle in the Senate Tuesday, triggering a debate over how to cover the cost and whether other changes could ease the bill through the Senate and a wary House.

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  • Despite Senate vote, jobless benefits still in doubt

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The U.S. Senate took a step toward reinstating expired jobless benefits for 1.3 million people, but significant disagreements and legislative hurdles remain before Congress can approve the assistance.

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  • Record Could Hinder Confirmation Of Civil Rights Nominee

    With Carrie Johnson, NPR

    The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday considers President Obama's nominee to enforce civil rights at the Justice Department. Debo Adegbile will need to overcome the opposition not only of voter fraud activists but also the Fraternal Order of Police.

    Listen here
  • Edward Snowden, in shades of gray

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Is Edward Snowden a whistle-blower or a traitor?

    Debate over the renegade computer technician who leaked thousands of secret National Security Agency documents is too often reduced to that deceptively simple choice.

    But it's the wrong way to pose the question, because Snowden is both of those things at the same time. Yes, he's a whistle-blower, and if that were all he had done, he would deserve our thanks for forcing a debate over the NSA's swollen powers.

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Jan 07, 2014

  • Harry Reid Throws the First Punch

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Usually people return from vacation with a lighter outlook, but after the year-end Senate break, Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a glum mood. On Sunday’s Face the Nation, the Nevada senator said there was little hope that Congress would be better in 2014 than it was in 2013, a year in which the institution achieved greatness only in scoring historic approval-rating lows. “Unless the Republicans in Congress decide they should do something for the American people, I'm sorry to say that's true," he said when asked if this year would be as bad as last. "The rating in Congress is down. If somebody called me in a poll, I would vote with them. This is awful what's been going on.”

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