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 22, 2011

  • 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.
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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

  • Obama Approval Rating Shows Signs of Rebound in Two Polls

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are showing signs of rebounding following some recent positive economic data and after months of aggressively promoting his jobs plan and criticizing his Republican opposition. Forty-nine percent of Americans approve of how Obama is handling his job, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll and another conducted for CNN.
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  • A Rhetorical Return for ‘YOYO’ Economics

    By Helene Cooper, New York Times

    Just in time for the presidential campaign season, “you’re on your own” economics — a k a YOYO — has returned to the rhetorical landscape. YOYO economics, a term coined by the economist Jared Bernstein in his 2006 book “All Together Now: Common Sense for a Fair Economy,” is meant to refer — critically, of course — to the idea that many Republican economic proposals simply shift risk from the government and big corporations to individuals and families.
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  • Payroll Tax Fight Heats Up

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

    Neither side in the payroll tax fight is showing signs of backing down, reports CNBC's Eamon Javers.

    Watch story on CNBC

  • Romney Goes on TV to Attack Gingrich

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Presidential candidate Mitt Romney unloaded on rival Republican Newt Gingrich on Tuesday on a liberal television network, comparing him to former candidate Herman Cain and others who have led the field briefly before flaming out. "(Gingrich's) lead is not as much as it used to be," Romney said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "But that's sort of the process that other people have gone through."
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  • Obama Blasts House GOP for Blocking Payroll Tax Cut Extension

    By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    While members of Congress point fingers at each other for gumming up the payroll tax cut, President Obama is watching the bickering from the White House--where he is apparently happy to spend the holiday season until a deal gets done. The rest of the Obama family has gone ahead to Hawaii for their pre-planned holiday trip. But aides say the president will continue to delay his vacation in hopes of inspiring House Republicans to take up a Senate-approved measure extending the tax cut beyond midnight New Year’s Eve.
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    President Obama makes a rare appearance during the White House Press Briefing to encourage a compromise to Payroll Tax Cut extensions. (CNN)

  • White House Faces Tough Choice On Iran Sanctions

    by Tom Gjelten, NPR

    Let Iran off the hook or undermine the global economy? Slap sanctions on an Iranian energy company or provide Europe with an alternative to Russian gas? Washington policymaking is especially difficult when the aims conflict, and few cases illustrate that principle more clearly than the challenge of finding a way to punish Iran without hurting someone else.
    Listen to story on NPR

  • House Rejects 2-Month Extension of Payroll Tax Cut

    By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

    The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday rejected a Senate-approved two-month extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits to millions of Americans, raising the likelihood that both will expire on Dec. 31.The House effectively adjourned for the year following the vote, and with the Senate out of town for the holiday, there is no resolution in sight on a legislative battle waged by House Republicans over the length of the benefits' extension. Both chambers can return to Washington at the call of party leaders if there is an agreement.
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  • Perry Dismisses Gingrich’s Complaint of ‘Negative’ Campaigning

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said Tuesday that he was not concerned by a complaint from a Republican rival, Newt Gingrich, that the tenor of the presidential primary race had grown too negative and indicated that he had no plans to stop drawing contrasts in the final two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. “As long as no one is misstating the facts, I don’t consider that to be negative,” Mr. Perry said. “It’s always in the eye of the beholder.”
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  • Payroll Tax: A High Stakes Game of Chicken?

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    CNBC's John Harwood has the latest details on the payroll tax cut fight on Capitol Hill, and debating the merits of a full- year versus a two-month version of the bill, with Rep. Brad Sherman, (D-CA), and Rep. Nan Hayworth, (R-NY).

    Watch videon on CNBC

  • Dems Hope for Campaign Edge on Tax Issue

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Democrats feel they’re closer than ever in their long-running bid to paint Republicans as being much more eager to cut taxes for the rich than for the working class. But public contempt for Congress is so rampant that the effort may fade away in a pox-on-all-their-houses fog. If that happens, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats could lose a political edge as they head into the 2012 elections with a struggling economy.
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  • Obama Scolds House GOP Over Payroll Tax Stalemate

    By Alexis Simendinger and Caitlin Huey-Burns, RealClearPolitics

    President Obama turned up the heat on House Republicans Tuesday afternoon, urging them to rethink their opposition to a Senate-approved bill that would extend the payroll tax holiday for at least two more months next year. Shortly after House conservatives voted Tuesday to rebuke the Senate and risk raising the payroll tax in January, the president grabbed his spokesman’s podium to deliver his own message to lawmakers.
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Dec 20, 2011

  • North Korea Faces 2nd Leadership Change In 60 Years

    by Tom Gjelten, NPR

    Intelligence analysts are scrambling to assess North Korea's designated leader Kim Jong Un, of whom very little is known. He is untested, and North Korea watchers wonder whether he will be challenged by the military or others in the leadership elite. Similar questions were raised about his father when he took over following the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994.

    Listen to Story on NPR

  • House GOP Strategy on Senate Payroll Package Still Evolving

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    If House Republicans have proven anything this year, it’s they are absolutely sure of what they’re against. What they have rarely been sure of, and what eludes them now, is what they are for. What also eludes them at present is a strategy to get what they want once they decide on what they want. This emerged as the key question for House Republicans as they pondered strategy on Monday.
    Read More from National Journal

  • Dems: Romney is Easier Jobs Target than Gingrich

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Conventional wisdom, supported by polls, maintains that Mitt Romney would be a tougher opponent than Newt Gingrich against President Barack Obama. But one factor keeps Democrats from salivating over Gingrich's rise in the Republican presidential race: Romney may present a fatter target on jobs, the issue expected to dominate the 2012 contest.
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  • Carney Says U.S. Has ‘No New Concerns’ About Korean Weapons

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg

    The U.S. has “no new concerns” about North Korea’s nuclear arsenal following the death of dictator Kim Jong Il, White House press secretary Jay Carney said. The U.S. is monitoring the situation in North Korea and has consulted with allies South Korea and Japan as well as China and Russia, the other members of the six-party talks on getting North Korea to shed its nuclear weapons, Carney said at a briefing.
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    North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il lies in State (CNN)