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 16, 2011

  • Gingrich, Romney Ready for Iowa Sprint

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    The final Republican presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus crystalized the strengths and weaknesses of the chief contenders as perhaps no other event thus far. It reinforced the notion that this is a battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich unless one of the other five can make a dramatic late run.
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  • New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire

    by Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad. But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.
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  • Congress Reaches Deal to Avoid Government Shutdown

    By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

    Congress has reached an agreement to fund the federal government through Sept. 30 of next year — avoiding a government shutdown at midnight Friday — and was considering a deal for a short-term extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits to American workers. While a final deal on the payroll package continued to elude negotiators on Thursday, congressional leaders struck a less partisan tone than in days before and expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.
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  • Did Bachmann Just Save Romney?

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    There have been so many debates during the Republican preseason that it was hard to believe the one hosted by Fox News in Sioux City, Iowa, was the last one before the voting begins. Ratings have been strong, and commentary has been endless: You can imagine a network trying to squeeze in just one more—are you free on Christmas Eve, Governor?
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  • Gingrich and Romney on the Defensive in GOP Debate

    By Philip Rucker and Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney found themselves on the defensive in the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, with Gingrich challenged on whether he can defeat President Obama and Romney questioned about his consistency on social issues. The questions highlighted the choice GOP voters will face as they start the process of selecting a presidential nominee in January: whether Romney can be trusted to lead a party that has become more conservative in recent years versus whether Gingrich has the discipline and consistency to carry the Republican banner.
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    The GOP Presidential Debate in Iowa, 12/15/11. (CNN)

  • Ron Paul Strongly Defends Anti-War Policies

    By Sam Youngman, Thomson Reuters

    Presidential hopeful Ron Paul staged a strong defense of his anti-war views on Thursday in an outburst on foreign policy that might lose him support from fellow Republicans. Paul came into the debate rising in the polls, admired by many Republicans in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire for his conservatism on fiscal issues and criticism of big government.
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  • Could Rubio Save the GOP Ticket?

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Florida's new Republican senator, 40-year-old Marco Rubio, is handsome, personable and smart. He can talk with intelligence and ease about foreign policy, the federal budget and the aspirations of the American people. And he has a Reaganesque gift for sounding reassuring, even when he's arguing for Tea Party positions such as a complete overhaul of Social Security and Medicare. All these factors, along with his decisive electoral victory last year in Florida, one of the most important swing states in a presidential election, have vaulted Rubio to the top of the GOP's list of potential vice presidential candidates, no matter who the party's presidential nominee turns out to be.
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  • Number of Death Sentences Hits a 35-Year Low

    By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

    The number of state executions continued to decline in 2011, according to an annual report issued Thursday, and for the first time in 35 years, the number of new death sentences meted out fell to below 100. The Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment and puts out an annual tally of executions based on state and federal information, asserts that recent developments reflect "the growing discomfort that many Americans have with the death penalty."
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  • Unruly Republicans

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Members of Congress are shaking in their boots about the possibility of Newt Gingrich as the Republican presidential nominee. GOP operative Karl Rove wrote of the campaign, “It’s embarrassing to be so poorly organized.” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker’s recent piece on Gingrich was headlined “The GOP’s Death Wish.” National Review went so far as to say that nominating Gingrich “would be to blow this opportunity” to defeat President Obama. And the crowds chant, “Newt! Newt! Newt!”
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  • As Romney Steps Cautiously, Gingrich Duels With Others

    By Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    The leading Republican presidential candidates largely shelved their contentious attacks on one another to deliver their closing arguments on Thursday night at the final debate before the nominating contests begin, but Newt Gingrich did not escape sharp questions about his record in and out of government and his ability to defeat President Obama.
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Dec 15, 2011

  • Rogers Reopening Spending Package; Could Break Legislative Logjam

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has agreed to reopen the pending nine-bill spending package and rewrite language that sought to reinstate the Bush-era travel ban to Cuba, a move designed to address White House concerns and win the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to senior Republican and Democratic staffers.
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  • Get Me Re-Write: Gingrich Site Mentions '3 Wives'

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Rick Perry isn't the only one to have an "oops" moment in the Republican presidential contest. An article on Newt Gingrich's official website is headlined "A Tale of Three Wives: Life on the Campaign Trail."
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  • This Could Be Ron Paul's Moment

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    He’s got the best campaign organization in Iowa, hands down, and running second or third in the polls. His hard-hitting campaign video accuses front-running rival Newt Gingrich of “serial hypocrisy." Campaign offices opening Thursday in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington signal that he’s in it for the long haul. But Ron Paul is rarely, if ever, described as a first-string Republican contender on par with Gingrich or Mitt Romney.
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  • Government Opens Gulf Of Mexico For Oil Business

    By Eamon Javers, CNBC

    The Obama administration auctioned off oil and gas leases in the western Gulf of Mexico Wednesday for the first time since the BP oil spill wreaked havoc on the Gulf coast of Louisiana in 2010. The sale, held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in a conference room in the Louisiana Superdome, attracted 241 bids from 20 companies for 161 tracts off the Texas coast.
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  • Paul Ryan to Announce New Approach to Preserving Medicare

    By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

    House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who has been castigated by Democrats and hailed by Republicans for his plan to privatize Medicare, will on Thursday unveil a new approach that would preserve the 46-year-old federal health program. Working with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the Wisconsin Republican is developing a framework that would offer traditional, government-run Medicare as an option for future retirees along with a variety of private plans.
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  • GOP Tries To Reign In Spending On Jobless Benefits

    by Andrea Seabrook, NPR

    One of the year-end fights going on in Congress is about unemployment insurance. Democrats want to extend benefits for people who have been out of work for a long time. Republicans say it's time to change the program and lower its cost. The Labor Department estimates that if Congress doesn't act soon, some 2.5 million people could stop receiving checks by March.


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  • Inside Congress’s End-of-Session Follies

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    Faced with a House Republican bill that extends the payroll-tax holiday but doesn't raise taxes on millionaires, President Obama and Senate Democrats are considering financing the extension with budget cuts. And as House Republicans attempted an end-run around the effort by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to stall passage of a massive, almost $1 trillion spending package, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer called for passage of another short-term funding measure.
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  • In a Tactical Shift, Romney Trains Sights on Gingrich

    By Jeff Zeleny, Michael Barbaro, and Ashley Parker, New York Times

    Mitt Romney, his presidential aspirations suddenly endangered by Newt Gingrich’s rapid resurgence, is employing aggressive new arguments in an effort to disqualify Mr. Gingrich as a credible choice to Republicans, calling him “zany” in an interview on Wednesday and questioning his commitment to free enterprise.
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Dec 14, 2011

  • Poll: Republicans Shrug at Romney's Business Past

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Mitt Romney says his business background makes him a better presidential candidate than Newt Gingrich, who has spent decades in Washington. But the argument is not moving Republicans his way, underscoring Romney's challenge in finding a way to stem Gingrich's rise three weeks before the Iowa caucus, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.
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  • Romney Blasts Gingrich as ‘Extremely Unreliable’ Conservative Leader

    By Philip Rucker and Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Mitt Romney blasted Republican presidential rival Newt Gingrich on Tuesday as an “extremely unreliable leader in the conservative world” who has taken positions in the campaign that should give GOP voters pause as they consider their choices for the party’s nomination. Romney, in an interview with The Washington Post, offered some of his toughest criticism to date of the politician whose sudden rise in the polls has made him, at least for now, the front-runner for the nomination.
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    Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich appear at recent campaign events. (CNN)