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 21, 2011

  • 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.
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  • 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)

  • House Speaker Foresees Extension of Payroll Tax Cuts

    By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

    House Speaker John Boehner told USA TODAY on Monday that he was optimistic that payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits would be extended — despite a congressional stalemate that could result in millions of Americans losing both in the new year.
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  • Mitt Romney on GOP Ticket?

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    CNBC's John Harwood & Joe Kernen expect Mitt Romney will land the GOP nomination by March.

    Watch Video on CNBC

  • Struggling Santorum Bets big on Iowa

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Rick Santorum thought he had it figured out. He would use a game plan much like the one conservative Mike Huckabee employed in 2008 to win the Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. president. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania known for his staunch opposition to abortion, criticism of homosexuality and questioning of the teaching of evolution in schools, has gone straight for Iowa's social conservatives.
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Dec 19, 2011

  • One Nation Overdrawn

    By Greg Ip, The Economist

    In the frantic race to save the euro, many Europeans have sought inspiration from the United States, perhaps the most successful monetary union in history. Germany’s council of economic experts has proposed a debt “redemption pact” modelled on the American federal government’s assumption of state debts in 1790. To European federalists, America demonstrates that monetary union cannot survive without fiscal union. And proponents of a European lender of last resort to insulate sovereigns from liquidity crises note how America can still borrow at 2% thanks to a deep and liquid government bond market backstopped by the Federal Reserve. Look more carefully, however, and the American example is more complicated.
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  • Christian Group Struggles over Gingrich Endorsement

    By Todd Melby and Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Newt Gingrich's marital problems have come back to haunt him in Iowa where Christian conservatives are split over whether they can look beyond his past infidelities and endorse him for the January 3 caucuses. The Family Leader, one of the state's most influential evangelical groups, is in intense debate about whether to back Gingrich, a front-runner in the contest to choose the Republican to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November.
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  • A Ruler Who Turned North Korea Into a Nuclear State

    By David E. Sanger, New York Times

    Called the “Dear Leader” by his people, Kim Jong-il, the son of North Korea’s founder, presided with an iron hand over a country he kept on the edge of starvation and collapse, fostering perhaps the last personality cult in the Communist world even as he banished citizens deemed disloyal to gulags or sent assassins after defectors.
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  • Gingrich’s Time of Testing Arrives

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Newt Gingrich had planned a mostly quiet weekend, a short break from the rigors of the campaign trail after a busy week. Instead, he was on the phone all Saturday morning, holding a tele-town hall with Iowans and later a conference call with reporters. He apparently realized he cannot afford to rest when his candidacy is on the line.
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  • EPA Approves Sweeping Mercury Rules for Power Plants

    By Coral Davenport, National Journal

    Addressing a long-standing environmental problem with a major impact on public health, the Obama administration on Friday signed landmark regulations to control mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, sources familiar with the rulemaking have told National Journal. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil the rules early next week, the sources said. Signed by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Friday, the rules will result in the first federal controls on utility emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin linked to developmental disorders in fetuses and young children, lowered IQ rates in populations surrounding power plants, as well as blindness, deafness, and seizures.
    Read More on National Journal

  • SEC Charges Six Former Fannie/Freddie Execs

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

    CNBC's Eamon Javers reports that the SEC is suing six Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives with securities fraud.

    Watch on CNBC

  • Kim Jong-il, North Korean Dictator, Dies

    By Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, New York Times

    Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader who realized his family’s dream of turning his starving, isolated country into a nuclear-weapons power even as it sank further into despotism, died on Saturday of a heart attack while traveling on his train, according to an announcement Monday by the country’s state-run media. Word of Kim’s death sent shock waves through North Korea’s Asia neighbors and reverberated around the world, reflecting the unpredictable outcome of an abrupt leadership change in one of the most opaque and repressive countries. North Korea is technically still at war with South Korea and the United States after nearly 60 years and has few friends besides China.
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