Everybody leads with Congress’ agreement on the final details of Bush’s tax bill, which will reduce taxes by $1.35 trillion over the next 10 years. The New York Times focuses on party disagreement on the agreement. Democratic leaders criticized elements that hide revenue losses by showing that many of the cuts will pass away before 2011. Republicans celebrated the distribution of $30 billion to taxpayers this year that otherwise would have gone to the government. The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times both provide particulars of the bill, including the immediate bottom line: a $300 refund for individuals, $600 for families, to be sent out some time in the late summer.
All three papers front analysis of Sen. Jeffords’ departure from the Republican Party, which will give Democrats control of the Senate. The WP reports that Bush is preparing to wage a campaign against the newly Democratic Senate and to use the leverage of his “bully pulpit” to push through his proposals, such as the education bill. The LAT and NYT scrutinize how the change in chairmanship of the Senate’s 15 committees will effect policy. Some things to expect: a call for a swift vote to raise the minimum wage; pressure to limit oil drilling in Alaska; and new emphasis on election reform. Relatedly, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies are preparing for a cooler reception in Washington.
The WP and NYT front a report that 424 children who had been abducted and forced to fight for the rebel Revolutionary United Front were released in a ceremony that symbolizes the prospect of peace in Sierra Leone. Both papers note, however, that fighting still continues in the eastern diamond fields, and the NYT adds that what appears to be the promise of peace might in reality only be a shift in fighting to the neighboring countries of Guinea and Liberia. One significant difference in the reporting: The NYT attributes child kidnapping to the RUF alone, whereas the WP states that both the rebels and the pro-government militia are guilty of abducting children and forcing them to fight.
The NYT goes inside with a follow-up to the story of the 14 Mexican immigrants who died in the Arizona desert, focusing on Mexican reaction. Although not directly critical of U.S. policies, Mexican officials are pushing for the two countries to come up with a joint resolution. One proposed solution is to implement guest worker programs that would increase seasonal migrant workers in the U.S. sixfold.
The WP fronts a story on two Palestinian terrorist car bombings. The one was carried out against a bus on a central street in Hadera, the other against an Israeli military outpost in the Gaza Strip. More than 80 were injured in the attacks, but only the bombers themselves were killed. Israel continues its unilateral cease-fire (unless fired upon) in Palestinian areas, appealing to Palestinians to follow a similar policy. Palestinians insist that Israel first agree to stop construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
The LAT fronts above the fold (and the NYT runs inside) a piece on a wedding-hall disaster in Jerusalem in which more than 20 died, an estimated 23 are still missing, and some 300 were injured in an accident attributed to faulty construction.
A NYT front-pager reports that, despite protests at home and from the U.S., Russia is preparing to become the largest international repository of nuclear waste. It stands to take in $21 billion for storing 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel sent in from 15 countries. Russian officials say that profits would help pay for cleanup of previous nuclear disasters within the country’s borders. Because the U.S. owns the licensing agreements to move most of the world’s nuclear fuel, Russia will have to negotiate an agreement with the Bush administration before it can enact its plan. Such an agreement might not be especially difficult to reach: Several governments that haven’t determined what to do with their spent nuclear fuel are pressuring Washington to cooperate with Russia’s plan.
The WP fronts a report that the U.S. defense establishment is reviewing proposals for radical changes in its nuclear arsenal. Two significant possibilities: phasing out all land-based intercontinental missiles and sharply reducing the strategic bomber force. The impetus for the review has been Bush’s statements that the U.S. must get beyond the concept of mutually assured destruction and that it focus its attention more on China’s small but expanding nuclear capacity and less on Russia’s vast but shrinking arsenal. Members of Congress have yet to engage in the debate, but lawmakers are certain to get involved if their congressional districts feel the economic sting of any policy shift.
The LAT fronts the negative reaction of Trinidad priests to the Vatican’s naming of the archbishop of Trinidad and Tobago. The priests view the appointment of Rev. Edward J. Gilbert, a white New York City native who replaces a much-loved Trinidadian prelate, as an “insult.” One Trinidadian priest remarked, “I have nothing against Bishop Gilbert as a person. He is a very charming man. However, I never thought that I would see this archdiocese made part of the process of recolonization of our people–American-style.”