Today's Papers

Levying No Stone Unturned

Everybody leads with the abrupt halt yesterday of the House’s consideration of campaign finance reform. After 19 Republicans joined all but one of the body’s Democrats to defeat a Republican-leadership-backed procedural vote, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, responded by announcing that he had no plans to bring up for a vote a reform measure that would ban all soft money. The coverage consensus is that, although reformers vow a return to their cause, the issue is dead at least until September and perhaps for the rest of this year. The development also tops the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box. The Washington Post editorial on the matter runs under the headline “A DISCREDIT TO THE HOUSE,” and the New York Times’, which refers to “Hastert’s thuggish tactics,” is slugged “MR. HASTERT’S DEBACLE.”

The papers make it clear that House feelings were running high yesterday among both soft money ban advocates and critics. What happened, says the coverage, is that the House leadership insisted on a procedure under which the ban bill would have been subjected to 14 different votes on changes that had been made on it during recent negotiations, a gauntlet advocates feared would weaken or kill their bill, so they decided to organize against the 14-vote procedure. It was, explain the papers, unusual to try this, rarer still to have succeeded. Republican Sen. John McCain, who championed a soft money ban that had already passed the Senate, and who is widely quoted calling the 14-votes maneuver “the last refuge of the scoundrels,” worked actively alongside House Democrats to defeat it. The WSJ says that McCain’s participation was itself a factor in yesterday’s breakdown, reporting that there was “genuine fury among conservatives” over it and that Hastert “retreated in the face of the wrath in his caucus.” The NYT cites Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell as an example of a ban opponent who could not hide his glee at how yesterday turned out. Most of the papers quote his sum-up: “Reformers killed reform.”

The NYT off-leads the settlement reached yesterday by Abner Louima–sodomized four years ago with a broomstick while in police custody–in the lawsuit he’d filed against New York City and its main police union. Louima will receive more than $8.7 million ($2.9 million of it actually goes to his lawyers), the most money, says the Times, NYC has ever paid to settle a police brutality case. This also marks the first time, the paper believes, that a police union has paid to settle one.

The Los Angeles Times fronts research conducted by the consumer group Public Citizen that seems to show that between 1997 and 1999 more than 500 hospitals, about 10 percent of the U.S. total, have been cited by the government for violating the federal law requiring them to provide emergency care to anyone regardless of their ability to pay.

The WSJ reports in its front-page business news box, and the WP stuffs, word that Microsoft has settled antitrust claims filed against it by New Mexico, one of 19 states that had backed the U.S. government’s lawsuit against the firm. The New Mexico attorney general cited the recent federal appeals court decision and the concessions about browser bundling and placement that MS made this week. The Journal has a source saying that Microsoft is in talks with other states in search of further settlements.

The WSJ front-features the problem the U.S. military is having with a virus that appears to be mostly of its own making. The adenovirus isn’t much trouble most places, but it is in military boot camps because of their close quarters and constant stress. Indeed, in recent months two recruits have died from the virus’ complications. This was unheard of for years before 1999, when the Pentagon stopped inoculating recruits with the vaccine that defeats the bug. The Journal says the vaccinations were phased out because the U.S. military decided not to make a modest (about $5 million) investment in keeping the main supplier’s production lines up to speed, money the company says it needed because the only real market for the drug is … basic training camps. And then the company gave the Pentagon plenty of advance warning that it would stop producing the vaccine and even offered to share its technology with future manufacturers. And yet the uniforms decided to cut costs by instead looking into such countermeasures as hand-washing and putting bunks further apart. This past January, the military has asked potential suppliers to submit proposals for producing the vaccine again, a proposition that will be much more expensive now than if supply continuity had been maintained. And, reports the Journal, the soonest the vaccine could be in the pipeline is three to five years.

The NYT’s medical reporter Lawrence Altman seems to have discovered a new problem that comes with that artificial heart implanted in a man in Louisville, Ky.: Its manufacturer, Abiomed, is restricting news about the recipient’s condition.

USA Today’s “Nation” Page 3 is two-thirds Levy/Condit. The page goes high with word that federal prosecutors, with an eye toward a possible obstruction of justice case against Rep. Gary Condit, have questioned a San Francisco flight attendant for a second time concerning her allegations that Condit had asked her to sign an affidavit falsely denying they’d had an affair. The flight attendant’s lawyer is quoted saying that he believes the investigators who talked to her are conducting “a criminal inquiry.” The paper also reports that authorities have requested the personnel files of a friend and former co-worker of Chandra Levy’s. Question: Is it cricket to print his name, as USAT did, at this point?