Today's Papers

Flying Solo

The Washington Postleads with word that once Democrats take over Congress this week and start working on legislation they promised for the first 100 hours, lawmakers will take steps to minimize any input from Republicans in order to speed up the process. This is in contrast to promises of bipartisanship made after the midterm elections. Regardless of how much Republican participation will be allowed, the “lighting-fast 100-hour agenda” won’t bring about a “revolution,” says the Los Angeles Times in its lead story. In contrast to the Republican takeover in 1994, the Democrats aren’t planning any big changes to the federal government,  choosing instead to focus on a few popular issues.

The New York Timesleads with a look at the small number of Iraqis currently allowed to enter the United States as refugees. There are thousands of Iraqis trying to flee their country every day, but very few of them are finding refuge in the United States, and that includes those who put their lives on the line to help Americans. USA Todayleads with the weather, which has calmed down and is expected to allow holiday travelers to get back home with no major problems. The Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide newsbox with a roundup of the weekend news out of Baghdad, including the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Some Democrats are uncomfortable with the strategy to marginalize Republicans, fearing that it goes back on their promise to change the tone in Washington. But Democratic leaders insist they will not allow debate on many of the early bills, such as the ethics package, because they have already been discussed. They promise that after the first 100 hours, more debate will be allowed. Regardless, Democratic leaders won’t be able to do everything by themselves. As the Post makes clear, even if Democrats succeed in marginalizing Republicans in the House of Representatives, they won’t be able to do the same in the Senate, where they hold the majority by the thinnest margin.

Although polls show Americans are looking to Congress for solutions in solving the country’s biggest problems, including Iraq, there is little in the Democratic agenda that deals with these issues. Democrats may simply be trying to use their first hours in power to prove they can get stuff done.

State Department officials blame a slow United Nations referral system for the small number of Iraqi refugees being allowed into the United States. But critics contend there is no reason why the United States has to follow the U.N. system. Some say the U.S. government has been reluctant to accept more refugees because it could be seen as an admission of defeat.

The WP and LAT go inside with news that U.S. forces killed six people during a raid of suspected insurgents. A Sunni lawmaker said two of his buildings were attacked and two of his bodyguards were killed. U.S. military officials said the politician’s buildings weren’t a target of the raid, but U.S. troops were fired on from those buildings, and they shot back. Meanwhile, some Sunni politicians continued to express their dissatisfaction at how Saddam Hussein’s execution was carried out. The LAT emphasizes some Shiite politicians acknowledge the execution didn’t go exactly as planned, because initially only seven people were supposed to witness the event.

The NYT goes inside with an Associated Press story that looks into the protests in the Sunni areas of Iraq to object to Hussein’s hanging. The number and size of protests appear to be increasing and “could signal a spreading militancy” among the Sunni population.

The Post and WSJ point out that two more American service members were killed in Iraq on the final day of 2006. With 113 deaths, December was the deadliest month of the year and the third worst since the invasion.

As it is looking like President Bush will almost certainly call for a troop “surge” in Iraq this month, the WSJ looks at the question of how long these additional service members would stay. Lawmakers have emphasized they want the extra troops to only remain for three to six months. But some military leaders say the troops should remain for at least a year in order to have the greatest effect. 

The NYT fronts a good piece that takes a look back at the way in which the Bush administration was unprepared for the way Iraq seemed to descend into chaos in 2006. At the beginning of last year, Bush assured the country he had a plan to withdraw. But a year later, his administration is desperately trying to work out a new strategy to bring Iraq under control.

All the papers note that Bush joined the other dignitaries and thousands of mourners who passed through the Rotunda of the Capitol to pay their respects to Gerald Ford. Funeral services will be held today at the Washington National Cathedral. 

The LAT is alone in fronting the latest from Somalia, where the prime minister gave Mogadishu residents three days to turn in their guns. The NYT says that for the first time in 15 years, there is a “credible government based in Mogadishu” that enjoys “serious outside support and no organized military threat from within.” The LAT says things in Mogadishu are returning to normal and takes a look at how many of those who supported the Islamist forces are trying to lie low, as they are unsure of what the future will bring.

Today is the first day of the WSJ’s long-awaited redesign, and the paper goes all out to highlight its new look to readers. In addition to a letter from the publisher, the WSJ issues an eight-page “reader’s guide” to explain all the changes. Curious about the new design? Go to a newsstand and pick up a copy—the WSJ is free today.

It’s really going to happen this time … The Post warns its many readers who made some sort of New Year’s resolution that changing bad habits can only happen when people realize what triggers these actions in the first place. “Getting in touch with the catalysts for their bad habits can unleash powerful forces for change,” says the paper. Or can it? The NYT takes a look at whether there is such a thing as free will