The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposing a plan to extend health insurance to all of California’s residents. “Everyone in California must have insurance. If you can’t afford it, the state will help you buy it, but you must be insured,” Schwarzenegger said yesterday. If approved, California wouldn’t be the first state to guarantee coverage for all its residents, but, as the NYT notes, the state’s sheer size coupled with its current 6.5 million uninsured, means the move “is likely to set the stage for a national conversation about health care this year.”
The Washington Postleads with White House efforts to promote President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. In preparation for the official announcement on Wednesday night, Bush spoke with 30 Republican senators in the White House to try to sell them on his plan. The lawmakers won’t be the only ones who need convincing. USA Todayleads with a new poll that reveals 61 percent oppose sending more troops to Iraq, and almost half said the United States will not be able to achieve its goals no matter how many troops it decides to send. Approval of President Bush’s Iraq policies has dropped to 26 percent, a record low. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with the fight that might be awaiting Bush’s proposal in Congress. Democrats are currently divided on how to channel their opposition to the president’s plan.
California’s legislature still has to approve the measure, which would carry a price tag of approximately $12 billion. Schwarzenegger is likely to meet stiff resistance from members of his own party. Under the plan, all employers with 10 or more workers would be required to provide insurance or else pay 4 percent of their wages to a state fund. Critics of the plan are everywhere. Some say the 4 percent requirement is too low and might persuade employers to drop coverage. Doctors and hospitals aren’t too happy that they would also have to pay up to fund the program. Under the plan, health insurance providers would also be prohibited from denying coverage to individuals because of prior conditions. “The plan has a substantial chunk of devil before you even reach the details,” says an LAT editorial.
In other California news with possible national impact, the LAT fronts word that Gov. Schwarzenegger is expected to announce today a new requirement that motor vehicle emissions be cut by 10 percent. Petroleum refiners and gasoline sellers would have 13 years to decrease the carbon content of their fuels.
Senators who met with President Bush said that, yes, he’s planning to send up to 20,000 more troops to Iraq. The president insisted this strategy has a better chance of succeeding because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised to commit more of his country’s forces to fight against all sources of violence. President Bush is also emphasizing that increasing the number of troops is only one part of his plan, which will also include benchmarks for the Iraqi government and economic incentives. Illustrating the uphill battle Bush is likely to face in Congress, many of the Republican senators were not immediately supportive and said they would wait until the full plan is released before passing judgment.
USAT and the NYT report that meeting senators is only the beginning of what will be a full-on campaign by the White House to convince Congress and the public that President Bush’s plan is the best chance for success in Iraq. After his televised address, Bush will travel to Fort Benning, Ga., and his secretaries of state and defense will testify before Congress.
The WSJ mentions in the top spot of its worldwide newsbox that Tony Snow said the president knows the public is anxious about the situation in Iraq, but emphasized Americans “don’t want another Sept. 11.”
The WP and NYT front House Democrats announcing they will pass the remaining reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission that failed to gather support in the previous Congress. The NYT goes high with criticism of the legislation. Notably, the Homeland Security Department said a requirement that all cargo be screened is not only prohibitively expensive but also inefficient.
The NYT fronts, and everyone else mentions, news that President Bush has picked Fred F. Fielding to be his White House counsel. Fielding is considered a Republican “wise man,” according to the Post, because of his experience as a deputy counsel for Richard Nixon and as counsel for Ronald Reagan. All the papers mention this is part of the administration’s efforts to build up its legal team in anticipation of investigations by the new Democratic Congress.
The WP and LAT front, and the rest of the papers go inside with word that a U.S. Air Force gunship carried out a strike against suspected al-Qaida members in southern Somalia. The attack by special forces is the first time the U.S. military has acknowledged taking action in Somalia since 1994. The LAT says the efforts are intended to “capture or kill” three suspects in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The WP says sources in the U.S. government believe the attack was successful, but they claim not to have any definite answers quite yet. The attack apparently resulted in many casualties, but no one is sure of exact numbers. Everyone notes CBS News was the first to report the story.
The NYT fronts a look at audio recordings played during the continuing genocide trial in Iraq in which Saddam Hussein is heard justifying the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds and predicting that they could kill “thousands.” During his trial, Hussein tried to assert that the chemical attacks were carried out by Iran. The recordings did come at a convenient time, and as the paper notes, they “may go a long way to answering criticism of the government for executing him before he was judged for the worst of his crimes.”
The NYT fronts word on a sort of natural gas smell that was pervasive in several areas of Manhattan and northeastern New Jersey yesterday. Some schools and offices were evacuated and a subway station was even shut down as many feared the worst. Officials have been unable to pinpoint the cause, although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg assured the city’s residents the smell posed no danger. In 2005, New Yorkers were faced with a much more pleasant smell that was reminiscent of maple syrup.