Today's Papers

Block the Vote

Almost all the papers lead with Republican senators voting to block debate on the nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq. “Both parties immediately moved to gain political advantage from the impasse,” notes USA Today.Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to avoid discussing the war, while GOP senators insisted they are willing to debate the war but do not want to be treated unfairly. The vote was largely along party lines with just two Republicans, who happen to be facing re-election in 2008, siding with the Democrats.

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, and everyone else fronts, President Bush’s $2.9 trillion budget, which is 4.2 percent larger than last year and immediately received criticism from Democrats, who say it focuses on the wrong priorities. The president says his plan will give the country a balanced budget in five years without the need for tax increases. But Democrats say the cost on domestic programs, including Medicare, is too high and accused the president of using rosy predictions to state that his plan could actually balance the budget.

Even though Republican leaders insisted they are likely to reach an agreement soon to continue with the debate, the New York Timessays yesterday’s events leave “in doubt whether the Senate would render a judgment on what lawmakers of both parties described as the paramount issue of the day.” The Los Angeles Timesnotes that the difficulty of reaching an agreement in the Senate might mean that “leadership in challenging Bush may shift to House Democrats.”

But what actually caused the impasse? The Washington Postdoes the best job of explaining the intricacies of the debate. Here’s the gist: There are four resolutions and the issue turns around which ones to allow for a vote and how many votes will be needed to approve each one. Republicans want all four resolutions to require 60 votes. Why? Mainly because of a resolution introduced by Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire that is supportive of Bush and says Congress shouldn’t cut funding for troops in the field. They all know it’d be difficult for many Democrats to vote against the measure, and so it would likely be the only one that would get 60 votes. Democrats say if all four resolutions come up, they should require a majority vote.

Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to bring up Iraq again and again until Republicans allow the vote to take place. The NYT quotes Republican Sen. John Sununu saying he recognized that the public would likely be unhappy with all this infighting. “It may come as a surprise to my colleagues, but most voting members of the American public think that the Senate spends all too much time talking and not enough time casting votes,” Sununu said. Wonder where they get that idea?

The president’s budget includes big increases for the Defense and State departments. As had already been reported, for the first time the budget includes estimates of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an analysis piece inside, the Post says that Bush’s defense budget request “pushes U.S. defense spending to levels not seen since the Reagan-era buildup of the 1980s.” Slate’sFred Kaplan does the math and says the real request for new defense spending totals $739 billion, which, adjusted for inflation, is “about one-third higher than the previous record for U.S. military spending, set in 1952.”

As several papers point out, and the LAT highlights in an analysis piece inside, the budget doesn’t include any money for the extra troops that are part of President Bush’s “surge.” This is because these troops are supposed to be temporary, but, of course, the Defense Department can’t say how long they will actually stay in Iraq.

The political fight over the budget will bring up difficult issues for the Democrats, who will probably not be very eager to decrease military spending in a time of war, increase taxes, or go back on their pledge to balance the budget. This might be exactly what the Republicans have in mind. The NYT quotes from an internal GOP party strategy memo that says the budget process gives them the opportunity to “stay on the offensive” by challenging Democrats to come up with a way “to rein in federal spending and balance the budget without raising taxes on the American people.” Besides, more time spent discussing details of a budget process most people don’t understand means less time dedicated to the failures in Iraq, right?

The Post fronts, and everyone else mentions, word that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani filed a “statement of candidacy” with the Federal Election Commission yesterday. “I’m in this to win,” Giuliani said. 

The LAT fronts news that a NASA astronaut was arrested yesterday. Navy Capt. Lisa Marie Nowak is accused of attacking and attempting to kidnap a woman that she saw as her rival for the affections of another astronaut they were apparently both seeing. Nowak, who is married with children, drove almost 1,000 miles (wearing diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop) to confront the other woman at an airport. A NASA spokesman said this is the first time an active-duty astronaut has been charged with a felony.

USAT has a story on the particular risks marijuana poses to teenagers and how it may affect their cognitive skills and future mental health. But the paper doesn’t stop there and decides to get into territory that might be more appropriate for a government pamphlet. Despite recognizing up high there’s no scientific evidence to prove marijuana is a gateway drug, it still includes the requisite story of the kid who started smoking pot at 13 and a few years later was doing crystal meth and heroin. The paper brings up studies that allegedly show pot smokers experience “withdrawal symptoms” when they quit. But then waits until a few paragraphs later to clarify that the most common symptoms are “irritability, followed by trouble sleeping, and loss of appetite.” Oh yeah, and they disappear within two weeks.

Fries with that? A correction from the LAT: “A review in Wednesday’s Calendar section of a PBS documentary about the Supreme Court said there was a justice named Hamburger. There was a chief justice named Warren Burger.”