The Washington Postleads, the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, and everyone else fronts news that, after months of back-and-forth, Congress sent President Bush a war-spending bill without any timelines for the withdrawal of combat troops. Bush vowed to sign the bill, which funds operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until the end of September and includes a series of benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet to continue receiving reconstruction money. The Los Angeles Timesleads with President Bush announcing that he supports the Iraq Study Group’s plans to make U.S. troops focus more on support and training, but only after they succeed in improving the security situation in Baghdad. “Bush’s remarks were the clearest yet on his vision for the long-term U.S. role in Iraq,” says the LAT.
The New York Times leads with a poll that shows most Americans support the main provisions in the new immigration-reform bill currently under debate in the Senate. By comfortable majority margins, most Americans believe illegal immigrants should be given a chance to stay in the country and are also behind the idea of allowing temporary foreign workers to come into the country. USA Todayleads with word that high gas prices are not going to stop a record number of Americans from getting in their cars this Memorial Day weekend. “We are not seeing any indication that motorists have abandoned their holiday weekend travel plans,” a spokesman for AAA tells the paper. According to an oil analyst, cars are expected to use up to 190 million gallons of gasoline more this holiday than on a regular three-day spring weekend, which amounts to a whopping 1.2 billion gallons of gas.
September is now the key month for the next debate over war funding, when lawmakers will hear from U.S. commanders on whether the increase in troops has had the desired effect. But as a demonstration that lawmakers will be keeping a close eye on the situation, the bill says President Bush must give a status report on the Iraqi government’s progress in meeting the benchmarks by July 15.
Almost all Republican lawmakers voted for the bill, but many Democrats were angry about the lack of a withdrawal plan and reflected that sentiment through their votes. In the House, a majority of Democrats rejected the war-funding portion of the bill, which passed 280-142. The separate bill that included $17 billion in domestic spending, as well as an increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, had overwhelming bipartisan support, and passed 348-73. Both bills were joined in the Senate, where it was approved 80-14. Everyone notes Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama voted against the package.
The new NYT/CBS poll also reveals 51 percent of Americans favor the provision in the immigration bill that would prioritize education and skills over family ties for those who want to settle in the United States. A majority of those polled (61 percent) think illegal immigration is a very serious problem, and most said employers who hire illegal immigrants should be penalized. Although 82 percent believe the government should do more to secure the borders, only 15 percent said that building fences is the way to go.
The House had a busy voting day yesterday, and both the NYT and WP front news that, after much wrangling and diluting, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed new ethics legislation 396-22. Among the key provisions is one that would force lobbyists to disclose the amount of contributions they bundle from different sources, and the reports would be posted online. But as the NYT notes, “lobbyists are not the only bundlers,” so the provision won’t affect many others who use the fund-raising tactic.
The NYT fronts, and the WP goes inside with, word that cleric Muqtada Sadr is back in Iraq after spending four months in Iran. Everyone agrees Sadr’s return is significant, but no one is really sure what it means or what he has in mind for the future. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, tells the Post he thinks Sadr is back to try to “consolidate his power base.” There has been lots of talk recently that the rise in sectarian violence is a reflection of divisions within Sadr’s militia. So far, Sadr has remained quiet, but officials believe he’ll deliver a sermon as early as today.
The LAT fronts, and USAT goes inside with, a prominent group of international scientists warning that exposure to even low doses of some commonly used chemicals while a fetus is developing, or during a child’s first few years, could cause a variety of serious health problems. Since use of these chemicals is so widespread, “there needs to be renewed efforts to prevent harm. Such prevention should not await detailed evidence on individual hazards,” the scientists wrote.
Yesterday, the WSJ said former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was the lead candidate to become the new head of the World Bank. Today, the Post reports President Bush is not likely to choose a former senator because administration officials want someone who has experience running a large organization. The WP hears that the two top contenders are former U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick and Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, two men the WSJ also mentioned yesterday.
The Post’s Dana Milbank mentions how, keeping up with current trends, the president brought up al-Qaida over and over again during yesterday’s news conference. He mentioned al-Qaida a total of 19 times, and, at one point, even focused on how the terrorist group is a threat to everyone, even the children of some of the reporters who were present. “They are a threat to your children David,” Bush said to NBC’s David Gregory. “It’s a danger to your children, Jim,” Bush told the NYT’s Jim Rutenberg. “This last warning was perplexing,” writes Milbank, “because Rutenberg has no children, only a brown chow chow named Little Bear.”