Everybody leads with Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords' announcement yesterday that he was indeed switching from Republican to independent, thus giving Democrats control of the Senate, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal's front-page world-wide news box. The Los Angeles Times lead explains that this is the first time that Senate control has shifted midterm. Jeffords is quoted saying that the election of George W. Bush meant that moderates like himself lost the ability to help shape the Republican stance on issues like taxes, education, defense, energy, the environment, and judicial appointments. The WSJ calls Jeffords' remarks "an indictment of the White House."
USA Today describes the mood at the White House as "unapologetic," and most papers have President Bush's response: "I respect Senator Jeffords, but respectfully, I couldn't disagree more." The LAT says anger at Jeffords among Republicans is seething, and serves up a quote from an unidentified senior Republican aide saying that Jeffords will be "ostracized." And a Washington Post op-ed by former congressman Michael Forbes, who lost his seat after switching from Republican to Democrat, predicts that Jeffords will "experience playground-level rudeness" and that his family "will feel the invective on the street, at the supermarket and maybe even in church." Although there are many comity quotes from Senate Democrats, such as soon-to-be Majority Leader Tom Daschle's reference to a new era of "tripartisanship," the papers also make clear that they plan to emphasize some issues, like patients' rights, that have not been high on the Republican agenda. And the New York Times has New York Sen. Charles Schumer saying flatly that the change means, "We will not have nominations of right-wing after right-wing after right-wing judges."
The change, arranged by Jeffords to be delayed until after the tax cut bill wins final passage, clearly means that the Democrats will take control of the process by which bills are written in committees and gain access to floor votes. And the NYT reports that Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, widely credited with a key role in coaxing Jeffords across, and who stepped aside so that Jeffords could be offered the chairmanship of the Senate's environment committee, will become the assistant majority leader. And the NYT has Senate aides suggesting that Strom Thurmond will now find it easier to retire. But the coverage also makes it clear that much else is unsettled. The WP says that the issue of how many seats on committees each party will get will have to be renegotiated. And a number of papers observe that a Republican challenge to Sen. Trent Lott's leadership position may be in the offing. The WSJ observes that the Republicans chose a committee of five and not just Lott alone to negotiate organizational issues with the Democrats.
Both the WP and NYT fronts report that yesterday the Senate approved Bush nominee Theodore Olson for solicitor general. The Post headlines and goes high with the explanation that the move was hastily arranged by the soon-to-be-diminished Republicans. The NYT headlines and goes high with the explanation that the Democrats didn't want to defeat the nomination as the first exercise of their new power.
The papers report inside that Attorney General John Ashcroft announced yesterday that the Department of Justice has found and turned over to defense lawyers for Timothy McVeigh 900 additional pages of material that should have been made available to them before McVeigh's trial. Ashcroft is quoted saying he's confident there are no more such documents, that nearly all the material is meaningless, and that he will not postpone McVeigh's execution again.
The WP reports that that two Bush Justice Department nominees who include Whitewater investigations on their résumés were overwhelmingly approved by the Senate yesterday, each receiving only no vote. The lone naysaying senator? Hillary Clinton.
The WP reports that on Wednesday, security officials at Energy Department headquarters refused to admit Rep. David Wu, the only Chinese-American ever elected to Congress, who was there to give a speech. Even Wu's proffered congressional ID didn't do the trick. They can be faked, he was told. Admission, says the story, required the assistance of two other security types and took 15 more minutes.
The NYT reports inside that on Wednesday, an evangelical minister testifying before a House committee on behalf of President Bush's idea of government funds being allocated to social programs run by religious organizations said that while some Jews who had gone though his Christian residential drug treatment program continued with their Jewish religion, others had become "completed Jews," by which he meant they had converted to Christianity. The paper says that Jewish and civil liberties groups are using the testimony as fresh evidence that the Bush plan will mean government-funded proselytizing.
The WSJ "Washington Wire" has Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's penetrating defense of the Bush energy plan's proposed expansion of nuclear power: "If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really very good."
The WP gives a rave review to a concert featuring "various U.S. Marine chamber ensembles." Note to Secretary of Defense Rumseld: In your top to bottom review of the Pentagon, how's about instituting a one-chamber-ensemble-per-warfare-branch rule?