The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with Judge Alito's confirmation becoming a sure thing after the Senate voted 72 to 25 to shoot down an attempted filibuster by Sens. Kennedy and Kerry. Nineteen Democrats joined Republicans in voting for cloture and thus turning back the filibuster. Alito has long had the votes locked up, making Kennedy and Kerry's attempt, as the Post puts it,more "symbolic than serious from the start." The Los Angeles Times leads with Russia and China finally agreeing to refer Iran's nuclear shenanigans to the Security Council. Which means, eh, not that much, really: As part of the deal, the U.S. and others agreed to table the issue for at least a month. And the LAT notes, in what amounts to an understatement, it's "not clear whether Russia and China" are willing to support sanctions. USA Today'slead previews a House Republican proposal that would force Native American tribes to abide by the same campaign-finance restrictions as corporations and unions. As it stands, the tribes can basically give unlimited contributions. Sure would have been nice if USAT had explained why Republicans landed on this proposal.
The deal on Iran was made at a diplomats confab in London, where the U.S., EU, U.N., and Russia also agreed that they won't hand money over to a new Hamas-led government unless Hamas recognizes Israel and renounces violence. Which, again, was fudgier than it seems: The diplomats all agreed that aid can continue so long as a caretaker government is in place. And the BBC sees even more of a fudge factor, saying the diplomats didn't demand immediate action from Hamas but rather "a commitment to these things in the future."
The Post, which off-leads the Hamas bargaining, calls the deal a "compromise position between U.S. officials and their European counterparts."
The Palestinian government is almost totally dependent on foreign aid, largely from Europe. (The Post mentions in passing that "little U.S. aid" goes directly to the Palestinian government.) As the Wall StreetJournal notes, Hamas is appealing to the West to keep the spigot open, but it's also "putting out feelers to other Mideast states."
The Post has an op-ed from the deputy political bureau chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas. He tries to make nice: "It would be a mistake to view the collective will of the Palestinian people in electing Hamas in fair and free elections under occupation as a threat. For meaningful dialogue to occur there should be no prejudgments or preconditions. And we do desire dialogue." And, as the Post notes, he's also under indictment in the U.S.
The Wall Street Journal goes high with a poll showing the president's approval rating steady at 39 percent. Forty-three percent said the U.S. should pull out all troops from Iraq within in a year. Just 21 percent said they want a drawdown without a timeline.
As the WP fronts, al-Qaida big dog Ayman Zawahiri shows up in a video taunting President Bush and, more important, proving he wasn't killed in the U.S. airstrike earlier this month that targeted him. CBS News has this intriguing rollback: "Now U.S. officials say they just aren't sure who they killed that day."
The WP notes inside that the few safety improvements federal mine regulators are now considering might sound familiar. That's because they were among the "18 proposed safety rules" already in the pipeline in 2001 that the "Bush administration abandoned or delayed implementation of."
The NYT fronts and others tease Exxon-Mobil announcing, as quietly as possible, record profits again, $36 billion in the past year. The NYT ponders the political impact of it all, but what the Times doesn't really unpack is why Exxon is raking in the dough. It's not price gouging. As the Journal and Post explain, the market price of oil has shot up, mostly because of supply and demand; and Exxon owns a whole lot of supply.
For what it's worth, the NYT goes inside with a top Iraqi official saying the U.S. and other foreign forces will drop below 100,000 by the end of the year, and by the end of 2007 "the overwhelming majority of the multi-national forces will have left the country." The official, Iraq's national security adviser, is a member of a joint U.S.-Iraqi committee that's purportedly tasked with planning the drawdown. He offered the usual caveats about conditions but said the plans are all in place, "It's like an instruction book."
Tap Dance… The Post notes inside that Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold may have caught Attorney General Gonzales being a bit creative. During Gonzales' confirmation hearings a year ago, Feingold prodded him about executive power and happened to ask whether the president is allowed to order warrant-less wiretapping. Gonzales' answer: That's a "hypothetical situation."