The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with the surprise winner of yesterday's GOP vote for House majority leader: Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who beat the favored Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a Tom DeLay ally. The Los Angeles Timesand USA Today lead with the White House previewing plans to ask for another $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan through 2006. Fifty billion had already been planned, bringing the year's expected total to $120 billion. And that would bring the overall total so far in the wars to about $350 billion. The White House's budget request throws Iraq and Afghanistan together. But USAT gives a sense of the differing price tags: Iraq costs $150 million a day and Afghanistan just $27 million. USAT, seemingly alone among the papers, also highlights "officials" saying that, as expected, the White House isn't asking for more money for reconstruction.
Boehner—pronounced "BAY-ner"—ran as a friendly reformer, and the paperscredit him with being more willing than previous House leaders to work with Democrats. He had been expected to get shellacked by Blunt, who was reportedly offering and calling in favors left and right. But when the final, secret, vote took place inside a House caucus, the "results left everyone stunned, including Mr. Boehner."
As a Post analysis notes, what Blunt "presumed would be his greatest asset"—his connections to the current leadership—"turned out to be a liability." A third candidate, John Shadegg, R-Ariz., had promised the biggest lobbying reforms but didn't get much support and dropped out of yesterday's first round of voting. All those who supported Shadegg then went over to Boehner's side and against Blunt.
Boehner was once part of the House leadership under Gingrich but was kicked to the curb around when Gingrich went down. He is not Mr. Clean. The Wall Street Journal notes that he reportedly has accepted $150,000 worth of junkets since 2000, "more than all but six other members of Congress." He's generally tight with business lobbies (not that there's anything wrong with that). And of course, about 10 years ago Boehner handed out checks from the tobacco industry while on the House floor.
The WP and LAT front (and NYT stuffs) the uptick in protests by Muslims in response to European papers printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Among the "protests," gunmen in Gaza took briefly took over a European Union office. One of the cartoons showed Muhammad with a bomb on his head in place of a turban. In Islam, all images of the prophet are verboten. Some European papers have been insisting on reprinting the cartoons as a kind of statement for free speech.
Nobody fronts Iraq, where the U.S. reported the deaths of four GIs and a Marine. And about a dozen Iraqis were killed by two closely coordinated car bombings in Baghdad. The NYT calls it the "worst attack in the capital in weeks." Also, a U.S. helicopter responding to gunfire fired rockets in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, killing one woman. The Associated Press says the incident "enraged Shiites across Iraq." Meanwhile, the papers mention that the bodies of 16 men were found blindfolded and shot at close range.
A Page One Post piece details a whole host of government employees complaining that the NASA's inspector general, "suppressed audits, stopped investigations and otherwise edited IG activities to avoid embarrassing the agency or its leadership." The IG was appointed by President Bush and is now being investigated by an FBI-led ethics office.
Only the WSJ goes up high with Justice Alito's interesting first day at the office: He split with the court's conservatives and voted for a stay of execution for a man on Missouri death row.
TP missed some details the NYT had yesterday on the White House's new commitment to alternative energies:
The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget. ... The budget for the laboratory, which is just west of Denver, was cut by nearly 15 percent.
Today's NYT follows up on the cuts and actually suggests that most of the responsibility for them lies with ... Congress.
A front-page NYT piece notices that six of the 74 parliamentary seats Hamas took were won by female candidates. Among the new guard:
... is Mariam Farhat, the mother of three Hamas supporters killed by Israelis. She bade one son goodbye in a homemade videotape before he stormed an Israeli settlement, killing five people, then being shot dead. She said later, in a much-publicized quotation, that she wished she had 100 sons to sacrifice that way. Known as the "mother of martyrs," she was seen in a campaign video toting a gun.