The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Timeslead with the Senate passing the war-spending bill that was approved by the House on Wednesday. President Bush has repeatedly vowed to veto the $124-billion bill that contains a timeline for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq and $21 billion in domestic spending. Now the question turns to how Democrats will choose to proceed after Bush uses his veto pen, which could be as early as Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the vote but also emphasizes a news conference by Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, where he said the overall level of violence in Iraq has remained largely unchanged since the buildup of forces earlier this year. He also warned U.S. casualties could increase in the coming months.
USA Todayleads with Chinese officials acknowledging for the first time that ingredients used in pet food contained melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizer. But the government insists there is no proof that the melamine is responsible for having killed or sickened hundreds of animals. The Chinese government has vowed to cooperate with U.S. officials as they continue their investigations.
The LAT gives historical perspective to the war-spending bill, calling it an "act unparalleled since the Vietnam War." During that war, Congress passed a bill mandating the removal of troops from Cambodia, although lawmakers did not order an end to the military involvement in Vietnam until after the Paris peace accords were signed. Now there's little room for observing this historical event as Democrats come to realize there is no consensus on how they will proceed after the veto. Bipartisan talks on the next step have already begun, and it seems clear Republicans would be willing to support a bill containing benchmarks for the Iraqi government without the timelines for troop withdrawal. Some Democrats, however, might not be willing to support the same bill that just has the timelines removed.
The NYT notes Democrats will be facing some pressure from outside groups that are planning rallies and news conferences to pressure Democrats not to dilute the bill. Some House Democrats, led by Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, want to pass a shorter-term bill that would provide funding for a few months and allow Congress to revisit the issue. Lawmakers are also looking into whether they should insert the more contentious provisions into other bills during the coming weeks. Regardless, the process won't be easy or short, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes they will have a new bill by June.
As investigations continue into what caused pets to get sick, the LAT fronts a look at how the Food and Drug Administration created a comprehensive plan to protect the nation's food supply from tainted imports after Sept. 11 but it never got off the ground. As usual, the main culprits were tight budgets and a lack of urgency from officials. Now that the problem with pet foods has brought the issue of food safety to the forefront, senior officials who worked on the plan said the FDA already has a blueprint to deal with the challenge of imports if it's willing to spend the time and effort to implement it.
Everyone mentions former CIA Director George Tenet's long-awaited book, At the Center of the Storm, is coming out on Monday, and yesterday 60 Minutes released excerpts of an interview that will air Sunday. But the NYT beats all the papers by getting hold of an actual copy of the book, which it clarifies was "purchased at retail price." Tenet does not mince words and says officials led the country into war even though "there was never a serious debate … within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat." Regarding the infamous "slam dunk" remark, Tenet says he was referring to how easy it would be to make a public case for the war. He accuses administration officials of turning him into a scapegoat by taking the statement out of context. The former CIA director mostly paints Bush in a positive light and saves the most criticism for others within the White House, including Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The Post notes Tenet reportedly received a $4-million advance for the book.
The WP and NYT front, while everyone else goes inside with, the first Democratic presidential debate, where eight candidates were united in their criticism of the current administration and largely refrained from taking shots at each other. Slate's John Dickerson says that by the end of the night, "the standings were unchanged."
The NYT fronts, and everyone mentions, President Vladimir Putin announcing that, as a protest to U.S. plans for a new missile defense system, Russia would suspend its compliance with a treaty that limits the deployment of conventional arms in Europe. The move is likely to increase tensions between Russia and NATO countries. But as the LAT mentions up high, it's not clear what the suspension would mean because the current version of the treaty has never been ratified by most of the countries that signed it, although the NYT points out it has "remained a powerful diplomatic marker."
The WP and LAT front the death of Jack Valenti, who was president of the Motion Picture Association of America from 1966 until 2004 and a close confidant to President Lyndon Johnson. He was 85 and died of complications from a stroke he suffered in March. Valenti was the main link between Hollywood and Washington during a period where the movie industry went through great changes. To the general public, though, Valenti will mostly be remembered for creating the movie ratings system he introduced in 1968, which is still in use today.
The LAT has a piece on the reactions to yesterday's sports section column by Mike Penner where he "told the world of his decision to switch genders." The essay on the writer's transition from Mike Penner to Christine Daniels has become one of the most widely read stories of the year, and the paper received hundreds of comments from readers, mostly positive.