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Democrats gained control of the Senate for the first time since 1994 after James Jeffords of Vermont abandoned the Republican Party and declared himself an independent. Jeffords said he was increasingly at odds with President Bush and GOP leaders on issues ranging from abortion to tax cuts. His move also weakened the White House's ability to move its agenda through Congress and win ratification of conservative judicial nominees. With control of the Senate, Democrats could vote down nominations in committee, on the floor, or refuse even to consider them. Jefford's move makes Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota the new majority leader, replacing Trent Lott of Mississippi.

With a dozen Democrats joining in, the Senate passed 62 to 38 an 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax-relief package that represents the largest cut in 20 years. House and Senate negotiators quickly began hammering out a final compromise, which Republicans hoped to present for Bush's signature as soon as today. The Senate bill includes core components of his original 10-year, $1.6 trillion plan: across-the-board income tax cuts, eventual repeal of the estate tax, relief from the so-called "marriage penalty," and doubling of the $500 child credit. The bill differs from Bush and House plans mainly in that it shifts more of the benefits to low- and middle-income people.

Fourteen illegal immigrants died and at least three others were missing five days after smugglers abandoned them in the 115-degree heat of the Arizona desert, the Border Patrol said. Rescuers used helicopters and four-wheel-drive vehicles to search for the missing Mexicans and found 11 survivors, who were hospitalized for heat exhaustion and dehydration. The group, from the Mexican state of Veracruz, was reportedly smuggled in east of Yuma.

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At least 900 additional pages of FBI documents have been turned over to Timothy McVeigh's attorney, who said the Oklahoma City bomber's defense team was still weighing options following the late disclosure of 3,135 pages earlier this month. The FBI has apologized and said the documents were not disclosed before trial because of poor record-keeping.

Sales of new homes in April posted the largest decline in four years as rising layoffs and job uncertainties made Americans feel less inclined to make big-ticket purchases. New-home sales fell by 9.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000, the biggest drop since April 1997, the Commerce Department reported.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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