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For Boehner, budget is a silver cloud with a dark lining

WASHINGTON — It should have been a moment of victory for Speaker John Boehner and fellow members of a House Republican leadership team. Instead, it felt a little like defeat.

Although the House voted convincingly Thursday to end the spending fight that had brought the government to the brink of a shutdown, Democrats had to ride to the rescue to provide the winning margin as dozens of Republicans turned thumbs down.

Fifty-nine Republicans — nearly a quarter of the new majority — rejected the measure personally negotiated by Boehner and endorsed by his top lieutenants, Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy of California, the party whip. Twenty-seven of the 59 who bucked the leadership were freshmen.

The outcome amounted to a warning shot to the leadership from its right flank that conservatives are serious when they say they will not support measures that do not meet their fiscal ideals, a position that is not going to make Boehner’s life any easier as he heads into new showdowns over raising the federal debt limit and deficit reduction. It could also have long-term implications for the speaker politically if he continues to face such internal division.

—Carl Hulse, The New York Times

Budget deal fuels Washington school voucher program revival

In the 11th-hour compromise to avoid a government shutdown last week, one concession that President Barack Obama made to Republicans drew scant attention: He agreed to finance vouchers for Washington students to attend private schools.

The voucher program, whose main beneficiaries are church-affiliated schools, is close to the heart of the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a product of parochial schools, who had repeatedly choked up defending it on the House floor last month.

The White House at first opposed the program, officially the Opportunity Scholarship Program, saying it did not raise student achievement. But in the end it was an easy place to compromise, administration aides said, in order to save bigger, more prominent education initiatives favored by Democrats from the $38 billion in cuts.

—Trip Gabriel, The New York Times

Prices climbing, tomatoes by the truckload are stolen

The high price of produce, especially for tomatoes after the deep winter freezes, has attracted more than heightened attention from consumers. A ring of sophisticated vegetable bandits was watching, too.

Late last month, a gang of thieves stole six tractor-trailer loads of tomatoes and a truck full of cucumbers from Florida growers. They also stole a truckload of frozen meat. The total value of the illegal haul: about $300,000.

The thieves disappeared with the shipments just after the price of Florida tomatoes skyrocketed after freezes that badly damaged crops in Mexico. That suddenly made Florida tomatoes a tempting target, on par with flat-screen TVs or designer jeans, but with a big difference: tomatoes are perishable.

“I’ve never experienced people targeting produce loads before,” said Shaun Leiker, an assistant manager at Allen Lund, a trucking broker in Oviedo, Fla., that was hit three times by the thieves. “It’s a little different than selling TVs off the back of your truck.”

—William Neuman, The New York Times