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110th Congress/Democratic Party agenda

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The Democratic Party is the majority party in both the House and Senate for the 110th Congress.

Common Democratic agenda

During the 2006 campaign season Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate, particularly future Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.) and future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), outlined prospective agendas that they wished to pursue if their party returned to the majority. Issues they now wish to address are:

Ethics reform

Topping the agenda for both House and Senate leaders is ethics reform. Having campaigned strongly on the issue of congressional ethics, the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate promises to pass ethics-related legislation soon after Congress convenes in January 2007. Both the House and Senate proposals have included stricter controls on members of Congress' interaction with lobbyists, a ban on travel, meals or gifts paid for by lobbyists, and the end to the practice of anonymous earmarking. These measures may be broken up and debated individually rather than as part of a broad ethics bill. [1][2]

  • See Congresspedia

Increase to the minimum wage

Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate plan to push legislation to increase the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. Democrats have pledged to block all congressional pay raises until the minimum wage is raised. [3]

Stem cell research

During the time that Republicans controlled Congress, the only bill that President George W. Bush vetoed in his first six years in office was a measure intended to increase federal funding for such research. Congressional Democrats wish to both increase federal funding and remove some restrictions on how that money can be used. [4][5]

Increasing funding for college tuition

A general consensus exists among Democrats for increasing federal funding for college education. Proposed manners for doing so include cutting interest rates on student loans and increasing federal Pell Grants. [6][7]

Implementing 9/11 commission recommendations

During the 2006 campaign, Democrats repeatedly stated that one of their first acts would be to implement all outstanding recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

In November 2006, however, Democratic aides stated that it was unlikely that the new House leadership would move forward with the recommendation to restructure oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies. The Commission advised that funding and oversight be centralized under the House Intelligence Committee, whereas previous funding came from an appropriations subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. The subcommittee was to be chaired by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) strongly supported in his failed bid to become majority leader. Some observers stated that this complicated the restructuring issue, as it would stunt Murtha's influence in the position considered to be his consolation prize after losing the leadership race. [8]

Pay-as-you-go spending

Pelosi has pledged that there will be no new deficit spending. Any increase in spending would have to be offset by either cuts in other spending or an increase in taxes. Reid has made similar statements to the press. During the election season, Republicans decried this measure as a back door plan to increase taxes. [9][10]

Federal budget

One item that the incoming Democratic Congress will have to address before moving on to its agenda is the federal budget. The 109th Congress failed to pass nine necessary spending bills for 2007, instead opting to punt the bills to the following legislative session. The incoming chairs of the House and Senate Committee on Appropriations David Obey (D-Wis.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) have stated that they will combine the outstanding spending measures into a joint resolution to keep the government funded at present levels (with only minor adjustments) until the new fiscal year begins in October 2007. Notably, the joint resolution would be stripped of earmarks, a victory for those who oppose such spending measures, but a cause of worry for members of congress with projects planned in their district that would be now denied funding. [11]

Other issues

Democratic leadership in both chambers promise to block any attempts to privatize social security.

Democratic House leadership

Immediate priorities: the first 100 hours

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) listed several legislative goals that she hoped to accomplish in the first 100 session hours of the 110th Congress:

  • Introducing legislation intended to curb the power of lobbyists.
  • Committing to no new deficit spending.
  • Fully enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
  • Raising the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. Pelosi pledged that there will be no congressional pay raises until the minimum wage is upped.
  • Enacting legislation allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies over prescription drug costs for Medicare.
  • Promoting and increasing funding for stem cell research.
  • Cutting interest rates on college loans by 50%.
  • Beginning to roll back subsidies to oil companies.
  • Fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security.

Democrats kickoff first 100 hours

Democrats officially kicked-off their first 100 hours on January 9, 2007. The first bill that was introduced focused on implementing recommendations put forward by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States on July 22, 2004. The following six issues were ultimately addressed in the first 100 hours:

Other priorities

Pelosi has not released an official statement outlining goals she wished to pursue after the completion of her 100 Hours objectives. However, some issues likely to be brought up in House are:

  • Page program reform. While not part of her stated 100 hours agenda, Pelosi has said that she will introduce legislation that reformats the page board to include an equal number Democrats and Republicans as well as parents of one current and one former page early in the session. [12]
  • Congressional voting rights for the Washington, DC representative. If a bill creating a fourth congressional district in Utah and granting the rep from DC full-voting rights at the end of the 109th Congress, Pelosi has said that she will pursue it. [13]

Democratic Senate leadership

Immediate priorities

Future Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) stated that he intends to put an end to what he terms a "do-nothing Congress" and force the body to spend more time considering legislation than his predecessor. [14] He has stated that the following will be the initial priorities of the Democratic-led Senate at the outset of the 110th Congress:

  • Ethics reform legislation, including ending the practice of lawmakers anonymously inserting earmarks into spending bills.
  • Increasing funding for and loosening restrictions on stem cell research.
  • Raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.

Source: Washington Post

General priorities

In 2006, Reid outlined what he called "A New Direction for America," a set of policies which he hoped to enact in the 109th Congress. As the Democrats were in the minority at the time, few of his proposed changes took place. Reid interpreted the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections as a mandate from voters to move forward with his plan. Aside from the immediate priorities discussed above, the "New Direction" consists of:

  • Beginning the phased redeployment of American troops in Iraq.
  • Doubling the size of U.S. Special Forces
  • Enacting all recommendations of the 9/11 Commission
  • Ending corporate tax breaks related to outsourcing.
  • Making college tuition permanently tax deductible.
  • Lowering student loan rates and expanding the Federal Pell Grant program.
  • Promoting initiatives for energy-efficient technologies and domestic alternatives such as biofuels.
  • Ending tax breaks for oil companies and enacting tougher price gouging laws relating to oil products.
  • Enacting legislation allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies when purchasing prescription drugs for Medicare.
  • Preventing any privatization of Social Security.
  • Creating initiatives to encourage personal savings.

Source: Senate Democrats

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