Democratic leadership agenda spotlights middle class
HouseSpeaker-electNancyPelosi and Majority Leader-elect Steny H. Hoyer — days after engaging in an intraparty power struggle — said Nov. 20 that they will push bills to help the middle class and that they don’t need Republican support to pass them.
Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer said theyexpectedbipartisanbackingfor their efforts to lessen the “squeeze” on the middle class, specifically increasingtheminimumwage,lowering Medicare prices and cutting interest rates on student loans.
But Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats can pass those measures on the strengthoftheirnewmajorityalone, if need be.
“I think that’s what winning the majority was all about,” Mrs. Pelosi said when asked about the role of Republicans.
Shequicklyaddedthatshehopes to see a large number of Republicans support her legislative agenda, and that she plans to meet with incoming House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio when he returns to town after the holiday.
Mrs. Pelosi, who one week earlier hadbackedMr.Hoyer’schallengerto become her second-in-command when the Democratic Congress is seated in January, said she looks forwardtoworkingwithMr.Hoyerafter their strategy session on Nov. 20.
The California Democrat again congratulated Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, on his “stunning” win over outspoken war critic Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Hoyer, who defeated Mr. Murtha 149-86, said he and Mrs. Pelosihadworkedtogetherasthetop twoHouseleadersoftheminorityto createthe“mostunifiedandfocused [Democratic] caucus” in many decadesandwouldcontinuetodoso asthemajorityleaders.Mr.Hoyeris the outgoing minority whip.
Mrs.PelosiandMr.Hoyerdidnot raise any new agenda items as they said they would pursue allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, expanding federal support for embryonic-stem-cellresearchandlobbying reform.
Besides trying to generate some Republicansupport,Mrs.Pelosimay have to work on keeping her caucus from straying from the agenda.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat and likely new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently reiterated his long-held belief that there should be a military draft.
When asked whether she would support reinstituting the draft, Mrs. Pelosi said Mr. Rangel has “long held this position” and uses it as “a way to make a point” about the Iraq war.
“It’s not about a draft; it’s about a shared commitment,” she said.
When pressed, she said she doesn’t support the idea. Mr. Hoyer chuckled and said the schedule they’re compiling doesn’t include a bill to reinstitute the draft.
One thing both Mr. Hoyer and Mrs. Pelosi found amusing as they spoke to the packed room was the spike in the number of reporters attending their briefings.
Mr. Hoyer joked that he had “two and a half times the people” than he usually does at his normal briefing.
“It’s nice to be in the majority,” Mrs.Pelosiquipped.“Wehavemany more visitors.”