Demo­cratic lead­er­ship agenda spot­lights mid­dle class

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Amy Fa­gan

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.”

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