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As Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) began celebrating in advance of her swearing-in today as the first-ever female Speaker, the House’s new Democratic leadership unveiled a rapid-fire agenda that will dominate the chamber’s next two weeks.
The agenda, which outlines the first 100 legislative hours of the new Congress, is designed to quickly approve a slate of six bills Democrats campaigned on last fall, including national security, the minimum wage, stem-cell research, student loans, energy policy and prescription drug prices.
“We view the first 100 hours as uniquely part of the 2006 campaign,” said incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who added that after the completion of those items, the House would revert to the regular order Democrats have promised to Republicans. “We told everybody, if you elect us, this is what we’re going to do immediately.”
House Democrats’ plan to push through the agenda with little debate has drawn criticism from some Republican lawmakers — who assert that the incoming majority has violated its pledge to allow the minority to offer amendments to legislation, something Democrats had often criticized the GOP majority for in recent years — but Hoyer defended the decision, asserting the opening agenda deserves an exemption from that promise.
In addition to its 100-hour agenda, the House also is slated to take up the rules package for the 110th Congress on Friday, which mandates a series of strict ethics and lobbying reforms, such as prohibitions on Member travel and gifts.
During a Wednesday press conference, Hoyer said the rules package should be completed Friday afternoon, with the House expected to begin work on its 100-hour agenda Tuesday when the chamber reconvenes.
According to the schedule released Wednesday, the House will begin Tuesday with legislation to implement recommendations made by the 9/11 commission, the non-partisan body that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; Wednesday the chamber will move to increase the federal minimum wage; Thursday the House will consider legislation promoting stem-cell research; and Friday lawmakers will move a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.
Following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the schedule shows the House considering legislation to reduce interest rates on student loans and taking up legislation Jan. 18 that would roll back federal subsidies to oil companies and promote renewable energy sources.
The incoming Majority Leader said Wednesday that while Democrats still are working on legislation on energy and college loans, he expected the first four bills to be introduced Friday. Democrats have said they intend to finish the six-item agenda before the president’s State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 23.
Hoyer also asserted that the House will complete work on appropriations bills for fiscal 2007 before the close of the current fiscal year, noting with distaste that the House must pass a continuing resolution to continue to fund the government in fiscal 2006.
The legislation “would be nobody’s first choice, but when confronted with the reality we are confronted with, seems to be the alternative that is best able to get us going on the agenda of the next year,” Hoyer said.