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New Democrats Hope to Build Bridge

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Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, sent a letter Thursday announcing his intention to stay on as its leader.

Liberals still dominate the House Democratic Caucus, but that isn’t stopping the members of the moderate New Democrat Coalition from trying to expand their reach.

The pro-business group, scheduled to hold its annual retreat today, is hoping to act as a bridge between President Barack Obama’s administration and the House Republican majority on several major initiatives this Congress, including education reform and free-trade agreements.

“There is opportunity for collaboration,” Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.) said.

Harman, a New Democrat, said the Obama administration is signaling that the president wants to work with moderate Democrats with the recent appointments of Bruce Reed as Vice President Joseph Biden’s chief of staff and William Daley as Obama’s top aide. Reed served as executive director of the president’s fiscal commission, and Daley, who served as Commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton, has a long history with Wall Street and the business community.

“I think that the New Dems will have bigger opportunity than perhaps previously because of those appointments,” Harman said.

At today’s meeting, the coalition will vote on its leadership slate and hold an internal discussion on its priorities for the new Congress, according to an aide familiar with the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition, which has 38 members, is also proposing to add at least five new members and is looking to add an education task force and a critical infrastructure and manufacturing task force.

Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the group, sent a letter Thursday announcing his intention to stay on as its leader and a proposed leadership slate to run alongside him. Reps. Ron Kind (Wis.) and Allyson Schwartz (Pa.) will remain as vice chairmen. Crowley also named Reps. Jim Himes (Conn.) and Rick Larsen (Wash.) as two new vice chairmen. They will replace former Rep. Melissa Bean (Ill.), who lost in the November elections, and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), who will continue to be a member of the group but is not seeking a leadership position so he can focus on his ranking member job on the Armed Services Committee.

Rep. Jason Altmire (Pa.) will also take over Smith’s role as chairman of the group’s political action committee.

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