A new Congress. A new, and long, list of priorities.
With the Democrats back in power, the House of Representatives started plowing through a calendar of bills this week that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi aims to pass in the session’s first 100 hours.
But Seattle Rep. Jim McDermott says the push — to cut deficit spending, enact 9/11 recommendations, raise the minimum wage, and more — isn’t so much about the first 100 hours as the 2008 election and forcing the president’s hand on the Democrats’ agenda.
“You have to look at the next two years as a setup for the 2008 presidential election,” McDermott says. “We are going to put forward proposals and let the American people see what the Democrats are thinking.”
If President Bush uses his veto power, he says, the Republicans will “have to answer for that in the next election,” he says.
Last year, McDermott, who is in line to chair the Human Resources subcommittee of Ways and Means, introduced a universal healthcare bill called the American Health Security Act. It would eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs in favor of an all-in-one, single-payer system run by the states.
While his bill may not come up in the short term, the congressman says the debate on universal health care will start immediately — minus the resistance that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton faced in 1993.
Since then, “Things have changed,” McDermott says. “Now business is talking to us about [lifting] the responsibility to provide health care.”
A “First 100 Hours” bill that will be introduced Jan. 12 aims to fix the Medicare Part D drug plan for the elderly, in part, by allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for the lowest drug prices — something the Republicans prohibited in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
“That bill was an absolute giveaway to pharmaceutical and insurance companies,” McDermott says. “That is not in the interest of the American people.”
Nor, the Democrats say, is relying on foreign oil, something the party plans to address Jan. 18 in a bill that would cut royalties for oil companies and use the money to fund renewable energy projects — legislation that Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, helped draft.
Last year, Inslee introduced a much broader bill, the New Apollo Energy Act, that would provide $10.5 billion for research and $49 billion for loans to build wind, solar, and other types of clean power plants. It would also provide tax credits for buying cars that use alternative fuels.
With Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, set to take over the Interior and Environmental Subcommittee of House Appropriations, his spokesperson, George Behan, says the congressman is already working to get more money to clean up Puget Sound and maintain the state’s long neglected national parks.
With the president calling to send more troops to Iraq, funding these efforts may not be easy — one reason Democrats are advocating new “pay-as-you-go” spending rules that Pelosi has said could involve repealing Republican tax cuts for the very wealthy.
The war itself is a thornier issue for the party. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is sponsoring a bill that would cut the purse strings for the troop surge. But The New York Times reports that many Democrats fear the measure could be seen as a negative for the troops currently on the ground.
“The first thing we have to do,” McDermott says, “is make our minds up to think about how we get out of Iraq.”
By CYDNEY GILLIS, Staff Reporter
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/01/10/jan-10-2007-entire-issue