Pelosi's 100-Hour Agenda Seen as 'Symbolic,' 'Timid'

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - Assessing the first 100 hours of the Democrat-led Congress, two policy analysts said the seven-point agenda House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is in the process of pushing through is largely symbolic and even "timid."

In the first 100 legislative hours -- as defined by Pelosi's countdown clock -- the speaker promised to enact new ethics rules and to pass legislation to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendation, increase the minimum wage, expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, negotiate lower prescription drug prices, cut interest rates on student loans and end oil subsidies.

The first five initiatives have passed, and the House is scheduled to vote on student loans and oil subsidies later this week.

"I don't think [Democrats] are doing what the people wanted them to do," said Brian Doherty, a columnist and senior editor with the libertarian Reason Magazine.

"It seems pretty widely agreed that the war in Iraq ... was the driving force in the Democrats winning both houses of Congress," Doherty told Cybercast News Service. "Without action on Iraq, all these other things are not very important."

Doherty said that 45 percent of Americans said Iraq should be Congress' top priority. "The next one on the list -- jobs and the economy -- was down to six percent," Doherty said. "Overwhelmingly, this is what people want acted on first."

"As long that they don't do something more than rhetoric about Iraq, they absolutely fail to meet expectations because Iraq was number one on the list of expectations," he said.

Doherty declared himself unimpressed with the Democrats' priorities.

"The ethics reforms are nice -- though that seems more to me like just covering their own behinds and just trying to create something to distinguish themselves from the Republicans. The other things are just sort of sops to their constituency," he said.

On the stem cell research funding bill, which passed on Thursday, Doherty said the Democrats knew Bush would veto it again, as he did last year with a previous, identical bill.

"The only thing Bush has ever vetoed was a stem cell research bill," he recalled. "So it's really a bit of political grandstanding, [an effort] to show that 'we're not in the pocket of the radical religious right the way [President] Bush is.'

"School loans -- again, that's a sop to their middle class constituency, it's not an issue of vital importance to most Americans, particularly the least well-off Americans," Doherty added.

Doherty said the Pelosi agenda was "not particularly significant to the American people."

He compared the reforms to the Republicans' agenda for their first 100 days in power in 1995, led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"What the Republicans were trying to do -- and didn't necessarily succeed -- was far more radical," Doherty said. "They really did come in with a big new vision of how they thought government should behave."

Doherty called the Republican agenda "far more consistent," while "what the Democrats have done is far more timid."

John Sides, a professor of political science at the George Washington University, disagreed that the 100-hour agenda was a distraction "or an abdication of the Democrats' responsibility to talk about Iraq."

"I think the Democrats have made a very concerted effort to engage the issue and to respond to the president's proposal," Sides argued. "There is no question that [Iraq] is the dominant issue and that both parties are engaging on it.

"They picked the [seven] issues deliberately so that they would not begin their majority rule for the first time in 12 years with a lot of in-fighting and intra-party strife," Sides added.

"The House is taking votes that are largely symbolic," he said. "For the most part, they have picked things that are fairly easy for most Democratic members."

See Previous Stories:
Pelosi's Pledge #1: Give Americans a Raise (Jan. 3, 2007)
Pelosi's Pledge #2: Tuition Promise Could Hurt More Than Help (Jan. 4, 2007)
Pelosi's Pledge #3: Drug Plan Unlikely to Pass or Work, Critics Say (Jan. 5, 2007)
Pelosi's Pledge #4: Pelosi Holds Out 'Hope' for Cures for Diseases (Jan. 5, 2007)
Pelosi's Pledge #5: Dems Vow to Restore Integrity, Fiscal Responsibility (Jan. 5, 2007)
Pelosi's Pledge #6: Pelosi's Promises on 9/11 Panel Proposals Face Hurdles (Jan. 8, 2007)
Pelosi's Pledge #7: Dem Attacks on Big Oil May Hurt Consumers, Analyst Says (Jan. 8, 2007)

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