Feature

Democrats Chart a New Course

New Congress will succeed as long as it keeps its promises.

What happened
Jubilant Democrats this week laid out the legislative priorities they'll pursue when they take control of Congress in January. The agenda for the party's "first 100 hours" in power features raising the minimum wage, increasing college financial aid, easing restrictions on federally funded stem-cell research, repealing oil company tax breaks, and authorizing the government to negotiate prescription-drug prices for Medicare recipients. Several leading Democrats, including Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Joseph Biden of Delaware, also called for troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin in four to six months. "We have to tell the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over," said Levin, who will chair the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senate Democrats unanimously elected Nevada's Harry Reid majority leader. New York's Sen. Charles Schumer, architect of the Democrats' Senate takeover, was named to the new post of vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and given unprecedented authority to set the party's agenda and shape its message for 2008, when 33 Senate seats will be up for grabs. Schumer said he would follow his successful strategy from this election, and steer the party to the center. "If we are seen as just blocking the president," Schumer said, "it will not serve us well in 2008."

What the editorials said
The Democrats won by showing discipline, for once, said The Wall Street Journal. They "kept in check their ideological ambitions" and made the election "a referendum on Republican governance." But new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reid now have to choose: Do they cater to the voters or to the party's "Bush-hating left," which craves the catharsis of partisan hearings designed to embarrass the president? Voters didn't elect Democrats in order to flood "the Beltway with subpoenas."

Democrats gave the Republicans "a thumpin'" for one reason, said Newsday. Most Americans were disgusted by "six years of corruption, incompetence, scorched-earth partisanship, and ideological warfare." Democrats can best serve the country

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