Democrats keep ‘100 hours’ promise

New House majority moves swiftly on worker-friendly legislation

WITH THEIR NEWLY won majority, Democrats in the U.S. House wasted no time in pushing through bills that benefit working families. In fact, the House — with bipartisan support — passed every piece of legislation promised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th) in her “100 hours” pledge. Pelosi and other House Democrats used the pledge during midterm elections to show voters how serious they are about changing the country’s direction. Not only did they fulfill their pledge, they did so within the first 43 hours of the 110th Congress.

By Jan. 18, the House had passed bills that raise the minimum wage, enable Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices, reduce interest rates on college loans, and cut back subsidies for Big Oil. Also in the first 100 hours, the House toughened its lobbying and ethics’ rules, and passed bills to implement the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission and to back stem cell research.

Much of the legislation coming out of the House is long overdue and has the support of the majority of the American people. For the past 12 years, however, anti-worker politicians in power blocked efforts to move these initiatives forward. For example, the minimum wage has not been increased in a decade. Under the new House legislation, it will rise by $2.10 an hour, from $5.15 to $7.25. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. George Miller (D-CA 7th), said:

What so many of my colleagues made clear…in the debate is that after you have stalled this vote for 10 years, this goes way beyond the dollars and cents of the minimum wage. It goes to the core values of America and economic justice and social justice and fairness and whether or not every American is going to get to participate in the American economic system and also be able to provide for their children and their families.

Whether or not the 100 hours legislation becomes law will depend on how the Senate responds ― and whether Pres. Bush will try to block the bills with vetoes. Although Senate leaders have pledged to move the legislation forward, the Democrat majority is slim ― 51 to 49 ― and the opposition could seek to kill the bills or change them. One thing is for certain: the House majority has come out firing, and working families are finally getting the attention they deserve.