Promises Made: The Democratic Congressional Agenda

Guest blogger: Congresspedia intern Tim Malacarne

The Democratic Party’s return to majority status in both the House and Senate for the 110th Congress means that, for the first time since 1994, Democrats have the unfettered ability to set the congressional agenda. During the run up to the election, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) tempted voters with an ambitious package of prospective legislation. Now that they are soon to assume control, let’s take a look at what is most likely to fill their plate at the beginning of the 110th Congress:

  • Ethics reform – after campaigning heavily on the issue, Democrats plan to pass legislation outlining stricter controls on members of Congress' interaction with lobbyists, a ban on travel, meals or gifts paid for by lobbyists, and the end to the practice of anonymous earmarking.
  • Minimum wage increase – Democratic leaders plan to introduce legislation to increase the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour.
  • Stem cell research - congressional Democrats will push to both increase federal funding for stem cell research and remove some restrictions on how that money can be used.
  • Funding for college tuition – Democrats hope to increase federal funding for college tuition by cutting interest rates on student loans and increasing federal Pell Grants.
  • 9/11 Commission recommendations – During the campaign, Democrats pledged to implement all remaining recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. They have since backed off the immediate reorganization of congressional committees overseeing intelligence, but are expected to act on the remaining recommendations early in the 110th Congress.
  • Pay-as-you-go – Democratic leaders pledged to authorize no new deficit spending: spending increases would be covered by spending cuts in other departments or increases in revenue.
  • Federal budget – the 109th Congress failed to pass nine necessary spending bills for 2007, instead opting to punt the bills to the following legislative session.

For a more in depth look at these issues and to keep track of all the latest news on the congressional docket, be sure to check out Congresspedia’s pages on the 110th Congress and the Democratic Party agenda.

[For a historical perspective on how promises made are not always promises kept, check out Congresspedia's page on the members of Congress who made - and broke - pledges to abide by term limits as part of the 1994 Contract with America. -Ed.]