- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

House Republicans have been quoting some unlikely allies when complaining about the methods used by the new Democratic majority — Democratic leaders.

As the House approved the final piece of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initial “Six for ‘06” agenda, Republicans lamented that the bills in the package did not go through committees and that amendments were not allowed.

Backing up their point were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada; Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, House Ways and Means Committee chairman; and Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan, the House’s longest-serving member.

“They are shutting out not just Republicans but all of the talented members of this Congress,” said Rep. Adam H. Putnam of Florida, chairman of the Republican Conference.

Mr. Putnam and other Republicans repeatedly trotted out last week an article about Mr. Reid in Time magazine that included an assertion: “In private, Senate sources say, Reid has been critical of the Speaker for what he believes was unnecessary roughness in ramming through her first-100-hours agenda, refusing to allow Republicans to propose amendments and breaking her campaign promise to open up the lawmaking process.”

The article didn’t quote the Nevada Democrat directly criticizing Mrs. Pelosi, but Republicans seized on it, saying she had achieved a “trifecta” of Democratic critics.

“Top House Tax Writer, Senate Majority Leader, and now the Dean of the House,” Republicans blared in a press release citing Mr. Reid, Mr. Rangel and Mr. Dingell.

The New York Post reported that Mr. Rangel is “butting heads” with the speaker over the committee process, and that there is tension between the two over tax policy.

Mr. Rangel told The Washington Times that he is “uncomfortable” with Republicans’ using him to support their own point and that he is confident Democratic leaders will return to regular order now that their opening agenda has been passed.

“That was part of the 100-hour agenda, and I’d like to believe that is behind us now,” Mr. Rangel said.

Though Republicans for a dozen years largely shut Democrats out of the lawmaking process using many of the same tactics, they have justified their complaints this year by saying voters sent a message they want more bipartisanship.

“I understand the need for the majority party to make its move, to make its first impression,” said Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio. “I understand that the first couple of bills had to come flying right to the floor, but we are short-circuiting democracy here.”

Mrs. Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer say their agenda has been subjected to several committee hearings and point out that their 2006 campaign highlighted their six legislative priorities, which all passed this month with some Republican support.

They note that a minimum-wage increase passed the Appropriations Committee last year but never went to the floor for a clean vote and point out their bill to expand federal support from embryonic stem-cell research is identical to one passed by the previous Congress.

Republicans counter by saying the accelerated process this month led to at least two mistakes — the exemption of American Samoa from a minimum-wage increase and failure to include in the initial ethics package a measure barring ex-lawmakers convicted of felonies from receiving government pensions. Democrats plan to fix both errors.

“The jamming of an agenda, relying only on a handful of people, is resulting in a bad product,” Mr. Putnam said. “It’s not just Republicans who are noticing. Majority Leader Reid is talking about the railroading of a process and [Chairman] Rangel is saying committees need to have a role, and we couldn’t agree more.”

Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri said Mrs. Pelosi’s “rush to judgment” has produced errors that even seasoned Democrats complain about.

“The chairmen — they’re being ignored as well by the way — understand that,” he said.

Mr. Hoyer, praising the Republicans who voted for the Democratic agenda, said last week he intends “to try to continue to work on a bipartisan basis” and “reach consensus as we move forward.”

“In the future, it will be more difficult,” the Maryland Democrat said. “That does not mean we will always be able to do that, but it does mean that we will always try.”

Further exciting Republicans was Mrs. Pelosi’s plans to establish a special committee on global warming that might take aim at U.S. automakers, whose cars are a leading source of carbon emissions. The move irritated Mr. Dingell, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee who hails from Michigan, home to the auto industry.

A Democratic source said some of the leaders and more conservative members were frustrated that Mrs. Pelosi seems to be pushing her own agenda by going around them. Sources said Mrs. Pelosi did not collaborate with Mr. Hoyer when crafting the plan for the warming committee.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa also noted that the freshmen from both parties “have really been shut out of this process,” accusing a few Democrats of making all the decisions.

“I hope the freshmen finally have a voice. I hope it starts Monday morning,” he said Friday.

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