- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

Leaders of both parties say Democrats in Congress are likely to win bipartisan support for many of their signature issues, including passage of an immigration reform package that critics have derided as amnesty.

Republican lawmakers also offered cooperation for a raise in the federal minimum wage and changes to Social Security that do not include privatization.

“What I’ve said to the new majority leader: ‘You won the election. Fair and square. You’re in the majority. It is not my first goal every morning to get up and make you look bad,’ ” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Kentucky Republican said that the Democrats likely will pass a minimum-wage bill but that he also supports offsetting tax cuts. Mr. McConnell said he also expects cooperation on other issues, including Social Security.

“In fact, I’ve been challenging the new Democratic majority not just to do the easy things in the beginning of this session or some relatively easy issues that we were close to passing last year, but let’s do some important things,” he said.

“And I think there are two things that are very significant that would make a difference for the country. Let’s fix the immigration problem, and let’s save Social Security. We can do that before this Congress is out.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer agreed that the House Democrats could work with President Bush on an immigration bill compromise.

“One of the things that we brought up — we didn’t discuss substance — was the immigration bill. And [Mr. Bush] smiled, and he said, ‘You know, I think I’m going to have a lot easier time dealing with you on immigration than I had dealing with the House Republican leadership on immigration.’ I think that’s the case,” the Maryland Democrat said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Hoyer also expressed confidence about Mr. Bush’s response to raising the minimum wage.

“He has reconsidered on minimum wage. He has already indicated he’s going to sign the minimum-wage bill.”

Mr. Bush and some Republican leaders have expressed a willingness to support a minimum-wage boost if it is offset by tax cuts to small-business owners.

“I have every reason to believe that the Republicans want to cooperate,” Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s in their best interest to cooperate. It’s good for the Democrats and Republicans, the Congress and the American people.”

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was more critical of Republicans and Mr. Bush, questioning a White House budget proposal to reduce the deficit by half over five years.

“We’d like to see what the president’s version of a balanced budget is. He has never sent one to the Congress,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Mrs. Pelosi said the Democrats will honor legislation they have passed that promises not to increase deficit spending but does not rule out tax increases or promise to balance the budget.

“We are committed to pay as you go; no new deficit spending,” she said. “We passed that in our rules package on Friday, and we’re very proud of that. And we’re committed to it.”

In addition, Mrs. Pelosi acknowledged that people earning more than $500,000 a year may see their income taxes rise under the Democrats, but said it is not a “first resort” for her party.

“I’m talking about tax cuts for many in the middle class,” she said.

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