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Meanwhile, recent polls suggest Republicans are poised to take over the House and perhaps the Senate, and that voters are more confident in the GOP’s ability to dig the country out of the economic hole.

What was clear is that Democrats were eager to milk the small-business-bill passage for all it was worth, with Mrs. Pelosi’s elaborate signing ceremony and a morning press conference Thursday during which House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer took a shot at the “Pledge to America” while hailing the Democratic alternative.

“Pledges are easy to make, but the American voter needs to look at performance,” the Maryland Democrat said.