- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

Photo Gallery: The day after

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, expected to become the next speaker, vowed yesterday to put aside partisanship and usher into Congress fiscal discipline and ethical integrity, while her party put the final touch on its electoral victory by apparently winning control of the Senate.

Democratic electoral gains grew yesterday to 29 House seats, with 10 other races still in doubt. On the Senate side, they claimed victory yesterday in the last three states needed to take their gains to six seats.

Missouri Sen. Jim Talent conceded defeat to Democrat Claire McCaskill this morning.

Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns did not throw in the towel despite trailing Jon Tester in the final unofficial tally. Virginia Sen. George Allen was close enough to Democrat James H. Webb Jr. that he could demand a recount. But several news organizations, including the Associated Press, called the two races for the Democrats.

“This new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people,” Mrs. Pelosi said yesterday, one day after Democrats stripped Republicans of about 30 House seats and staked a claim to the final three seats needed to take the Senate.

“We will make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history,” she said, alluding to promises the Republican class of 1994 made but failed to deliver on.

As Mrs. Pelosi laid out her vision for the 110th Congress, stunned House Republicans began behind-the-scenes maneuvers for a major shake-up of their leadership.

By midafternoon, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said he would quit the top post and other Republicans emerged to challenge current party leaders.

“The days of the do-nothing Congress are over,” Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in line to become majority leader, said in a statement issued after the AP called the Virginia race for Mr. Webb.

Earlier yesterday, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican whip and in line to head his party because Majority Leader Bill Frist is retiring, played down the impact of possibly losing the chamber.

“In the Senate, the minority is never irrelevant unless it falls down into the very small numbers. I don’t think, as a practical matter, it’s going to make a whole lot of difference in the Senate, being at 49,” he said.

Republicans, including party leaders, acknowledged yesterday that the party had wandered far from its commitment 12 years ago to clean up corruption, shrink the federal government and slash irresponsible spending. Majority Leader John A. Boehner, who announced yesterday that he would run for minority leader in Republican leadership elections next week, said the party must recommit itself to those principles.

“Our voters stopped thinking of us as the party of principle because we lost our commitment to and confidence in our core principles,” the Ohio Republican said in a letter to his colleagues yesterday. “We fell into the trap of exploiting the marginal advantages of majority control instead of constantly advancing those principles.

“Many of our voters wondered whether instead of changing Washington, Washington had changed us,” he said, reminding fellow Republicans that he’d been part of the 1994 takeover of Congress. “And the [Rep. Mark] Foley scandal, along with other brazen betrayals of the public trust by other members, cemented in voters’ minds the picture of a party that had lost its way. The renewal of our reform commitment was too late, and too limited, to reverse our party’s fate.”

Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who announced yesterday that he would challenge Mr. Boehner for the party’s top post in the House, was no less scathing.

“We did not just lose our majority, we lost our way,” he said. “While the scandals of the 109th Congress harmed our cause, the greatest scandal in Washington, D.C., is runaway federal spending.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who has railed against Republican-sponsored pork barrel spending such as the $200 million “bridge to nowhere,” said this week’s election results were “a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.”

“This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them,” Mr. Coburn said. “In fact, these results represent the total failure of big-government Republicanism.”

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, yesterday restated her commitment to accomplishing five major goals within the first 100 hours of Democratic reign in the House. Democrats promise to immediately enact all the September 11 commission recommendations for fighting terrorism, raise the minimum wage, cut interest rates on student loans, provide more funding for embryonic stem-cell research and repeal some subsidies for the oil industry.

She also promised to include Republicans in the process of drafting and passing legislation more than the Republican majority had included Democrats.

“Democrats are not about getting even,” she said. “Democrats are about helping the American people get ahead, and that’s what our agenda is about.”

The San Francisco lawmaker repeated her previous warnings that calls by some liberals to impeach President Bush are “off the table.” She and Mr. Bush plan to have lunch today at the White House.

She will also have to contend with a caucus that includes many more conservative Democrats who bridle at many of her liberal positions. In his statement announcing that he would step down, Mr. Hastert gave a nod to those Democrats who toppled so many Republicans.

“I take some comfort in the fact that a majority of the winning candidates ran on a platform of common-sense conservatism, be they Republican or Democrat,” said the Illinois Republican. “That bodes well for the future of our nation.”

Mrs. Pelosi is expected to be formally re-elected as House Democratic leader and nominated for speaker when the party caucus meets Nov. 16. Mrs. Pelosi is likely to be unopposed, but other Democratic leadership posts may be contested. Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania are expected to vie for the majority leader post.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blamed the Republican losses on a number of factors, including ethics and their “blind loyalty” to Mr. Bush.

“Every member or district that had an issue related to the professional conduct of that member switched and became Democratic,” the Illinois Democrat said. “That was eight seats, half of the 15 you needed” for Democrats to take control.

As clearly elated as Mr. Emanuel was yesterday, he couldn’t help but enjoy a bit of self-deprecating humor.

“Democrats haven’t been this happy since 2000 when CNN declared Florida for Al Gore,” he said. But “that only lasted an hour for us.”

Mr. Emanuel’s counterpart, New York Republican Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, had far less to celebrate but took a stab of his own at humor when he arrived late for a press conference.

“I would have been here just a little quicker, but I had to get my life preserver, life jacket, off,” he said, intended as a reference to the downpour outside. Reporters assumed, however, it was an analogy for his own electoral survival.

Asked whatever happened to the “permanent majority” Republicans have promised, Mr. Reynolds replied: “We’re going to take a two-year hiatus.”

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