- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Underneath the clack of the speaker’s gavel and the steady hum of political machinery, there was a faint ticktock heard throughout Capitol Hill yesterday.

The 100-hour clock had started to run, marking the beginning of the Democratic reign, which the new majority party said officially started at noon — sort of.

At first, the Democrats said the clock, found on Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer’s Web site, would start at noon — marking the beginning of their promise to push through a package of legislation that Americans want in the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress.

Then they corrected their estimate, explaining the clock would not start counting the seconds until the opening of debate on the first piece of legislation, a measure related to the September 11 commission recommendations.

It began just after 1 p.m.

Never mind that the House passed some ethics and lobbying measures last week after the 110th Congress was sworn in — those were just organizational changes and don’t count toward the hours goal, Democrats say.

Unlike a countdown clock, this one started at zero and counts upward.

The first 100 hours will run over several weeks, with the new leaders starting and stopping the clock for lawmakers to speak out of turn on sports teams, the war in Iraq or poverty — and, of course, will remain in suspension over nights and weekends.

It will tick away as Democrats push the “Six for ‘06” plan they campaigned on during the midterm elections. Among the priorities are increasing the minimum wage, expanding federal support for embryonic stem-cell research and making America more energy independent.

It’s a hefty package, one that initially was fashioned to be completed in the “first 100 days.” Democratic aides said they started to panic when Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, now speaker of the House, shortened the time to 100 hours. The quickened pace was apparent yesterday.

During debate, Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey refused to hear a question from Rep. David Dreier, California Republican.

“I didn’t hear what you said, but I don’t have the time to yield anyway,” the Wisconsin Democrat told Mr. Dreier.

The Republicans didn’t miss an opportunity to ridicule the clock, and the fact it had to be reset after the initial plan of starting at noon.

“Democrats are treating their agenda for substantive change in America as if it were a gallon of milk with some expiration date,” said Rep. Adam H. Putnam of Florida, the Republican Conference chairman.

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