- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

House Democrats are proudly trumpeting the conclusion today of their initial spurt of legislative items, but few — if any — are likely to become law as passed.

Of the six items they promised to approve in the first “100 hours” of a new Democratic Congress, three have met resistance from the Democratic Senate, at least one appears likely to be vetoed by President Bush and two others have come under heavy criticism from outside groups.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats attached tax cuts to the bill raising the minimum wage, a condition House Democrats have called unacceptable.

“Republicans were insistent that if the minimum wage were to be increased — since the bulk of its financial impact falls disproportionately on small businesses — that we needed to do everything we could to enable small businesses to continue to create jobs, continue to grow, be economically viable so that they could afford to pay this increased minimum wage,” Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said yesterday of the tax cuts that were written into the bill in the Finance Committee.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said yesterday he is disappointed by the Senate’s action.

“The choice to tie a bill raising the minimum wage to tax breaks for businesses will cost taxpayers $8 billion and complicate and delay the passage of an increase,” he said. “Passing a clean minimum-wage bill is a matter of doing what is right and what is fair.”

On the promise to “fully implement” all the recommendations of the September 11 commission, Democrats declined to include several provisions — such as placing all intelligence agencies under the Defense Department. And the House provision that distributes anti-terror funding based on risk so that major cities such as New York and Los Angeles get the bulk of it also likely will be changed by the Senate, where small and rural states have greater sway.

On lobbying reform, Senate Democrats already are working on a decidedly different bill than the one passed by House Democrats, which means the differences still must be hammered out.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, even argued for keeping one provision out of the Senate bill because it mirrored the House lobbying bill.

“This is exactly like the House provision,” he said on the Senate floor last week. “That’s one of the problems I have. I frankly don’t think that they spent the time on this that we have.”

Asked yesterday if he is concerned about throwing cold water on the House Democrats’ “Six for ‘06” agenda, Mr. Reid said that for 220 years Congress has been two chambers “and we can’t send anything to the president until we both agree on it.”

He also applauded the House’s efforts, however.

“I think the House has done remarkably good work. I think that they have brought to the attention of the American people some things that had been lacking for the last six years, at least,” he said.

The remaining items also have an uncertain future. Mr. Bush is expected to veto legislation approved last week to expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, as he did last year.

The White House has sent similar signals that it disapproves of the bill approved yesterday to reduce interest rates on student loans through taxpayer subsidies. Instead, administration officials say, such legislation should focus on getting more students into college by making it more affordable.

And last week’s legislation requiring the federal government to negotiate drug prices has been criticized by veterans groups, disease advocacy groups and even liberal editorial pages such as that of The Washington Post.

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