Wednesday, April 20, 2005

House Democrats have voted with Republicans on several major bills this year, and Republicans say this indicates a lack of vision and agenda coming from Democratic leadership.

“What we’re seeing is a pattern of bipartisanship, of Democrats lacking in agenda and their guys jumping over to the Republican vision of how we’re running the country,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, voted against five major bills this year, but voting for the legislation were at least 40 of her 202 rank-and-file Democrats, or 20 percent, and as many as 122, or 60 percent.

“It’s clear that the Democrats have no agenda and what the pattern is beginning to show is that many rank-and-file Democrats are looking to the Republican agenda,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.

Democratic leaders said that assertion is ridiculous.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said most of these bills are from previous years and that the vote breakdowns haven’t changed much. Democratic leaders can keep their members together when they want to, he said.

“When the leader and I decide we want to see a unified Democratic message, we send it,” Mr. Hoyer said. “The only real effort we made was on the budget … and we got 100 percent against their budget.”

Seventy-three Democrats voted for bankruptcy reform, 42 voted for a permanent repeal of the estate tax, 50 voted for tort reform, 42 voted for an immigration and border security bill called the Real ID, and 122 voted for a bill aimed at continuing government after a terrorist attack.

Mr. Bonjean said, “It’s no wonder the other side isn’t trying to keep their members together on these major legislative items — because they know they can’t.”

Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for Mrs. Pelosi, said these bills “are not party-position bills,” and that Democrats are united on the issues important to people, such as health care and Social Security.

She said Republicans are trying to shift attention away from intraparty discord, public scrutiny over abuse of power, and a lack of support for the president’s proposed Social Security reform.

“What they’re trying to do is distract,” Ms. Crider said. “They’re choosing to pass legislation that is bipartisan.”

Mr. Cantor said Democrats “do not have real alternatives” to major pieces of legislation. The proposals Democrats suggest, he said, “are obviously not enough.”

Ms. Crider shot back that Republican leaders prevent Democratic alternatives from being offered on the floor.

On these five votes, many of the Democrats who joined Republicans were conservative Blue Dog Democrats, like Rep. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee, who voted yes each time.

Another Democrat, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, supported each but the Real ID bill.

Some Democrats were more inconsistent in their support of Republican bills. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, voted for the continuity bill, permanent death tax repeal and bankruptcy reform, but against the Real ID bill and the class-action measure.

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