Millions demand Senate enact, Bush sign 100-hour agenda

WASHINGTON — Mass organizations with millions of members celebrated House passage in 42 hours of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 100-hour agenda. They demanded that the Senate do the same, including raising the minimum wage, slashing college loan rates and eliminating $14 billion in federal giveaways to Big Oil.

The Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) greeted the victory. “More work has been done for the American people in 42 hours than the previous Congress did in two years,” the CAF statement declared. “Our job is obviously not done … the fight to transform the 100-hour reforms now turns to the Senate.

“Already we see signs of both spine and weakness in the Senate,” the statement continued. “If we continue to stand strong, we can remind Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans alike that the public has spoken.”

The reference was to amendments the Republican right plans to attach to the minimum wage bill and other 100-hour legislation before they are passed and delivered to the White House. In fact, Senate Republicans on Jan. 24 blocked passage of the minimum wage bill, demanding that tax breaks for businesses that employ low-wage workers. The United Farmworkers Union also warned of “poison pill” amendments to the measure that would directly discriminate against farmworkers.

Jeremy Funk, spokesperson for Americans United for Change, told the World the “large bipartisan majorities” that voted for the agenda in the House have put Bush and the Republican right “on the defensive.” For example, 82 Republicans voted with all Democrats to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years and 124 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to cut interest rates on federally subsidized college loans. Both passed by veto-proof margins.

MoveOn.org, the online grassroots lobby group, warned that the 100-hour agenda contains legislation “too popular for Bush to veto” and therefore the GOP strategy is “to bottle them up in the Senate by adding amendments that Democrats won’t be able to support.”

Tim Carpenter, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, told the World, “We’re excited to see the House and Senate leadership moving ahead to increase the minimum wage and address the lobby scandal, the ethics crisis. It’s a good start but obviously more work needs to be done.”

Carpenter said Bush’s proposals on national health care in his State of the Union speech would make the crisis worse. “We’re committed to HR 676, the Conyers-Kucinich ‘Medicare for All’ bill. It is the only legislation that moves forward to solve the national health care crisis.”

Carpenter also praised Reps. Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and Maxine Waters, all California Democrats, for introducing HR 508, a bill calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within six months. “The challenge now is to hold the Democratic leadership’s feet to the fire, to call on them to join the majority of Americans who voted this past November to end the occupation of Iraq,” he said.

Pelosi and Reid hailed House passage of the 100-hour agenda during an extended news conference at the National Press Club Jan. 19. In their own “State of Our Union” addresses, they called for reversal of Bush-Cheney policies.

“This year, we come to you as the majority,” Pelosi said.

“The American people have called for a new direction for the Congress and for the country. … Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster compounded by a man-made disaster. It is now 18 months past time to get our response right. … The response to Katrina is one of the great moral challenges facing our nation. So is ending the war in Iraq.”

She urged prompt enactment by the House and Senate of a bipartisan resolution that reads, “It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen our involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence.”

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