MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Tomorrow a new Congress will be sworn in and for the first time in 12 years, the Democrats will be in control. It's a huge power shift, and Democrats hope to start the 110th Congress off in a big way. They want to quickly pass an ethics overhaul, stem cell research legislation and a higher minimum wage. The new Democratic majority also plans to bar Republicans from offering amendments to the bills the House will take up in its first 100 hours.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports that's a tactic Republicans used during their reign as majority party.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Nancy Pelosi is still hours from taking the gavel as the first woman to be speaker of the house and the first Democrat since 1994, but she and her party got a preview today of what it's like to be in charge. The first thing they learned - there's no shortage of folks telling you what to do.
Republicans, who will officially be in the minority as of tomorrow, got the ball rolling, lashing out at Democrats' plans to keep Republicans from offering any amendments to the bills Democrats plan to take up in the first 100 hours. California Republican David Dreier said he was reluctant to criticize Pelosi, his fellow Californian, but not that reluctant.
Representative DAVID DREIER (Republican, California): When I've seen the reports that have come forward about the plans for this opening day package and the lack of consultation with the minority, I am very disappointed. It's totally inconsistent with what we have been promised throughout this campaign process.
NAYLOR: Now, this is exactly consistent with what Republicans did to Democrats during the last 12 years - barring their amendments, not letting them see bills until they were to be voted on, giving them little input in committees. So a reporter asked Florida Republican Adam Putnam wasn't all this criticism a little, well, hypocritical? Putnam saw it differently.
Representative ADAM PUTNAM (Republican, Florida): The difference is the important point here is that the American people were promised a new way of doing business in the United States Congress. There was clearly a high level of frustration in the heartland about the way that people viewed the workings, the procedures in this building and they were promised a fresh approach, a fresh start. So this is a missed opportunity.
NAYLOR: Democrats have defended their stance on the first 100 hours saying much of the legislation to be taken up, including raising the minimum wage, has already been through the committee process and that once the opening week's rush has ended, Democrats will allow more input from Republicans.
Meanwhile, behind closed doors, Democrats met to discuss the final details of the first measure they'll bring to the House floor tomorrow, a package of ethics rules changes including a ban on gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. When Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel came out to outline some of that package, he was confronted with another dose of the new reality.
(Soundbite of chanting)
Representative RAHM EMANUEL (Democrat, Illinois): Actually, that is exactly what we're going to talk about. So what we're going to deal with today is the lobbying efforts to form legislation.
(Soundbite of chanting)
NAYLOR: About two dozen demonstrators interrupted the Democrats news conference. Among them was anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in Iraq and who wants Democrats when they take power to end funding for the war.
Ms. CINDY SHEEHAN (Anti-War Activist): Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership can no longer tell us what's on the table, and we want them to know that what's on the table is not voting for any more supplemental funding for the killing in Iraq.
NAYLOR: Democratic leaders have made clear they have no intention of de-funding the Iraq War which they fear, while popular on the left, will hurt them with moderate voters and lead to charges they're anti-military. The tightrope they'll have to walk was made clear by an op-ed piece President Bush wrote for the Wall Street Journal today. In it, he warned Democrats against passing bills that he says are simply political statements, a charge Democrats have made about Republicans for the last dozen years.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.
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