Emanuel on the Democrats' Gains in Congress
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
It is the day after the midterm elections and while the final results are not in, the shock waves are being felt around the capitol. At the White House this afternoon, President Bush announced Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is leaving the Pentagon, being replaced by former CIA Chief Robert Gates.
Meanwhile, the Senate edged closer to Democratic control. NPR is projecting that Montana's Senate seat will go to Democrat John Tester. The race in Virginia is still up in the air, and could take a recount to decide it, that will determine control of the Senate.
NORRIS: What's not in question is who's in charge of the other body of Congress.
Rep. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people.
NORRIS: That's Democrat Nancy Pelosi, set to become the first female speaker of the House of Representatives.
Rep. PELOSI: Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here and we pledge partnerships with the Congress, the Republicans in Congress, and with the president and not partisanship.
NORRIS: To find out more about both party's plans, we've spoken to a Republican and a Democrat. First, Illinois Represenatative Rahm Emanuel. He's chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a big architect of last night's gains for his party.
Rep. RAHM EMANUEL (D-IL): The Democratic party is going to fulfill its obligations and its commitments to the electorate that it's made all over this country in individual districts, individual states, which is where we're going to go forward on a minimum wage increase, on direct negotiations for lower prescription drug prices, 9/11 commission recommendations for an up and down vote on what it takes to secure America, pay-as-you-go rules on the budget so that we don't run up the deficit, re-directing the $12 billion given to big oil companies and put it into alternative energy, and also a comprehensive reform package as it relates to lobby and ethics reform.
We're going to do those things because we've got to start meeting the challenges that the American people have asked us to deal with. And also, we're going to also most importantly say we want the Hamilton-Baker report on Iraq and we need to finally come up with a strategy. This is the single worst national security challenge America's faced in over two generations and the present course we're on only gets the hole - ditch - we're in deeper.
NORRIS: What's your reaction to Donald Rumsfeld stepping down the day after the election?
Rep. EMANUEL: Well, you know, I think the White House got the message that the American people want a new direction and that's what we've represented. And you know Democrats have been the ones pushing it, and that's the first thing.
NORRIS: As I listen to you, it sounds like you're ticking through many of the points in this 35-page document that the Democrats have put together, A New Direction For America.
Rep. EMANUEL: Right.
NORRIS: Going forward, trying to push for any kind of change, you're going to have to reach across the aisle and find people you can work with. How hard is it going to be to do that?
Rep. EMANUEL: Well Michele, you know, look. I've already talked to two Republican members of the United States Congress who are friends of mine and they've said they wanted to work with us. And I said - I reached out to both of them and said, "We want to work with you."
One of the things I think that is a problem that's happened in the past is that when you look at the DeLay-Hastert model, it ran the House down and so politicized it and so created animosity that it became a disfunctional House. The DeLay-Hastert model is a model that doesn't produce results for the American people. And we have an obligation, having lived under it, to change it.
NORRIS: So how do Democrats change it? Do they (unintelligible) some sort of open door policy?
Rep. EMANUEL: We're going to work together, and that's our obligation. And there's not Democratic ideas, Republican ideas. They're just good or bad ideas. And that's our obligation and we pledge to keep it.
NORRIS: Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel.
Thanks so much.
Rep. EMANUEL: Thanks. Bye-bye.
NORRIS: Congress Rahm Emanuel of Illinois is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee.
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