The 110th Congress marked its first 100 days over the weekend, demonstrating a far greater commitment to addressing issues important to everyday Americans than previous, conservative-controlled predecessors.
In its first 100 hours, the House of Representatives passed legislation to raise the minimum wage, expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, make college more affordable, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, clean up corruption in Congress and enact the un-implemented recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The Senate also passed legislation to raise the minimum wage, expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and fully implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.
Both chambers of Congress have also taken forceful action to respond to the clearest message sent by the November elections—that Americans want to change course in Iraq. And by conducting dozens of hearings and multiple investigations into the corruption, abuse and mismanagement that has run rampant throughout government under the Bush administration, the 110th Congress has sent the unmistakable message that they are committed to meaningful oversight and will not be a rubber stamp the failed policies of the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress.
Finally, both chambers managed to pass a budget resolution, an accomplishment unmatched by the 109th Congress or indeed by the past three conservative-controlled past three Congresses. What’s more, much of this work has been accomplished with bi-partisan support. Imagine what could have been done (and can still be done) if conservatives in Congress and the Bush Administration actually worked with progressives to develop a realistic plan for moving forward in Iraq, or for dealing with the nation’s pressing domestic concerns. With the tide of public opinion on our side, we remain confident that can happen in the coming months.
Much remains to be done
Last fall the Center for American Progress Action Fund offered a set of recommendations for the 110th Congress to act upon before the August recess. We argued that instead of following the traditional Congressional course of an initial burst of activity followed by weeks and months of less action, the Congressional leadership can show the American people it continues to work to meet their needs by continually passing legislation in the spring and summer.
We believe that restoring order and accountability to Congress is essential, but in order to respond to the high expectations set by November’s elections it is equally essential for Congress to sustain the energy and the sense of urgency that drove the accomplishments of the first 100 days. Starved for results by the previous, do-nothing Congress, the American people are still hungry for more accomplishments that will make our country safer and more prosperous.
Internal and external deadlines with committees should be set on key deliverables. Doors should be opened to include the minority party in an unprecedented fashion. And recognizing the Senate may take longer to work its will than the House, the Senate leadership can continually promote the progressive agenda issues by pushing proposals onto the floor.
We proposed concrete policy changes that Congress could continue to work on long after the first 100 days to demonstrate that action is at the core of a progressive philosophy. By continually moving new proposals through the legislative process, the Congress can continue to dominate news coverage and communicate its intention to hold equal sway with the president on the domestic and foreign policy agendas of the country.
Our policies addressed aspects of the most pressing of our nation’s problems—Iraq and national security, energy security, economic policy, health care, education, and the environment. We urge and underscore the need for dialogue across the aisle in addressing these issues, and especially in developing a plan for a swift and successful conclusion to the US presence in Iraq. And although the American people are looking for bipartisan agreement on that plan, the Administration and the Republican leadership continue to drag their feet with empty rhetoric.
As we stated in the fall, the opportunity voters provided progressives to lead cannot be overstated. We have been given the chance to prove that our ideas and policies can help solve the nation’s problems, but we also shoulder the responsibility to repair the damage our union has sustained at the hands of radical conservative ideologies. It is an opportunity that should not be squandered because of partisan politics on the part of the Administration.