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January 2, 2007

On my way to Washington.

Posted by David Postman at 8:47 AM

As I get ready to leave for D.C., a quick look at news from the capital.

Today is a national day of mourning for former President Gerald Ford and official Washington is closed. Today is the funeral at the Washington National Cathedral for an invitation-only crowd of more than 3,000.

What do you think this conversation was like?

Jimmy Carter, the Democrat who defeated Ford in 1976, chatted with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the high-powered assembly waited for the procession.

Congress convenes Thursday with Democrats taking control of both houses for the first time since 1994. Remember the pledge by House Democrats to lessen partisanship and allow Republicans meaningful participation?

That'll have to wait.

The Washington Post reports this morning:

... Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.

Nancy Pelosi, the Californian who will become House speaker, and Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who will become majority leader, finalized the strategy over the holiday recess in a flurry of conference calls and meetings with other party leaders. A few Democrats, worried that the party would be criticized for reneging on an important pledge, argued unsuccessfully that they should grant the Republicans greater latitude when the Congress convenes on Thursday.

Pelosi has big plans for the first 100 hours of her reign. She wants the House to pass new ethics laws and raise the minimum wage, among other priorities. After that, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly told the Post, Democrats will make good on the campaign pledge of inclusiveness.

"The test is not the first 100 hours," he said. "The test is the first six months or the first year. We will do what we promised to do."

I have little doubt, though, that the biggest issue to face the new Congress will be the Iraq war. After years of criticizing the administration's prosecution of the war and the lack of serious oversight by Republicans, Democrats will be in charge of an ever-increasingly unpopular war.

In an AP story in the Times this morning, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, still maintains, "This is President Bush's war."

But political experts say the public might not agree.

"When you're in the minority, you don't have to do much more than criticize the status quo that wasn't working," said Norman Ornstein, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. "When you're in the majority, people will look to you for leadership."

Stay tuned ...

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