WASHINGTON – House Democrats celebrated passage of their “first 100 hours” agenda with Thursday’s final approval of the sixth bill, but the celebration may not last as the measures move into less favorable territory.
“We have passed an agenda that we promised the American people we would pass in the first 100 hours,” boasted House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, at a news conference Thursday.
All Maryland’s House Democrats voted for the six bills on the agenda: implementing the 9/11 commission report recommendations, increasing the minimum wage, expanding stem cell research, negotiating prescription drug costs, cutting student loan interest rates and ending $14 billion in oil subsidies.
Frederick Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett voted no on all but two measures: student loans and energy.
The state’s other House Republican, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, supported the student loan, energy and minimum wage measures. He was not present to vote on the stem cell bill.
Both Gilchrest and Bartlett opposed the 9/11 and drug bills.
Hoyer stood alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., as one congress member after another rose to speak in a succession of back-slapping and hand-clapping congratulations.
“I think in my own district people are impressed we made this commitment and moved forward,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville. “They saw for the first time in a long time we were successful. We feel very good about it.”
The accomplishments feed the momentum built during a November election that put the Democratic Party in control of both the House and Senate for the first time since 1994.
“We’ve begun the first 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress by addressing the issues that will create the change for which the American people asked when they cast their ballots in last November’s historic election,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, said.
For former C-Span resident scholar Ilona Nickels, “getting it through the House is one-third of the story. I think people lose sight of that,” she said.
With the challenge of getting the bills through the Senate and past the president, the current success of the Democrats is a long way from becoming law, something that Nickels said was obvious from the start of the session.
“It’s an easier vote when you know the legislation is not going to get enacted,” she said. “I’m just not that impressed by legislation that is channeled through one chamber with no amendments, no hearings and no opposition. To me, that’s not impressive, it’s legislation that’s done for political momentum.”
Ruppersberger pointed out that the possibility of getting the bills through the Senate is not impossible because Democrats are in the majority. And, he said, many of the Republicans “have come to our side.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said the 100 hours is just a start, and with the momentum built from the last election, Congress will continue to change the “direction of our country.”
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Mitchellville, also talked about the power of the last election in saying that he thinks that the momentum built up by the success of the 100 hours, along with the support of the people, will carry through to the Senate. From there, “it will be difficult for the president to uphold a veto.”
The president has in fact only vetoed one bill during his time in office, but has threatened to strike down the stem-cell and prescription drug measures if they reach his desk.
Although the Democrats did receive an average of 30 percent of Republican support, no bill has passed with the required number of votes to override a veto.