The Heritage Foundation

Special Report #11

January 2, 2007

January 2, 2007 | Special Report on

The 100-Hour Agenda: The New Congressional Majority's Uneven Proposals



* To view this Special Report in its entirety, please download the PDF (PDF).

 


Contents

Chapter 1: Getting the Rules Right
by Andrew M. Grossman, Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., and Alison Acosta Fraser

Chapter 2: Making PAYGO Discipline the Federal Budget
by Alison Acosta Fraser and Brian M. Riedl

Chapter 3: Implementing the 9/11 Commission's Recommendations
by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

Chapter 4: Minimizing the Harm of the Minimum Wage
by James Sherk

Chapter 5: Preserving Successful Private Drug Negotiations
by Greg D'Angelo

Chapter 6: Halving Student Loan Interest Rates Is Unaffordable and Ineffective
by Brian M. Riedl

Chapter 7: Raising Taxes May Harm Energy Supplies
by Ben Lieberman

Chapter 8: Improving Retirement Security Takes More than Just Posturing
by David C. John

Introduction

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises to spend the first 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress pushing forward legislation based on policies trumpeted throughout the 2006 campaign under the banner "Six in '06." Patterned on the Republican's famously effective "Contract with America" in 1994, the Six in '06 agenda comprised bread-and-butter issues and promised that a Democrat-controlled Congress would "make our country safer; make our economy fair; make college more affordable; health care more accessible; move toward energy independence."[1] In addition, the Democrats promised to ensure "retirement security and dignity."

However, proposing ideas on the stump is far different than passing legislation through Congress. And so the Six in '06 agenda became "The First 100 Hours," a list of seven somewhat more specific policy proposals that the new House leadership hopes to pass within the first 100 hours of the session. The incoming majority promises to:

  • "Break the link between lobbyists and legislation" and enact to pay-as-you-go budgeting (PAYGO);
  • Implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission;
  • Raise the minimum wage;
  • Allow the government to "negotiate" prices in the Medicare Part D drug benefit and use any savings to fill the benefit's "doughnut hole" gap in coverage;
  • Halve the interest rate on student loans;
  • Raise taxes on oil companies to "achieve…independence;" and
  • Preemptively resolve to oppose personal accounts in Social Security[2]

The incoming majority will find many bumps in the road ahead. For example, some have already called on the new leadership to scale back its proposal to fully implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. There is concern that some of the proposals based on those recommendations would burden homeland security without increasing the safety of the American people. Prudent legislating is more difficult than sloganeering.

The first real test of the new House leadership's commitment to its promises will come in its initial days as it crafts the rules package that will govern the 110th Congress. Incoming Speaker Pelosi promised fair and open debates on major issues, but in December the new leadership announced that it would bring several of its 100 Hours bills straight to the floor without the benefit of committee mark-up or full discussion.

Further, one of the new majority's signature issues, PAYGO budget controls, is targeted for inclusion in that rules package. Enacted as a rule in the past, PAYGO has been nothing more than a paper tiger.  To keep its fiscal commitment the incoming leadership should enshrine PAYGO in statute, where it would have more bite. A PAYGO rule alone would not provide real protection against the growth of the federal government.

Debate over PAYGO and rules will provide an early indication of the Democratic caucus's seriousness about enacting its promises to voters and its willingness to break with business-as-usual legislating.

In this Special Report, Heritage Foundation analysts review each of the incoming majority's major policy proposals, offering concrete recommendations and criticisms. Their conclusions are not uniform because the proposals are not of uniform merit. Several, if implemented properly, could improve government, such as in homeland security and budgeting. Others, however, are just ill-conceived. Medicare price negotiation, for example, will do no good and may even limit seniors' access to prescription drugs. As this Special Report makes clear, during the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress Members should strive to accomplish more than just check-the-box exercises and actually provide some useful, productive legislation.

-Dani Doane is Dorothy Moller Fellow and Director of U.S. House Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

* To view this Special Report in its entirety, please download the PDF (PDF)

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