On January 4th, Democrats begin leading the 110th Congress. They've already announced an agenda for the first 100 hours. Here are ten suggestions for their first 100 days.
Make America Safe:
1. Iraq: Support the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. This report has four positives that Democrats shouldn't overlook: First, It repudiates the Bush "stay the course" doctrine; the ISG report advocates the phased withdrawal option that Dems touted during the mid-term elections. Two, it's a platform that both Democratic leaders and prospective 2008 presidential candidates can agree on for the next six months. Three, the ISG report fractures the GOP: it separates hardliners such as Bush and McCain from realists like James Baker and Chuck Hagel. And fourth, supporting the recommendations of the ISG tells the American public that Democrats care about bipartisanship and the common good, while the Bush Administration only cares about having things go their way.
2. Homeland Security: Fund all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Implementing the 9/11 commission recommendations is more than common sense; it's another opportunity to splinter the GOP. During the past year, Democrats began to gain public credibility on the twin subjects of national security and "combating Terrorism." The Democratic leaders of the 110th Congress need to make the public aware that the Bush Administration has put all its eggs in one basket: Iraq. In the process they've neglected a host of vital homeland security measures: for example, failed to fund global counterproliferation efforts as well as our first responders.
3. Military Readiness: Fund the replacement and repair of Army and Marine Equipment that's been lost or damaged in our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, while the Bush Administration has talked about supporting our troops, it hasn't taken the actions that are required to maintain U.S. military preparedness. As a result, our military is in a disgraceful state of disrepair; two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades are not ready to fight.
4. Al Qaeda: Address a vital question: Are we winning the campaign against terrorism? The Iraq Study Group reported what most of us already know: Al Qaeda isn't a major element of the insurgency in Iraq. Meanwhile, the war is fueling terrorism and the US and NATO appear to be losing in Afghanistan. It's time for the American public to get an honest appraisal of how the campaign against terrorism is going. Democrats should conduct the necessary investigations, present a candid analysis, and outline a new approach to eradicate terrorism.
5. Leadership : Make the connection between bad Presidential leadership in Iraq, and bad Presidential leadership, in general. One of the continuing mysteries of American politics is the fact that while many Americans believe President Bush has done a poor job in Iraq, they continue to have confidence in his leadership in "the war on terror." In a recent article in The New York Review, Mark Danner discussed Bush's leadership style, noted that it doesn't feature analysis or a formal policy process, rather, "George Bush's belief in his own certainty" and his faith "that bold action always makes us safer." Through hearings and carefully-worded public statements Democratic leaders need to make Americans aware that there is no rational "leadership" in the White House, only Dubya's gut instinct. And, this has done more than lose the war in Iraq; it has imperiled our national security.
Restore Integrity to Government:
6. Pass tough ethics laws: Last December, Democratic Representatives Obey, Frank, Price, and Allen introduced a reform package that would deal with many of the procedural abuses that plagued the 109th Congress. Passage of their 14-point proposal Amending the Rules of the House to Protect the Integrity of the Institution should be a high priority for the new, Democratically-controlled House.
7. Pass new rules regarding earmarks: Over the years, the congressional practice of slipping "earmarks"-authorizations for lawmakers' pet projects-into appropriations bills has grown totally out of control. The Washington Post estimated that in 2004 there were 14,211 pork-barrel projects tagged onto bills that spend more than $52 billion. Democrats must dramatically reduce these abuses.
8. Reduce the Federal Deficit: According to new Speaker-of-the-House Nancy Pelosi, Democrats plan "to repeal legislation written by special interests dealing with energy tax breaks." This would be a good first step to make to reduce the deficit, but there are many more corporate subsides that could be eliminated without harming either the economy or national competitiveness.
Secure America's Future:
9. Immigration: The new Congress should enact legislation that provides a path to earned legalization.
10. Global Climate Change: The 110th Congress must holding hearings on Global Warming and then propose a series of national benchmarks: a long-term plan to deal with this peril. They should immediately pass related common-sense legislation, such as raising CAF╔ standards.
America is starved for responsible leadership. Democrats need to provide this, beginning January 4th.