clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Time to drain GOP 'swamp,' Pelosi says

Rep. Nancy Pelosi could become the first madam speaker in history if Democrats win control of the House Nov. 7.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi could become the first madam speaker in history if Democrats win control of the House Nov. 7.
Chris Greenberg, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Franklin Roosevelt had his first hundred days.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is thinking 100 hours, time enough, she says, to begin to "drain the swamp" after more than a decade of Republican rule.

As in the first 100 hours the House meets after Democrats — in her fondest wish — win control in the Nov. 7 midterm elections and Pelosi takes the gavel as the first madam speaker in history.

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds — "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

To do that, she said, Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. Details will have to be worked out, she emphasized.

"We believe in the marketplace," Pelosi said of Democrats, then drew a contrast with Republicans. "They have only rewarded wealth, not work."

"We must share the benefits of our wealth" beyond the privileged few, she added.

Pelosi, 66, has been a leader of the House Democrats since 2002. But her political apprenticeship dates to childhood, when her father was mayor of Baltimore.

Now, her political base is about as liberal as it gets, San Francisco. It's a fact that Republicans love to emphasize to voters who might want to visit, but not feel comfortable living there.

Republicans find her an attractive political target, and recently said she would try to "cut-and-run" from Iraq while "launching bitter partisan investigations" of the Bush administration, possibly including impeachment hearings.

A grandmother five times over, Pelosi pops chocolates, shuns coffee and flashes her wit. Asked what offices should would occupy if in the Capitol if she becomes speaker, she laughed. "I'll have any suite I want."

She would, too.

"If the election were held today we'd be successful," Pelosi predicted, claiming that her party's prospects are expanding as the campaign enters its final month. "So many other races are emerging right now," she said.

At the same time, she said, "I have all the races I can afford," the only drawback to an improving political environment. She spends several hours a day raising money on the telephone, making the short trip from the Capitol to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's headquarters a few blocks away. So far, the DCCC tally sheet shows she's brought in $50 million for the party's candidates and committeres, more than anyone else.

Democrats must gain 15 seats to regain the majority they lost in 1994, and have candidates in competitive races for 30 or so Republican-held seats, according to strategists in both parties. By contrast, only about a handful of Democratic-controlled seats appear ripe for possible Republican takeover.

Democrats have a pamphlet that lists all their promises and have run through several slogans in the past year or so as they test campaign messages. In recent days, Pelosi said, their prospects have improved by the discovery that former Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida had sent sexually explicit computer messages to teenage male pages.

Not long before sitting down for a lunchtime interview, she turned down a suggestion from Speaker Dennis Hastert that they jointly appoint former FBI Director Louie Freeh to recommend improvements in the page program.

"That was about protecting their majority" rather than the pages, she said dismissively.

Instead, she wants to put Hastert and other Republicans under oath and make them say what they knew of Foley's actions, when they learned it and what they did to stop him.

The potential for political gain is clear to her.

"It's an opportunity for growth among women" for the Democrats, she said. "They don't always vote and this could be a motivation."

With married women, in particular, it's a huge issue, she added.

Among older voters, too.

"If there's an ethical issue, seniors take a hike" and abandon politicians they blame, she said.

"If we hold onto seniors we win the election."