Orlando Sentinel: Democrats' Reid, Pelosi: It's a new direction

April 15, 2007
By Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi,

Special to McClatchy-Tribune

When the American people asked in November for a new direction at home and abroad, Democrats heard their call. In our first 100 days at work, we have answered with great strides to increase our government's transparency, our nation's security and our workers' paychecks.

In one of the year's first orders of business, both chambers of Congress passed the most significant ethics-reform legislation in more than 20 years, changing the way Washington works.

We are making America safer by fully -- and finally -- implementing the bipartisan 9-11 commission's recommendations.

We are also giving American workers a long overdue raise by increasing the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade.  While the cost of gas, food and health care -- and lawmakers' salaries -- all increased, the minimum wage stayed the same.

Congress is also spending tax dollars more responsibly. In passing the first budget in two years, we put middle-class families first, cutting taxes while putting more dollars into education, children's health care and our veterans.

Perhaps our most critical job is to work with the Bush administration to change course in Iraq and provide our troops with a strategy worthy of their sacrifices.  Four years after Saddam's statue tumbled, those who bravely fought to capture Baghdad desperately need a post-war strategy that considers the situation on the ground.

Democrats believe we must transition the mission in Iraq to enhance America's security and more effectively fight terrorism.  Congress will soon submit for President Bush's signature a plan that puts into action what the American people, bipartisan majorities in both houses and military experts have all recognized is needed: a new course that gives Iraqis the power to govern their own country and gives our troops the resources and funds they need

Democrats in Congress want to sit down with the president to talk about the best way to both fully fund our troops and move forward in Iraq, but have been disappointed with the president's decision to avoid a serious, substantive discussion with Congress. We hope he will reconsider. Our troops abroad and our citizens at home cannot afford to remain in an Iraqi civil war when the fifth anniversary of Baghdad's fall comes next April.

Congress is also heeding the call of the people in other ways not quantifiable by legislation. We take seriously our responsibility to offer citizens a government that is accountable for its actions

The shameful conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the mistreatment of our wounded warriors are an insult to our troops. Congress is working to ensure that our soldiers receive the resources they need going into combat and the care they deserve when they come home

We also believe the American people deserve the truth about the White House's involvement in the firing of federal prosecutors. The American people should know whether their justice system was manipulated for political reasons, and Congress will continue to demand answers from the administration

Democrats have made real progress in these 100 days, but there is much more to be done. We will continue restoring accountability, responsiveness and productivity to Congress, and will continue to ask the tough questions, because it is what the American people demand and deserve.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is the Senate majority leader and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is Speaker of the House.