WASHINGTON -- Democrats will seek Republican help to raise the minimum wage, cut taxes for working families, and make health care and college more affordable, incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid said yesterday.
"We intend to reach out to President Bush and our Republican colleagues in Congress," the Nevada lawmaker said in the weekly Democratic radio address. "The last four years . . . have shown that a political party in Congress acting alone can accomplish nothing."
Bush has signaled his readiness to consider a federal minimum-wage increase and to find compromise on renewing the No Child Left Behind law and overhauling immigration policy.
Speaking in the wake of GOP sex and corruption scandals that contributed to the Democratic victories in the midterm elections, Reid emphasized his party's plans for open and scandal-free government.
"We need transparency, new restrictions on lobbying and lawmakers, and a commitment to fiscal responsibility," he said.
Although many voters cited Washington scandals as a major factor in their election choices, Democrats in Congress are divided on how much to overhaul ethics rules, The New York Times reported in today's editions.
Proposed changes outlined by Democrats earlier this year would prohibit members from accepting meals, travel, or gifts from lobbyists, and require lobbyists to disclose all contacts with lawmakers.
Those measures would not overhaul campaign financing or create an independent ethics overseer. Nor would they significantly restrict the ability of lawmakers to insert pet projects into spending bills without public scrutiny.
Democratic victories in close races in Virginia, Montana, and Missouri gave Senate Democrats a 51-49 edge over Republicans, changing Reid's title from minority leader to majority leader in January. Democrats will have at least a 29-seat advantage in the House.
In addition to changing course in Iraq, Reid's other priorities for the new Congress included expanding stem cell research and changing the Medicare drug benefit program to allow the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices.
"There are millions of Americans suffering from debilitating diseases like Parkinson's and diabetes that advances in stem cell research could potentially treat," Reid said, "if only we in Washington would allow it to expand."
The current Republican Congress passed legislation this year to expand stem cell research, but Bush vetoed it. Democrats would need to muster a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate to override another veto.