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House Democrats pass 6-bill agenda in first 100 hours

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats crossed the finish line yesterday in their race to pass a six-bill agenda in the first 100 hours of the new Congress -- getting there 13 hours ahead of schedule.

From noon, Jan. 4, when the 110th Congress opened, the House had been in session 87 hours when, shortly after 6 p.m. yesterday, it passed the last of the "Six for '06" bills that Democrats promised to deliver within 100 hours of assuming power.

"We have delivered on our promise," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference prematurely hailing her party's accomplishment more than two hours before the actual final vote on an energy bill capping the agenda.

Pelosi's "game" clock showed only 42 hours and 15 minutes of the 100 hours had elapsed when the roll call ended on the energy bill, which would reimpose $15 billion in fees, royalties, and taxes on the oil industry.

Pelosi had promised the six-bill, 100-hour drive to voters in the fall. After recapturing a House majority in the November election following a dozen years of Republican rule, Democratic leaders said their clock for measuring the hours would include only those spent directly on the six bills.

How it's counted is irrelevant, House Democrats said.

"No matter how many different ways they want to count it, we made it within our 100 hours," said Majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland

Republicans contended the bills were hammered through after Democrats reneged on a campaign promise to let the opposition offer amendments and help shape legislation. Democrats had leveled the same criticism that Republicans, when they held the majority, denied them those opportunities.

"Many of the flawed 100 hours bills either face an uphill battle in the Senate or are destined for a veto pen," said Minority leader John Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

President Bush has threatened to veto two of the bills -- one to expand stem cell research and another to force the government to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs under Medicare. Last year, he vetoed a similar stem cell bill -- the only time he's wielded the veto pen.

All of the bills face change in the Senate, where rules and a much slimmer Democratic majority assure a more prominent role for Republicans.

And the House and Senate would have to agree on the language of any bill before it is sent to President Bush for his signature or a veto.

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