New Democrat chairs promise moderate agenda

Three Democratic congressmen who are about to take important leadership posts said on Sunday they plan to pass popular legislation blocked by Republicans but would refrain from pushing some of the most controversial elements on the liberal agenda.

The three, appearing on Fox News Sunday, are among the most liberal Democrats who will take over key committee chairmanships when Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in January.

Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who will take over the U.S. House of Representatives committee that covers banking and other financial institutions, mentioned raising the minimum wage, providing cheaper drug coverage for the elderly and providing more affordable housing and help with college tuition as the focus of Democratic legislation.

"Our first efforts are going to be to do those things that I think the mainstream of America wants," Frank said. "Some things have become liberal because the right wingers who control the Republican party have abandoned them to us."

Asked about his opposition to the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy toward gay service men and women, Frank, one of the few openly gay members of the House, said he would fight discrimination but that issue was "not what we’re going to begin with."

"Democrats like winning elections," said Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the longest serving member of the House.

"We want to win elections and we’re going to do our best to do so," he said. "This doesn’t mean to get into any extreme positions on any matter. We’ll do what makes good sense."

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who is about to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee which handles tax matters, said, "We don’t want really a fight with the president. What we want to do is to prove we can govern for the next two years."

While he stood by his proposal to bring back the military draft to spread the burden of the Iraq war more evenly throughout U.S. society, Rangel said he would not push the issue and recognizes the obstacles to it ever passing.

He pointed out that Democrats’ majority in House and especially in the Senate was thin and in the end President George W. Bush always had the power to veto what Congress passes.

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