Dems play games with 100 hour agenda

The clock is ticking for House Democrats, but it’s hard to tell what time it is.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was touting a plan to push six bills through a Democratic House in 100 hours or less as early as June of last year. She’s reached the halfway point — in fewer than 20 hours, according to her count.

But just as the official clock for a basketball or football game stops for time-outs and commercial breaks, Democrats aren’t counting the minutes spent on business unrelated to those six designated bills.

So while the House has been in session for almost 48 hours since the 110th Congress was sworn in Jan. 4, the clock on Pelosi’s Web site says only 17 hours 48 minutes have elapsed.

“We’re just counting the legislative hours,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill explained.

Finished are new rules on ethics, lobbying and budgeting — part of the Democrats’ 100-hour promise in November but not included on Pelosi’s clock. Also completed are the passage of three bills: antiterrorism measures, a minimum-wage increase and expanding federally funded stem cell research.

With just three bills to go, and one of those scheduled for passage Friday, Democrats appear on their way to accomplishing their promise, regardless of which clock is used.

After acting on a measure to make the government negotiate directly with drug companies for lower Medicare prescription drug prices, the House turns next week to the final two bills on their 100-hour to-do list: cutting interest rates on some student loans and getting more money for the government from oil companies.

Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the clock — no matter how time is kept — is irrelevant.

“The clock is just a distraction to the hypocrisy they’ve exhibited and continued to exhibit in the first 100 hours,” Kennedy said, referring to House Democrats’ refusal to allow the GOP minority a chance to offer amendments or have any role in writing the bills. Democrats had leveled the same criticism that Republicans, then in the majority, denied them those opportunities.

No time was run off on either clock Monday, when many lawmakers attended the BCS championship football game in Arizona between Ohio State and Florida.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press