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Congressional Democrats Vow Bipartisan Approach in New Congress


Democratic leaders in Congress say they will use their strengthened majority to pursue bipartisan solutions to U.S. economic problems. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, Democrats spoke to reporters late Tuesday after finalizing party leadership positions on Capitol Hill.

California Representative Nancy Pelosi, who House Democrats re-elected as Speaker, says Americans expect the Democratic-led Congress to tackle the difficult challenges facing the country, and work with a President Obama after he is inaugurated in January.

"That change brings with it tremendous responsibility," said Nancy Pelosi. "The American people have great expectations for what this Congress can do working with the great President-elect Barack Obama."

Pelosi said a new direction, the main theme of Democrats in the 2008 election campaign, will require bipartisanship and civility, as well as fiscal responsibility.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who also retained his position in the Democratic hierarchy, echoed the remarks.

"We intend to work across the aisle, with the Senate and with the President of the United States, to do what American voters wanted done, to make a change in America," said Steny Hoyer.

Congress has returned for a lame duck session, during which lawmakers attempt to complete unfinished work, and tackle other issues.

Hoyer earlier raised the possibility that the session might continue into December after the Thanksgiving holiday break, to accommodate work on legislation to help U.S. automakers.

Executives from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler pressed members of a Senate panel to approve billions of dollars to help them avert potential collapse.

But Pelosi said she doesn't see much likelihood of a December session, saying Congress will either have to pass an auto company assistance bill now or wait until lawmakers return to begin a new 112th congressional session, at which time they will also be working on a new economic stimulus measure.

And any new government assistance to car companies, Pelosi adds, must come with strict conditions:

"We will put up enough money to infuse the industry with the liquidity to take it until March," she said. "By March we want to see a plan. If you want us to show you more money, you must show us your plan for how this industry will be viable."

Elsewhere in the House Democratic leadership, South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn, now arguably the most influential African-American lawmaker in Congress, retains his number three post as Democratic Whip.

"We now have an expanded majority and we are now faced with some significant challenges," said Jim Clyburn. "This caucus will work with Barack Obama to manage some of the most significant crises our country has ever faced."

Connecticut Representative John Larson will head the House Democratic Caucus, replacing Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman and former Clinton administration aide who will be chief of staff to Mr.Obama when he takes office in January.

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