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Democrats Struggle to Regroup, Kerry Pledges Help

Democrats in Congress, trying to regroup after election losses, say they will begin to challenge Republicans next week when Congress convenes for a final session this year to complete remaining legislation. Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry, who lost the election to President George W. Bush, met with House Democrats to discuss his role.

Democrats are trying to pick up the pieces from the election, and in a briefing for reporters did their best to put a brave face on the challenges ahead.

From House minority leader Nancy Pelosi came the familiar pledge that Democrats will seek common ground with President Bush and Republicans where possible, but will stand their ground on key issues.

"From across the country, the message we are receiving from the grassroots, from the volunteers, from the voters, from the donors, whether they be small donors or major donors, is we want the Democrats to be there and fight," said Nancy Pelosi.

Mrs. Pelosi says Democrats will continue to hold President Bush accountable for the conduct of the war in Iraq and its costs.

In the election, Democrats lost ground in the House to Republicans, who now have a 231 to 201 majority, as well as in the Senate where Republicans have a 55 to 44 majority.

As Democrats assess where they stand, they're being urged to find new ways to defend core party values, while changing how they reach out to voters.

Democratic party strategists, such as Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council, addressed these issues in a separate event in Washington:

"One of our challenges going forward is going to be to convince voters in those areas where we got beat up pretty badly, that in fact they have a lot of the same interests, and we [Democrats] have a lot of the same values that they're concerned about," said Bruce Reed.

Unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, and the incoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid, met with House Democratic leaders on Tuesday.

Mr. Kerry had this brief comment to reporters:

"We need to be unified and we have a very clear agenda, and I'm going to be fighting for that agenda with all of the energy that I have and all of the passion I brought to the campaign," said John Kerry.

Next week's lame duck session of Congress gives Democrats a first opportunity to stand their ground.

House Democrats are pledging a fight on the question of federal government debt, the legal limit on which is about to be exceeded, saying Republicans should subject the issue to a full debate.

However, with President Bush vowing to proceed aggressively on other major issues, including tax reduction and social security reform, Democrats face other uphill battles in the new 109th Congress beginning in January.