The incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives says Democrats will push for creation of a new bipartisan committee to oversee how money is spent on and by the U.S. intelligence community. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi spoke about the issue in a Capitol Hill news conference as she reiterated Democratic objectives when the new Congress convenes in January.
Most of what Representative Pelosi outlined she had previously said in the days following the November election, regarding what Democrats call their "six for 2006" agenda.
That is a reference to key priorities Democrats say will be the focus of the first 100 hours of the new Congress, involving action in a number of areas, from the economy and homeland security to fighting corruption in Congress.
"We will see a people's Congress, a Congress that will pass legislation, in the first 100 hours, to make the American people safer, to make our economy fairer, make our Congress more honest, and build a better future for all America's children," said Nancy Pelosi.
At the top of the agenda is full implementation of the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 terrorist acts.
Pelosi says there will be legislation to ensure that 100 percent of shipping containers destined for the U.S. are screened before reaching American ports.
Progress on that is something the Bush administration has recently claimed credit for. This week, officials announced that U.S.-bound cargo from six foreign ports will undergo radiological scanning by early 2007.
Pelosi says Democrats will also take another step aimed at correcting what they have described as a broken system of oversight by Congress under Republican control.
That will be a new committee to keep watch over government spending on the intelligence budget:
"This panel will have the responsibility to hold hearings, to consider the budget, for intelligence," she said.
The new Select Intelligence Oversight Committee would consist of members of existing panels on Intelligence and Appropriations, and would, among other things, make it easier for members to consider classified information.
Among other priorities Pelosi outlined is one she frequently describes as the need to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., a reference to congressional ethics.
Pelosi says she has discussed with outgoing Republican Majority Leader John Boehner the need for an outside task force to help Congress oversee itself:
"This all comes back to the American people," noted Nancy Pelosi. "They have to have confidence that Congress is hear to work in the people's interest, not [for] the special interests."
While Republicans, including lawmakers and staffers, have been the main focus of major ethics controversies such as the Abramoff lobbying scandal, some Democrats have also gotten into trouble on separate matters.
Democratic leaders are keeping Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson off a key House panel while a federal corruption investigation involving him continues. And a House ethics panel said another Democrat, Jim McDermott, violated rules of his committee when he gave an illegally recorded telephone conversation to the media. Democrats intend to impose a five-day work week on House members to achieve the goals of the 100-hour agenda, in contrast to the schedule under Republicans that more often than not had lawmakers at work only three days a week.
In addition to the September 11 recommendations, Democrats also plan legislation to increase the U.S. minimum wage for workers, ease financial pressures for college students, and direct funds to alternative energy by reducing subsidies for oil companies.