By Chris Matthews
The U.S. Congress opens this New Year with a bang. Watch for lots of action from the new Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.
First up: Pay dirt. Led by new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrats want to prove their street cred by producing on bread-and-butter issues that affect the economic lives of voters. Their goal is to pass a six-pack of bills before the president comes up in two weeks to deliver the State of the Union. They’ll include: minimum wage up to $7.25; stem cell, cheaper college loans, better prescription drug program, ethics reform, 9/11 Commission recommendations and cuts in the tax breaks going to the oil industry.
Second up: Payback. No matter what the Democrats say this January is the first crack they’ll get at 12 years of Republican rule. Expect them to wield that subpoena power with relish against the oil industry, against Halliburton, against the Bush administration case for the Iraq war.
Third up: the Iraq war. President Bush is expected to call for 30,000 more troops in Iraq. Expect Democrats and some Republicans to challenge Bush’s “surge” proposal. The big question is whether Congress will try to stop the president.
“Hardball” will be keeping you informed with solid play-by-play coverage of all this. We’ll look at the key players - especially the powerful committee chairmen - and the efforts of Republicans to undermine the Democratic agenda. We’re going to see some real hardball being played on Capitol Hill.
And never forget that the U.S. Capitol is also the home base of ‘08 Presidential frontrunners John McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton. “Hardball” will be watching every move they make from right across the street.