Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The Democrats' election-year agenda is still a work in progress as party leaders attempt the impossible: to draft a document that appeals to all of its disparate ideological factions.

But the word coming out of the Democrats' inner sanctums is, there's deep disagreement over its contents and core message and a brewing argument over the timing of its release.

Parts of the agenda have been floated piecemeal over the past several months, but they were either boilerplate proposals, like raising the minimum wage, or an attempt to sound tough on national security, but without any specifics on how to end the insurgency in Iraq or set timetables for troop withdrawal, as their large anti-war wing is demanding.

The rest of the agenda being drafted in Democratic backrooms will deal with domestic issues that, once revealed, could alter the dynamics of this election in the GOP's favor.

Last week, NBC's Tim Russert grilled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on "Meet the Press" about the Democrats' message on taxes and spending.

Pelosi said her party's agenda would call for a "pay as you go" approach that would avoid any "deficit spending."

"So, wait a minute. There's no increase in spending if the Democrats take over Congress?" Russert asked. "No deficit spending, I pledge to you. Pay as you go," she replied.

Russert immediately caught the well-worn euphemism for tax increases in her answer, saying, "If you raise taxes to pay for the new programs ..."

Pelosi: "You put everything on the table, and you decide what are the priorities for the American people."

Translation: The Bush tax cuts, which are responsible for the economic recovery, will be rolled back to pay for the Democrats' lengthening laundry list of new social-welfare spending.

But the Democratic agenda Pelosi and her friends have in mind doesn't end there. If the Democrats take control of the House, they would conduct multiple investigations into the Bush administration -- from Iraq to intelligence to the lobbying scandal -- that could lead to the president's impeachment by the House.

"A Democratic House would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration," Pelosi told the Washington Post. Among her plans to use the subpoena power to investigate: "Certainly the conduct of the war," she said, along with the weapons-of-mass-destruction justification to topple Saddam Hussein and the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance activities.

Asked how far all this could go and whether it could result in President Bush's impeachment, Pelosi said, "You never know where it leads to."


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.