US & World

Democrats plan for new session with new majority

After strengthening their numbers in the House and Senate, congressional Democrats are planning what they'd like to do in the next legislative session. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde spoke with a pair of local congresswomen to find out what's at the top of their wish list for the new political year.

Kitty Felde: Democrats see a rare opportunity when they return to Washington in January. They can pass legislation on topics close to their hearts. For Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of Garden Grove, that means one thing:

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez: Health care. Health care reform. I think it's the number one issue for Americans. They might not even realize it at this point. There's not long term care and our parents are aging. My father has Alzheimer's, for example.

The uninsured. Doctors are unhappy. Shortage of nurses. Patients are unhappy. Hospitals are closing down. Rural areas have nothing. This is a big issue.

If we are to remain a productive country, vis-a-vis the rest of the countries, you have to have your health. So I'm excited next year about trying to do something with respect to health care.

Felde: For Loretta's sister Linda Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from Cerritos, the issue is something she's been working on for the past year. Sanchez wants to make a small change to bankruptcy law that she thinks could have a big impact on the housing market.

Linda Sanchez: We are trying to find ways to get our economy back on solid footing, and I think one of the best ways to do that is this little tiny change to the bankruptcy code which would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages on somebody's primary residence.

Right now, they can do it for second homes or investment properties, but not for primary residence. And most Americans only own one piece of property and that's their family home.

If we could just get that little change in the bankruptcy code, about 600,000 American families would be saved from going into foreclosure. And I think that is one way to try to stabilize the economy from the bottom up.

Felde: Congresswoman Linda Sanchez says she's also been working to line up support in the new White House.

Linda Sanchez: I've talked with Senator Obama about that and he's very interested. So it gives me hope that next year that could potentially be something that we get done quickly.

Felde: But there are 533 other members of Congress who have their own set of priorities. And with a soaring budget deficit and promises from President-elect Obama about a middle class tax cut, there will be limited federal dollars to spend. The battles begin on Capitol Hill for the new Congress in January.