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The incoming majority

Americans may feel more optimistic now that the Democrats control Congress, but most are still skeptical if there will be bipartisan cooperation between the new majority party and the Bush Administration, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds.  Fifty-one percent of Americans are not confident that the President and congressional Democrats can work together to address national problems. 

By the final weeks of the 2006 campaign, Republicans, much more than Democrats, were in the spotlight for divisions within the party over Iraq, and that helped boost Democrats to majority status on election day.  But the battle for the majority leader post between Hoyer and Murtha, exacerbated by Pelosi's endorsement of Murtha, has helped put the party's fissures over the war back in the spotlight all over again.  As NBC's Mike Viqueira notes, Hoyer and Murtha are now fighting over who has called for "redeployment" of US troops from Iraq and who hasn't.

Roll Call's Norm Ornstein praises Pelosi's commitment to ethics reform but says her endorsement of Murtha was a stumble.

"One unanswered question is how far Pelosi will go in campaigning on Murtha's behalf following her endorsement of him on Sunday," Roll Call says.  "She is speaking to incoming Democrats about Murtha's candidacy for Majority Leader, according to several Democratic sources, but it does not appear that she is lobbying veteran Democrats at this point." 

The anticipated 44 members of the Blue Dog Democrats hold a potentially interesting press conference today.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch covers former Democratic House leader Dick Gephardt saying it's important for both parties to respect the middle.  "'Everyone began to forget about that great middle … that's still out there and miraculously still voting,' Gephardt said.  In this election, 'people were saying this country is not all divided into one base or another.'" 

Reid gives the Washington Post his first extensive interview as majority leader and "vowed to press quickly for phased troop withdrawals, a more international approach to Iraq's problems and a rebuilding of the depleted U.S. military."  He added that "one of the first acts of the new Democratic Congress will be a $75 billion boost to the military budget to try to get the Army's diminished units back into combat shape," and pledged that Democrats won't cut off funding for the war effort. 

At a briefing yesterday, reporters reminded Sen. Chuck Schumer that after the GOP took control of Congress in 1995, President Clinton vetoed 37 bills and was only overridden twice.  MSNBC's Tom Curry reports that Schumer was asked if there's any reason to think that the next two years won't turn out to be just like the era of Clinton vetoes?  "Yes," he replied.

"There a lot of Republicans who were shocked by the election," Schumer said.  "You have three groups of Republicans in the Senate: about five or six who are true moderate Republicans.  You have 20-25 who are hard right…  Then you have about 20 who are mainstream conservatives; they are not liberals...  The hard right has set the agenda because that's what George Bush wanted to do and they went along.  They're going to have a real big decision to make… if on certain issues they break with the President, if the President hews to the hard right.  And if they break with the 25 Republican senators who are over there (on the right), we could end up negotiating and doing some very good things.  I think a lot of them right now are scratching their heads and saying, 'obeisance to the hard right didn't help us very much.'  DeWine would be in that camp, Talent would be in that camp."

Sen. Joe Lieberman will chair the chamber's homeland security committee despite having strayed from the party to win re-election, as Reid's office made clear with an announcement yesterday.  The Hartford Courant says Lieberman got a warm welcome from his Democratic colleagues yesterday, even from those who had criticized and campaigned against him.