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Inside Politics

Ethics, intelligence oversight top Democrats' agenda

Story Highlights

NEW: Pelosi unveils plans for intelligence oversight panel, ethics board
NEW: Intelligence panel will topple barriers between budget, oversight, she says
NEW: Pelosi says cutting ties between lobbyists and legislation a priority
• Steps are part of Democratic agenda for first 100 hours in power
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi unveiled her agenda Thursday for the first 100 hours of what she promised would be "the most honest and open Congress in history."

Among her priorities are an ethics "enforcement mechanism" and an intelligence oversight panel.

"There is no question that the ethics process in the past couple of years has lost the confidence of the American people," Pelosi said.

"I honestly believe that you cannot advance the people's agenda unless you drain the swamp that is Washington."

A top priority on the ethics front will be cutting ties between lobbyists and legislation, she said.

Pelosi said she also hopes by spring to have a task force report on an outside entity "to improve enforcement of ethics," but she didn't comment on the particulars, saying that was the task force's duty. The members of the task force haven't been decided yet, she said.

Pelosi also touted the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, which will reside in the Appropriations Committee and "will have the responsibility to hold hearings, to consider the budget for the intelligence."

Indications are that the panel will be led by Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who is a longtime Pelosi ally and outspoken critic of the Iraq war.

Pelosi said she will push for more openness in intelligence matters -- "budget and otherwise" -- and ideally would like to see "significant information" made available to all members of the intelligence committee. There are even instances in which information should be shared with the entire House, she said.

"There are some things that relate to sources and methods and covert operations and the rest that have to be held very closely, but I don't think we should sweepingly say, 'Because they have to be held closely that other items should be withheld from the members,' " she said, quickly noting that the view is not shared by others in Congress or President Bush.

The oversight panel also will remove barriers between the House Appropriations subcommittee that approves funds for intelligence and the intelligence committee that oversees operations. The move, Pelosi said, will satisfy one of the criticisms of the 9/11 Commission, which dubbed intelligence oversight by Congress as "dysfunctional" and called for a reorganization.

The incoming speaker said it's imperative that Congress quickly OK all the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

"We'll go them one better on port security, where we have even tougher proposals to screen 100 percent of the containers long before they reach U.S. shores," she said.

Other items atop the agenda include raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable, making health care more accessible, preserving Social Security and advancing stem cell research and alternative energy resources.

Promoting alternative energy resources will involve rolling back subsidies to oil companies and diverting that money to a reserve to fund research into alternative energy, the speaker-to-be said.

"It's about the issues that are relevant to the American people's lives. It's a new direction. It's what they sent us here to do," Pelosi said.

"And we will do it, first and foremost, by making this the most honest and open Congress, in a spirit of integrity, of civility and bipartisanship, and in a way that is fiscally sound."

CNN's Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.


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Rep. Nancy Pelosi on Thursday discusses Democratic priorities during the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress.

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