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Campaign via Congress

Between now and Election Day, Democrats say they will use Congress to showcase the kinds of change promised by their presumptive presidential candidate, Barack Obama.

Some legislation they'll choose has good prospects of passage: policy blueprints for higher education and the military, a ban on lead in toys.

Other bills are doomed. But on those, the point isn't passage. It's about making the case that the Democrats' plan for children's health care, for example, won't become law without one of their own in the White House.

Whatever legislation Democrats offer, it will have been vetted for the benefit of the Obama campaign, as is traditional between the congressional majority and its presidential candidate.

“Now that the primaries have come to a close, we relish the opportunity to compare agendas,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate Democrats' chief fundraiser.

“It's going to sharpen the focus in the Congress and the Senate. It's going to sharpen the focus in the presidential race.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, too, indicated that the House agenda would be synchronized with Obama's in the run-up to drafting a party platform.

She told reporters this week that the document would reflect the Democrats' focus on health care, global warming, national security and the economy.

“I'm sure we'll be sitting down together to talk about how we can work together for a great Democratic victory in November,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters who had asked her about Obama. “We'll obviously want to make it current as we go forward and be more illustrative of some of the initiatives we would put forward.”

Still to be determined is whether Democrats are going to try to push through a legislative rescue for the mortgage crisis, or use the issue as a club against Republicans this fall. Democrats also are planning another effort to revive the economy this fall, at the height of the campaign.

They'll also bring up bills that don't have the two-thirds majority to override an expected veto from President Bush – to drive home the issue for the election.

Universal health care for children, Democrats said, will be held up as Exhibit A of the types of Democratic policies unlikely to pass under a Republican president.

Congressional action as a campaign tool can cut both ways.

Republicans such as Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania have warned, for example, that blocking President Bush's judicial nominations was angering GOP senators and could trigger retaliation against a President Obama and his nominees.