House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner await to sign bipartisan legislation Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the U.S. Capitol, July 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images
By Alex Rogers
January 5, 2015

The economic debate between Democrats and Republicans in Congress will be much like last year’s choice: “Where are the jobs?” vs. “Where are the wages?”

In an open letter to her colleagues, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote that Democrats will provide a “sharp contrast” to Republicans this cycle, while House Speaker John Boehner’s office pledged “three bipartisan jobs bills” for the first week of the “new American Congress.”

The GOP—which will have its largest House majority in decades and control of the Senate for the first time in Obama’s presidency—will focus on two Affordable Care Act changes and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as its top early priorities. The changes to the president’s signature health care law include one that would exempt military veterans who are already enrolled in Pentagon or Veteran Affairs Department from being counted under the law, allowing some employers with around 50 employees to avoid the mandate. The other would allow employers to avoid providing health coverage to workers who clock in less than 40 hours a week, up from the law’s current 30-hour threshold, without penalty. Critics claim that that latter legislation would actually be counterproductive, making part-time work more likely.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said Monday that the House will vote this Friday on legislation to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline for the tenth time. The pipeline’s creation is likely to be neither the doom considered by some green activists nor the job creator that Republicans have touted and the White House has yet to issue a veto threat.

“Enacting such measures early in the new session will signal that the logjam in Washington has been broken, and help to establish a foundation of certainty and stability that both parties can build upon,” wrote Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a Wall Street Journal op-ed after the November elections.

In her letter Monday, Pelosi wrote that the “election demonstrated that the American people are hopeful that this new Congress can work together to grow our economy and in turn grow the paychecks of American workers.”

Pelosi outlined two bills in particular that Democrats would put forward on Tuesday. One recycled bill would discourage corporations from exporting their headquarters to avoid U.S. taxes and use the revenue to pay for the crippled highway trust fund, which keeps a host of major infrastructure projects afloat. Democrats will also reintroduce another bill that would limit tax deductions for millionaire executives at publicly held companies unless they gave some rank-and-file employees raises to match certain cost of living standards too.

Pelosi’s message—one Democrats have been pounding for ages—is geared directly at her party’s populist base. On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO will hold its first National Summit on Raising Wages, which will include a keynote speech from liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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