WASHINGTON – No longer a presidential candidate but still a voice for the Democrats, Sen. John Kerry (search) met with the party's congressional leadership Tuesday as he moved into the next phase of his political life.
"We need to be unified and we have a very clear agenda," Kerry said at the start of the meeting. "I'm going to be fighting for that agenda with all my energy and all the passion that I brought to the campaign."
One week after his presidential defeat, Kerry met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (search), D-Calif., and Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (search), D-Nev., at the Capitol to discuss a range of issues from Social Security to stem-cell research. Reid is expected to succeed Sen. Tom Daschle, who lost his South Dakota seat, as the Democratic leader in the Senate.
David Wade, a spokesman for Kerry, said the four-term Massachusetts senator "believes there is a mandate for unity in the country, and that there are 54 million Americans whose voices deserve to be heard as we move forward as a party."
President Bush received 59.5 million votes to Kerry's 55.9 million in claiming a second term.
Kerry also plans to attend next week's lame-duck session, his first return to the Senate since June when he interrupted his campaign to rush back to Washington to vote on veterans' legislation.
Kerry made only a few rare trips to Capitol Hill after launching his presidential bid and pursuing the Democratic nomination in an intense and crowded primary fight. In his last foray to the Senate floor, he canceled a full day of campaigning only to spend most of the day waiting — ultimately for naught — to cast a vote to increase funding for veterans' health care.
The vote never took place and Kerry later criticized Republicans for playing partisan politics and denying him the ability to vote on the issue.
Next week the Senate is expected to wrangle over the final appropriations bills and possibly consider intelligence reform legislation. Just four of the 13 bills that fund the federal government have been signed into law. The remainder have been rolled into a series of continuing resolutions, and the latest one expires Nov. 20.
Republicans also made gains in the Senate, where Kerry will find himself one of just 44 Democrats next year, compared to 48 now. Kerry has four years remaining on his Senate term.