Outgoing House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, opened his weekly “pen and pad” briefing in his Capitol office by sharing that he had a “wonderful Thanksgiving” with his family.
“I feel terrific,” he quipped.
On Wednesday, the Democrats will vote for a new generation of leaders.
Hoyer said he was delighted to see that his party “continues to be extraordinarily united.” He revealed that he expects Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar to be elected. Pelosi’s successor Jeffries, according to Hoyer, is “an extraordinarily capable leader.” The Maryland Democrat also said that the Assistant Speaker of the US House of Representatives Katherine Clark, who announced her candidacy for the position of Democratic Whip, is going to be a “wonderful leader.”
Hoyer stated that he had an opportunity to speak with Jeffries, and offered to do whatever he could to help him. Sharing his personal feeling about the three new leaders, he said that they are all “very able” and “experienced” people. “I think they’re going to be very successful. Our job is to make sure that we protect and preserve the legislation that we passed,” he added. One of the significant legacies of the Obama administration is the Affordable Care Act, which Hoyer does not want to see repealed.
“We spent a lot of time defending that and making sure it’s to the benefit of millions of Americans and American families. John McCain, of course, made sure that it was not repealed. But we had to fight it for many, many years,” he recalled.
Commenting on his decision not to seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress, Hoyer insisted it was a decision he reached independently. “I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of members stay in positions too long. I thought that was regrettable because they left with an image of not being able and not being productive and constructive for the caucus. I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “I hope all of you have reached the same conclusion: I’m at 83 and doing pretty well. I campaigned hard. I went to 26 states and 50 districts, raised a lot of money, did all the things that I just do. I think I’m still doing that.”
Hoyer, who has served in Congress since 1981, will go back to the House Appropriations Committee. “Those of you who have known me for any period of time know how strongly I feel about the appropriations process,” he said fondly reflecting on leadership change.
Priorities on the House docket
As the House and Senate enter the month of December, Democrats “got a lot to do” in the next few weeks. “We got to pass an omnibus [funding bill]. We got to pass the three supplemental bills the President requested: one on Ukraine, one on COVID, and one on natural disasters. Obviously, the National Defense Authorization Act we passed some time ago. That’s got to be passed. We’re also very interested in doing something with the child tax credit that did not make it in the Inflation Reduction Act, but we think is a very important piece of legislation,” Hoyer went through priorities on the House docket. Given that DACA is “very important” to Democrats, Hoyer noted he’s hopeful that “something could be done”so that those who are DACA eligible are not put at risk.
Hoyer said he is “very interested” in getting the ECRA (Electoral Count Act) done. Speaking of the Marriage Equality Act he said he expects to be passed “as early as Tuesday of next week.”
President Biden met on Tuesday with four Congressional leaders at the White House to talk about averting a “potentially crippling” national rail shutdown.
“The President really wants to get that Rail Act done as soon as possible and we want to get to the Senate as soon as possible. So we are proceeding on that, we’re counting votes. There’s obviously some controversy as to what’s in it, what’s not in it. Essentially, as you know, The Rail Act incorporates the agreement that was reached, but was not agreed to by every union.” Hoyer said that “avoiding a rail strike is absolutely essential” from the standpoint of the US economy and supply chains.
But, there’s another potential crisis looming just around the corner. The current CR expires on the 16th, and Hoyer believes that an omnibus spending package agreement could be reached by December 16. “But as you know, people have a tendency to put it off because they think they can make a better deal until there’s no more time to deal.”
Hoyer: Republicans continue to have deep divisions
Speaking about the Republicans, Hoyer said he was “hopeful” that the Democrats would be able to engage with them in a “positive, constructive, bipartisan” way. “Obviously, unlike us, they continue to have deep deep divisions within their conference, which you saw manifested in their vote for speaker and in their conference.”
He said that Republicans have “a lot of negative voices in their conference, which are not focused on how do we get things done, but how do we stop things from getting done? McCarthy will have to deal with that. It’s difficult,” said Hoyer. “I will call your attention to Paul Ryan and John Boehner. John Boehner resigned, and Paul Ryan left early,” noted Hoyer. In his opinion, Paul Ryan did not serve very long as a speaker “because he found it very difficult to deal with the Freedom Caucus types” both inside and outside their conference.
“McCarthy’s going to have the same problems, and the country will suffer if they don’t try to come together, ” Hoyer said. “When the country was about to go under, according to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Treasury, under George Bush. Democrats cast what was a bad political vote to make sure that the country remained fiscally stable. Even when their own President, their own Secretary of Treasury, was telling them what they needed to do, two thirds of the Republicans voted no. So that’s their inclination. Boehner could not get his own legislation, get a majority of Republican votes to pass. We weighed in with him, and we passed legislation,” he said.
“Republicans have had difficulty getting to unity, even when they’ve been in charge,” Hoyer observed.
The problems Paul Ryan and John Boehner faced, according to Hoyer are still present in the Republican Party. He insisted that Democrats have “a very unified caucus” and that despite a lot of spirited discussions, they manage to always come together because of “the psychology of consensus.”
What can House Democrats do to help President Biden win the 2024 election? According to Hoyer, the Democrats have a strong record of achievements. “The Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure, The CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act, The Safer Communities— 30 years since we passed a gun safety piece of legislation that was bipartisan, President has signed it, moves us forward. The PACT Act that’s going to help three and a half million veterans be served as a result of injuries that they received because of toxic chemicals proximate to where they lived or worked. So we had a robust agenda,” he said.
“We can stand up for what we believe in and have done,” said Hoyer.”I think the best we can do, what we ought to do, and what we’re going to do, is make our case to the American people, support what is good for the country and oppose that which we think is bad,” he laid out his political vision for America.
“Obviously, Biden will be a big help on that. It’s a huge benefit that we have the majority of the Senate. That gives us a bigger stick than we otherwise would not have if they controlled both the House and the Senate. That also gives the President of the United States a bigger stick, ” he explained.
“The Republicans have to decide if they want to govern for the welfare of their country or for their right wing extremists. That’s the issue Republicans are going to have to decide. Whether they can decide that or not is questionable.”
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