Angered over last week’s vote on corporate-tax measure, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) penned a stern letter Monday to his Caucus, chastising Democrats for voting against the party on a procedural vote — and blasting Republican business lobbyists for allegedly misrepresenting Democrats’ positions on the controversial bill.
In a rare letter from party leadership to rank-and-file Members, Hoyer told his fellow Democrats that it is unacceptable for Members to vote against the party when it hurts the Caucus’ ability to offer alternatives to Republican bills.
The Minority Whip cited the 11 Members who sided with the GOP on the bill’s rule vote last Thursday. The rule in question, Hoyer said, “barred consideration of any Democratic amendments or substitutes.”
Hoyer didn’t take issue with the final outcome of the bill, in which 48 Democrats — mostly Southerners and moderates — sided with the GOP. Rather, Hoyer said he and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are “greatly concerned” about the vote on the rule and about those Members who betrayed the Caucus, because it “threatens to undermine the unity” of the party.
“Undemocratic rules that are deliberately designed to silence our Caucus should always elicit strong, unified Democratic opposition,” Hoyer wrote. “The failure to oppose such rules will only foment future procedural transgressions by our opponents. And we must not stand for it. We must fight such undemocratic rules — as one.”
Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), one of the 11 Members who voted for the rule, said, “it pains me deeply whenever I have to go in a different direction [than my party], but I am committed to doing what’s in the best interest of Georgia.” The measure contained a major tobacco buyout provision that would assist rural farmers in Georgia and other states.
Scott said that in this particular case he worked with Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (D-Calif.) to craft the bill to best serve his constituents, and that he was committed to supporting it all the way through.
Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) said while in most cases he would agree with Hoyer on party unity, the corporate tax bill was a unique circumstance. He said his district’s economy is wedded to the tobacco industry and, “I need to have a 100 percent voting record for tobacco farmers in my state. For me there’s a bigger issue than all Democrats sticking together on one particular procedural motion,” he said.
That argument didn’t fly with other Democrats, however.
“Our message is unity,” said a senior Pelosi aide. “Our unity in itself appeals to voters and Democrats must demonstrate we are united. Speaking with one voice is part of our message.”
Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), a conservative Democrat who voted against the rule but for the final version of the tax bill, said that for him, opposing the rule “was a softball,” given that the Democrats would have offered a more fiscally conservative alternative to the GOP version.
In another unusual move for a senior House member, Hoyer also took aim in his letter at four Republican business lobbyists who turned the screws on Democrats to vote for the Republican rule.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.