House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is taking on the mantle of deal-maker in the Democratic Caucus, a role that will be highlighted in the upcoming debt limit fight.
Unlike past years, when the majority party alone delivered the votes necessary to raise the debt ceiling, this year passage is likely to require minority party support, and the Maryland Democrat will be tasked with rounding up dozens of Democratic lawmakers to get a deal through the House.
In an interview with Roll Call, Hoyer said he is “prepared to discuss with the Republicans, House, Senate and White House from my perspective what might be either included with or agreed to ... to ensure fiscal responsibility.”
But Hoyer underscored that he will not yield on Democratic principles during those discussions.
“If Republicans think Democrats are going to be intimidated or the debt limit is going to be held ransom for us to do something with which we do not agree, they’re wrong,” Hoyer said.
So far, Hoyer is getting praise from Democratic lawmakers who see him as filling a critical role as bridge builder in the House.
Rep. Peter Welch, a senior member of the Democratic whip team and strong advocate for a “clean” debt limit vote, said the Democratic Caucus would be well-served if more lawmakers were as willing as Hoyer to work across the aisle.
“We need more people with his practical approach for solving problems,” the Vermont Democrat said. “He is a consonant voice when it comes to a practical approach [and] when it comes to solving thorny problems.”
He already has begun to lay the groundwork with Republicans to broker an agreement on the debt limit, penning a letter in mid-April to Speaker John Boehner about his desire to work with the Ohio Republican, as long as House Republicans stay away from trying to force cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Congressional leaders have been invited to the White House for dinner today to begin discussing the debt limit and budget issues.
Hoyer’s increased public involvement on the debt limit comes after House Democrats were largely boxed out of high-level discussions to fund the government through September.
At the time of the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she felt “no ownership” in helping the Speaker pass the continuing resolution that became less popular as Members learned more about it, but her No. 2, Hoyer, maintained that it was important to pass the legislation in order to keep the government working.
Still, the 15-term lawmaker said that he and Pelosi are working in concert to forward the Democratic agenda and that despite their divergent voting records, there is “not as much of a difference” as might appear. He said he and Pelosi believed the CR needed to pass, even though she voted against the package.
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.