House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer appears to be solidifying his position as the Democratic leader whom Republicans can deal with and trust next year.
Over the past week, the Maryland lawmaker has made several public overtures to get in the good graces of Speaker-designate John Boehner: He mingled with GOP staff and allies at the Ohio Republican’s annual holiday bash, outlined a bipartisan governing agenda at a press event Monday and went out of his way Tuesday to praise how the GOP’s leadership has handled its transition to the majority.
The role of chief emissary to Republicans is one that he has long held in the Democratic Caucus — although in his last stint in the minority, Hoyer worked most closely with his good friend and longtime GOP Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), who is heading to the Senate. Hoyer does not have nearly as close a relationship with Boehner, Majority Leader-designate Eric Cantor (R-Va.) or Majority Whip-designate Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Not that he isn’t trying.
At his pen-and-pad press conference Tuesday, Hoyer said the transition to Republican rule has been much more respectful this time around. Republicans picked up 63 Democratic seats Nov. 2 to regain the majority and forced demotions for Hoyer and the rest of the Democratic leadership. Hoyer becomes Minority Whip in January.
“The atmosphere has been markedly better,” Hoyer said, noting that the 1994 Republican takeover was marked by confrontation and a lack of consideration.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Boehner and the Republican leadership,” Hoyer said, adding that he has also had productive meetings with McCarthy, who will be taking Hoyer’s office space in the new Congress. “The attitude, I think, is an attitude which will provide, I think, for a positive undertaking of our respective responsibilities next year.”
In a Monday press conference at the National Press Club, Hoyer outlined several areas where there could be bipartisan agreements next year, including deficit reduction and tax reform.
“I think the American people want us both to work together to solve problems that they know are real problems, not ideological left and right problems, but problems that they see in the terms of their jobs, in the debt that confronts their country,” he said.
The veteran Member — long a deficit hawk — said such efforts must be bipartisan, pointing to President Ronald Reagan’s deals with then-Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) and Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) on Social Security and tax reform in the 1980s; he said similar bipartisan accomplishments are possible next year.
“I think we can do that because the demands to do so are compelling and immediate,” Hoyer said.
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.