The primacy of calls for major deficit reduction have all but stagnated, but House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is trying to revive an urgency in Washington, D.C., around his signature issue.
Despite the long odds, as well as the failure of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, the Maryland Democrat on Monday called for passing a debt deal before November’s elections.
“We must not wait for the next election,” the No. 2 House Democrat said. “There’s never a moment when we are free from the constraints of our politics.”
Hoyer was scant on details. But in keeping his intentions on the front burner, he is trying to ensure he remains center stage and assuring his fellow House Members, who stuck their necks out in calling for a balanced approach, that he is still working to that end.
Last year, Hoyer teamed with more than 100 House Members of both parties and dozens of Senators to urge the super committee to “go big,” or hit the deficit with revenue increases and spending cuts.
It was to no avail, but he and other Members of the group are still working to craft a proposal this spring to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.
“Members of both parties on both sides of the Capitol are working to make sure that the next time we find ourselves at an impasse, which could be sooner rather than later, we will be ready with a legislative package in hand,” Hoyer said.
He routinely mentions large-scale deficit reduction plans in meetings with reporters, and on Monday, while other Members were on Congressional delegations or in their districts, Hoyer gave the remarks calling for urgency at an event at Union Station sponsored by Democratic think tank Third Way.
Hoyer’s chances at spurring substantive action are iffy at best in an election year. It’s unclear how many of the more than 100 “go big” coalition Members would still back a comprehensive proposal, even if leadership allowed it to come to the floor.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who signed November’s letter pressuring the super committee, said he was still engaged but that his involvement is limited right now.
“I signed on and will continue to support it even though there may not be much that we can do on our side,” the Missouri Democrat said Monday.
The Congressional Black Caucus chairman acknowledged the heavy lift of tackling such an issue in the runup to a general election and in a divided Congress.
“All I have is hope,” Cleaver said. “And to be honest, you know, every time I hear vitriol from one side or the other, it reduces my level of hope, but it’s still there. I haven’t completely given up.”
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.