House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer leaves a Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday. Hoyer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have found themselves in a position of leverage in the debt limit talks, as any deal will require some Democratic votes.
Finding themselves in the unusual position of having leverage in the debt limit talks, House Democrats are not letting traditional dividing forces fracture their Caucus — at least for now.
A senior Democratic aide said that because Republicans will need 50 to 70 — or even more — of their Members to pass any deal, “It does give [Democrats] some leverage, there’s no doubt about it.”
Democrats have traditionally been riven with conflicts among groups that range from the Congressional Progressive Caucus to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, but Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) are managing to keep their party on the same page on the debt negotiations.
A Democratic aide said part of the Caucus’ ability to remain united is an understanding that it finds itself in a rare moment in which the minority party in the House — which is normally sidelined in the best of circumstances — has a say in a major policy debate in Washington.
“It’s serious, there’s no question about that. Being in the minority and still having a taste of what it was like to be in the majority, it helps remind folks what we need to get back there,” the aide said.
According to Democrats, Pelosi and other leaders sought to reinforce that unity during Tuesday’s Caucus meeting. “She also made the point that we’re with the president. He has a role to play, and we have a role to play,” a Democratic aide said.
“We know what our message is, our message is clear,” Pelosi told the Caucus, ticking off defending Medicare and attacking Republicans on tax loopholes for corporations, according to the aide.
“I think there’s going to be a great unity,” Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said Tuesday of his party’s approach to the debt limit.
“Democrats have been ready,” House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) told reporters Tuesday. “We’re not the ones who have been making ultimatums. We’re not the ones who have walked away from the negotiations — more than once — and we’re not the ones that are calling this process smoke and mirrors. We’re ready. The American people expect us to be ready, and we’re ready for that adult moment whenever our Republican counterparts agree to come to the table.”
That is not to say Democrats will still be unified if the White House and Congressional leaders agree on a deal.
Democrats acknowledge that in the end, there is a small subset of their Members who will likely vote for almost any debt limit deal, so long as it does not include massive changes to Medicare or Social Security. Although neither party has begun counting votes, Democratic and Republican aides predicted Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can likely count on just shy of 20 Blue Dogs and other moderates from the outset.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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