Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was elected by acclamation to serve as Minority Whip in the next Congress, and he defended Speaker Nancy Pelosis decision to seek the Minority Leader job.
Hoyer made clear during the interview that he harbored no animosity toward Clyburn or Shuler, describing both men as close friends. Hoyer described Shuler’s speech to the Caucus during Wednesday’s leadership elections as “very unifying” and “very positive,” saying that he pointed “out that we needed to have a big tent, we needed to have all corners of the tent represented.”
“He has a perspective and he represents his district,” Hoyer said. “That’s what he ought to do.”
Hoyer, who has a strong allegiance to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said he agreed with Shuler’s comments calling for respect for differing views but downplayed the idea that Democrats were divided.
“Will there be differences within our Caucus? Yes, we have a very broad-based party,” he said. “I think that’s our strength, not our weakness.”
Asked why House Democrats suffered their worst defeat in generations, Hoyer said “because the economic decline was so steep” and there was “a sense in the country” that Democrats failed to create enough jobs. Hoyer also blamed Senate Republicans for blocking legislation in that chamber, which he said “made it very difficult to get much of what [Democrats] wanted to do for jobs through” and led to voter frustration.
“Did we make some mistakes? I think there was a perception by some, by a significant number, that we weren’t focused on jobs,” Hoyer said, noting that Democrats did enact the stimulus law shortly after President Barack Obama took office.
“The public got the impression that we weren’t dealing with jobs and the economy. In fact we were.”
The Maryland Democrat, who became Majority Leader when Democrats won back the House in 2006, said last year’s contentious health care debate overshadowed Democrats’ efforts on the jobs front.
With Republicans set to take control of the House in January, Hoyer said Democrats are “prepared to reach common ground,” particularly if Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) and his leadership team make good on their campaign promises to fix the economy and restore fiscal discipline.
“We hope that they will do what they said they were going to do and themselves try to make sure that our economy is moving and we have job growth. But that also — in that process — to reach fiscal balance,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer said he expected to be able to find Republicans to partner with, noting that he’d worked with Republicans in the past on legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Help America Vote Act, and on revisions of a federal wiretapping law. Hoyer often used to remark on his long-standing friendship with former Minority Whip Roy Blunt, with whom he would meet regularly.
“There are a number of Republicans with whom I’ve worked, and my view is the American public expects us to try to seek common ground to make progress, and I think they’re right on that. And to the extent we can do that, I want to do that.”