But the speaker’s hand has been weakened after his conference rejected his call to pass a “plan B” — and the bruises in the conference are still showing. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., expressed his support for the speaker and said that the conference had let him down. Other expressed their support for leadership as well. “We didn’t have a failure of leadership, we had a failure of followership,” Cole said on the call.
In a sign of just how charged and hyperbolic this year-end debate has become, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., used an unfortunately timed comparison that likened Republicans trying to use the debt limit for leverage on spending cuts to people threatening to shoot their own children.
“It is somewhat like taking your child hostage and saying to somebody else, ‘I’m going to shoot my child unless you do what I want done.’ You don’t want to shoot your child,” Hoyer said at a press conference following a brief 10-minute pro forma session for the House.
Hoyer expressed serious frustration over the House’s continued holiday recess without any resolution to either the fiscal cliff or a laundry list of issues still awaiting congressional approval, from the extensions of the Violence Against Women Act and a foreign intelligence bill to farm legislation to a disaster aid supplemental and a postal overhaul bill.
Democrats on both sides of the aisle have used the recess to attack Republicans for being lackadaisical about a packed year-end agenda. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said earlier Thursday that he couldn’t see a way to pass a budget agreement in the time left on the calendar.
Amid the pessimism over the fiscal cliff, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. swore-in Sen.-designate Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, to replace the late Daniel K. Inouye.
Reid had called for a hastened replacement process in case Democrats needed an additional vote to approve any year-end deals.
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.