Five weeks and one day before the midterm elections, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer made the case for Democrats to retake control of the House, delivering a scathing takedown of Republican leadership in the process.
In a Monday morning speech at the National Press Club, the House's No. 2 Democrat mocked Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for recently boasting that the House under GOP rule is so transparent "you can even bring your iPad on the floor."
"That may be the case," Hoyer scoffed, "but you can't bring a bill to raise the minimum wage to the floor. Or to extend unemployment insurance. Or to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. You can't bring a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system." The Maryland lawmaker also painted a picture of Republican extremism and unwillingness to work across the aisle by shining the spotlight on one of the GOP's biggest stars: Budget Chairman and 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan.
“'Atlas Shrugged,' the Ayn Rand novel that Paul Ryan often cites as inspiration for the ideology he and many other House Republicans share, says this about compromise, and I quote, 'There are two sides to every issue; one is right, and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.’
"Compromise is not evil," Hoyer said.
Later, during a question-and-answer session with reporters, Hoyer said he didn't know who the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee would be, even though conventional wisdom holds it will be Ryan. He did, however, hint that the "Atlas Shrugged" passage could be a harbinger for whether the chamber can successfully tackle a much-sought rewrite of the nation's tax laws.
Outgoing chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Hoyer said, "worked in a bipartisan fashion" to craft a tax-code overhaul bill.
"It wasn't a bipartisan bill that he presented, but in our perspective ... [Camp] presented a bill that was an honest bill. What do I mean by that? He made the tradeoffs," he continued. "The speaker's response to a real bill making real tradeoffs was 'blah, blah, blah, blah ' in response to a question, 'What are you gonna do about that bill?' Completely dismissing it."
Though Hoyer's prepared remarks, which ran for about 20 minutes, were sold as the Democrats' closing argument before the midterms, he fielded 40 minutes-worth of questions from speech attendants that touched on politics and policy.
Though he wouldn't predict that his party would reclaim the House majority in November, Hoyer said he's been to 83 districts and observed "an extraordinarily able group of [Democratic] candidates" in close races around the country. He was, however, adamant that the Senate would stay in Democratic hands and "win sufficient numbers of seats so that we will have over 50 members."
Regarding airstrikes and military action in Syria to target the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State, Hoyer said he didn't think Congress would be called back before the lame-duck November session to vote on a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force measure.
He did think debate on the issue would take place in November and December, despite Boehner saying last week that the matter would best be handled by the new congress in January, and added that congress would ultimately have to make "an honest assessment of the cast" of combating the Islamic State, "not with rose-colored glasses but realistically."
Hoyer also dismissed speculation that there were "schisms" among House Democrats who were anti-war, war wary or pro-military intervention, saying there was "no acrimonious debate within our caucus."
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