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Hoyer Holds The Line

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Hoyer demurs when asked about eyeing Pelosi’s position. He describes House Democratic leadership as a “team thing.”

“He is not a flaming liberal,” Serrano said. “He’s not where I am on the political spectrum. And yet he draws people like me to him.”

Hoyer said his whip philosophy goes something like this: “Look, I want you with me today, but I also know I’m going to want you with me tomorrow and the next day and the day after.” Which means he doesn’t stop whipping once the gavel bangs.

First-term Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona told CQ Roll Call that Hoyer contacted her after the first farm bill vote, on which she broke from the whip’s recommendation and voted “yes.”

“Hoyer called me after the vote, reached out to me, and he reminded me I’m here to serve my district and my community and that’s the best way to do my job and do it well, and keep my eye on the bigger picture,” she recalled.

Sinema is a moderate Democrat in a vulnerable seat, what is known as a “frontliner,” and Hoyer, a moderate himself, has always been close with those members. The minority whip knows they sometimes need a pass to vote against the party line.

“Frankly, a member can look at me and say, ‘Hoyer, you didn’t elect me; my people elected me, I work for them, not for you.’ And they’re absolutely right,” Hoyer said. “They don’t work for me, they don’t work for Nancy. They work for the people in their district. So you have to convince them.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional hard sell. At times, he’ll say, “Look, we really need you on this.”

And don’t try spinning him.

“If a member is kind of gamesmanly or a member tries to spin me or play me, that’s a different thing,” Hoyer said, adding that consequences could include withholding committee assignments, promotions within the institution, travel or speaking opportunities.

Hoyer also serves as an attack dog toward the right, and he seems to delight in his indignation over “Republican radicalism.”

His weekly pen-and-pad briefing is an exercise in scheduling updates and reminding reporters that the GOP is “deeply divided” and “terrified of the tea party.”

Hoyer said his job is made easier because the Democrats understand compromise is necessary.

Many members of the new Republican Conference, he said, “are not really interested in leadership,” and were elected in “a sort of ‘get rid of government’ theory.

“And so Boehner is confronted with that,” Hoyer said.

During his weekly colloquy with Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Hoyer routinely works himself up to near-shouting on the House floor, asking Cantor questions to which he already knows the answers — and he does it so convincingly that no one questions his frustration.

Serrano said that’s because it is genuine.

“He honestly has great respect for the institution, and when he feels that the other side, or anybody for that matter, is trying to bring down the institution, there’s outrage,” Serrano said.

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