Hoyer Says Bennett’s Defeat Will Hurt Bipartisanship

Posted May 11, 2010 at 11:27am

Updated: 12:45 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Sen. Bob Bennett’s loss at the Utah Republican convention was confirmation that “the base of the Republican Party is not interested at all in bipartisanship or cooperation.”

The Maryland Democrat told reporters Tuesday that the Republican Party’s base was narrower now than at any point he’d observed during his four-decade career in politics and that Utah Republicans’ decision to deny Bennett the ability to run for party’s nomination was evidence that the base was shunning the idea of working across the aisle. Bennett, who became ineligible to win the nomination after he placed third in the second round of balloting Saturday, drew fire from conservative activists who painted him as a “Republican in name only” and blasted him for working with Democrats.

“The problem that the Republicans have had is that their base doesn’t want them to compromise, their base does not want them to sit down with people and discuss alternatives that are possible, and the Utah Republican convention was, I think, stark evidence of that base determination,” Hoyer said, noting that although Bennett had a strong conservative record, he “did have a willingness to sit down and see how we could move forward on pieces of legislation.”

Bennett’s loss has raised questions about how damaging an anti-incumbent mood will be for candidates of both parties in the November midterms.

Hoyer, who traveled to Utah last weekend to speak at a Friday Utah State Democratic Party dinner and attend the Democrats’ convention Saturday, said Republicans’ election-year posture mimicked the early tactics of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who encouraged Republicans not to work with the majority party when the GOP was in the minority.

Hoyer blamed tea party activists for narrowing the GOP base and predicted Bennett’s loss would translate into an even tougher environment for passing bipartisan legislation.

Republicans quickly shot back against Hoyer’s criticism.

“I was unaware that the Congressman from Maryland was an expert on Utah Republican politics. This is just another partisan comment from an out-of-touch majority,” said Ryan Murphy, a spokesman for Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.).

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, said the Ohio Republican “has said since the beginning of this Congress that he wants to work together to deal with the big problems we face, especially the near double-digit unemployment rate and the out-of-control spending that is scaring the hell out of the American people.”

“It is Washington Democrats who have chosen to go it alone with a partisan, job-killing agenda,” Steel added.