National Press Club

Hoyer warns economy may hurt Dems in Nov. elections

January 27, 2010 | By Terry Hill

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The economic pain and fear of many across America may translate into political pain for Democrats, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said at an NPC news conference Jan. 26.

"That's what we saw in Massachusetts," he said, referring to the special election in whcih a Republican was elected to fill a Senate seat held by Democrats for 50 years. "If Democrats didn't share America's economic urgency, we would deserve to lose more seats."

Hoyer said Democrats knew things weren't right for Americans when they took their oaths of office last year. It could be easily seen in the lives of the unemployed, in families having to leave their homes, in the financial doubts of the elderly retirees and among small businesses watching their sales drop and health-care costs rise, he said.

Republicans had had a chance to act and instead, "drove our economy into a ditch."

Hoyer issued a plea to Republicans to join in the legislative process but warned that this fall, Democrats will challenge them to stand on their record and offer "something more than opposition."

But pointing the finger of blame won't help, he said, because the nation's recovery is now a shared responsibility of both parties. His party accepted the responsibility by passing the Recovery Act without one GOP vote, he said. Hoyer noted a similar event in 1993 when Democrats advanced President Clinton's economic policy, which, he said, gave the nation its best economy in 50 years.

"Despite a year of Republican efforts to paint the Recovery Act as unsuccessful, many conservative economists agree that it has grown our economy and saved and created jobs," Hoyer said.

Credited by the Congressional Budget Office with creating 2.4 million jobs, the measure has slowed job losses, cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, provided loans to 40,000 small businesses and paid for thousands of transportation construction projects, all ignored by many in the opposition party, he said.

"We've seen progress but still not success," he said. Job creation is the Democrats' first priority, but dealing with the nation's increasing debt load also demands immediate action.

"Meanwhile, the country is rightfully worried that Washington is spending too much money," the Majority Leader asserted. "Democrats get it, and we will do something about it." He cited the party's work to pass "pay-as-you-go" legislation and the president's recently-announced spending freeze.

"If Republicans are as concerned about the deficit as they say, I hope they'll participate and contribute their ideas on how to achieve fiscal balance-instead of sitting the process out, as they are threatening."

On health care reform, he said the party's effort had not been a distraction from economic issues, rather "times like these show how vitally it is needed." Democrats are studying best ways to reform health care now, viewing four options: pass no bill; pass a small bill with modest improvements "assuming that Republicans want to work with us;" pass the Senate's existing bill; or pass the Senate bill and get both chambers to fix the differences.

Hoyer also confirmed Democrats will push to pass Wall Street reform and energy-independence legislation.

"But we know that the majority does not rule: in the last two Congresses, Republican minorities have broken all-time records for abuse of the filibuster, turning the Senate from George Washington's cooling saucer into the place where solutions to our nation's most pressing problems are put into a deep freeze."

"For those of us called to govern, the test is this: will we profit from anger and seek power for its own sake? Or can we show the people who sent us here a hope worth fighting for."