It’s no secret on Capitol Hill that Democrats are on the defensive heading toward midterm elections that are considered a referendum on their majorities in Congress and their man in the White House. Part of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s job is to minimize losses however possible. With just over six months until the voting, Hoyer and colleagues are trying desperately to switch to offense, and keep Republicans from driving the conversation like they did on health care—a debate that almost proved crippling to his party’s survival.
At a breakfast this morning in Washington hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Hoyer talked with reporters, taking time to slam Republicans at every turn. When asked to make an opening statement, Hoyer quipped that he’d be brief and try “not to filibuster the opportunity,” a clear jab at the filibustering party du jour.
The slams continued. Taking a page from history, Hoyer noted that in 1993—a time of similar economic sluggishness—Republicans then, as they do now, unanimously opposed every economic proposal that came from the White House. “They were 180 degrees wrong then, and I suggest they’re 180 degrees wrong now.”
On the thorny issue of former congressman Eric Massa, who resigned last
month amid accusations that he acted inappropriately with male staff, Hoyer—
who is himself caught up in an ethics probe about a possible cover-up—found another outlet for a quick punch, bringing up disgraced GOP
congressman Mark Foley and Republican leaders who he accused of covering up alleged criminal activity for more than a year. Hoyer’s turnaround time on Massa: three and a half weeks. Lest GOP lawmakers be considered the only villains, Hoyer directed some of his morning ire at bloggers
(who “have no constraint and can put out any information they want”) and right-wing radio and TV commentators (whose words “are not very
helpful, but are certainly in-sight-ful”).
Politics always requires the notion of selective reality, and Hoyer hopes that his view becomes the nation’s. “I see some irony in the status of Congress because this may be the most productive Congress in our history,” he said, before listing a series of his party’s legislative accomplishments that included health care, a jobs bill, and an approaching vote on financial regulations. Don’t believe him? He brought numbers: a month-by-month breakdown of just how many jobs that Democrats—singlehandedly—created. “That’s progress,” he said, punctuating his words. “I won’t say success, but progress.”
Hoyer gives the impression he knows that November will come down to messaging, but it’ll have more to do with past legislative actions, like health care and jobs, than future ones, like immigration reform or energy. “We’ll have to convince the American public that what we’ve done, in fact, is working,” he said. The best way to do that? Stay on offense.