Hoyer Discussing the President's Compromise on Taxes and Unemployment Insurance on MSNBC's Morning Joe

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we're live in houston this morning and back in new york we've got willie geist and mike barnicle and john heilemann. and from capitol hill, house majority leader and democratic representative from maryland, congressman steny hoyer. and also back in new york, we've got the host of the dylan ratigan show, dylan ratigan. oh, this should be good. >> no doubt about it. there are a lot of questions out there this morning about whether the democrats are going to be able to pass this or not. let's -- >> let's ask steny hoyer. >> let's go straight to steny hoyer, the majority leader of the u.s. house of representatives. always great talking to you. >> good to be with you. >> do you think you will be able to get enough votes to pass the president's tax plan? >> joe, the first thing we have to find out is what the senate can pass. we obviously have passed a bill which i think reflected what the democrats believed was appropriate and that is a cut in middle income tax rates and make sure they don't go up in january. i think the overwhelming majority of the american public supported that policy, including republicans, 52% in a cbs news poll shows that they supported that policy. however, obviously the republicans would not vote for anything unless upper income taxes were frozen, and the estate tax was changed so that we're confronted with what the senate is going to do. we'll see pretty soon hopefully what the senate is going to do, and i think the objective that the president has tried to reach is the objective that we need to reach, and that is on the one hand we need to grow the economy. obviously, we need to address the deficit in the longer term, but as ben bernanke said if we don't address growing the economy in the short term, we're not going to be able to achieve the second objective of bringing the deficit down. >> steny, a lot of reports that house democrats especially are very angry with the white house, that joe biden received a chilly reception on capitol hill. what are you doing to try to keep your caucus together? >> actually, i wouldn't characterize the reception that vice president biden got as chilly. i would characterize it as the expression of very substantial disagreement with the provisions regarding the high income taxes and to the estate tax, which i think most democrats don't believe will have any positive effect on growing the economy but will simply make the deficit worse. i happen to agree with that proposition. i think that's accurate. i don't think it's going to have a real effect on the economy, but it's clear that the republicans have determined unless the wealthiest in america get benefits, then they won't vote for unemployment insurance, they won't vote for a cut in taxes in the 2% in the working mens' wages on fic a, so the president saw himself into a position where if we were going to get anything done, we could get it through the house, but if they were going to get anything through the senate, this he had to make an accommodation. we'll see what happens in the senate, whether that's modified, and then we'll see what we do in the house but it's clear, joe, we need to help grow the economy. >> yeah. i'm sorry, we have a delay here. the question is why not fight the fight and tell republicans, say we will give you tax cuts even for people making 250 to $1 million but we will not give millionaire tax breaks. you look at a cbs poll that's out, 65% of americans oppose giving tax cuts to people over $250,000. you push that up to a $1 million -- >> i just made that point. >> you can win that battle. the question is why didn't the president fight that fight and say we're not giving millionaires cuts and we're not going to let you keep unemployment benefits away from families at christmas. >> i think all of us in the house would have been more pleased if we'd had a more vigorous express of that to the american public. we're where the american people are and as i said, joe, 52% of the republicans polled agree with us in that cbs news poll. so, yes, i'm disappointed we didn't make a more vigorous fight. i'm frankly disappointed that when they took the vote last saturday, that we didn't have a full-fledged filibuster so the american people would have had the opportunity to see in the ...
 
increased that from 7 million to 10 million, 39,000 families going to be affected by that, but it's going to cost billions of dollars to do that and make the deficit worse and we'll have no, none, positive effect on the economy. we think that is not a good action to take, and i think that's the item. i also think the upper income tax freeze doesn't make sense either from the house's perspective. however, i think the most agree jus response or the most vigorous response has been to the estate tax deal. >> congressman hoyer, the democrats in congress were in a position of great power and leverage three or four months ago, in september, october, before the midterm elections when people knew the republicans were going to gain a lot of seats and maybe control the house. you guys could have done whatever you wanted in terms of the bush tax cuts and yet you chose not to, which seems to me at least to undercut some of the outrage on the part of some members of your caucus that the president has made this deal. how many people in your caucus were adamant about let's take this on back in september and october when they had a chance, and to what extent do you think that that kind of robs you of some of the righteous out rage that people now feel? >> i don't accept your premise and i don't think the facts support your premise. when you say we could have done anything we wanted to. obviously, the house of representatives has about 400-plus bills that it has passed in the house of representatives given the rules, very frankly, you can operate as we expect in a democracy with a majority vote. we have some 400-plus bills pending in the united states senate, including the estate tax at $3.5 million exemption for each individual, and that is still pending over a year in the united states senate. why? because the united states senate cannot pass things with simply a majority vote. so when you say we had the overwhelming power to do that, it is clear over the last two years that the filibuster has precluded making policy in the united states senate except after capitulation with the republican minority that said they wouldn't do things unless they were accommodated. the estate tax and the high income freeze on taxes is evidence of that in the present context. we're still where we were essentially and we're still having the same problem with the minority ruling in the united states senate. >> congressman, it's willie geist here. we have heard even just this morning members of your own caucus there in the house express their great disappointment with president obama for what they say is a caving in to republicans on this issue. he obviously takes exception with that. do you share their frustration? are you disappointed in the president for agreeing to this deal? >> i think we're all frustrated that we could not adopt policies that are consistent with what the overwhelming majority of americans believe is good, sound policy. >> should the president have made this deal then? >> i think the president should have made a fight that would have made it clearer to the american public the distinctions between those of us who wanted to adopt policies that would grow jobs and give middle income working americans relief without holding hostage the wealthiest in our country. do i think the president could have done that perhaps more vigorously? the answer is yes. does my caucus think that's the case? yes. but in the final analysis, the president was confronted with a reality, as we all are, of a sufficient number of republicans h indeed all of the republicans in the united states senate, who said unless the wealthiest are given a break, then we're not going to give a break to those who are unemployed or those working americans who are struggling and we don't want to increase their taxes. >> help me out here though, steny, because this is the one thing i haven't been able to understand, and i thought just politically the president should have fought harder for tax cuts for people making $1 million-plus. as you know, i love tax cuts. i'm talking about how do you get working class americans back to work? and move that to capital gains cuts, anything but that, but here is my question though. you guys are still in charge. you still have a 70-plus vote majority in the house. you still have a 17, 18 vote majority in the senate. why can't you guys convince enough democrats to stay with us in the house? >> in the house? well, joe, we have passed things in the house. we have enough democrats in the house, and we passed the policies. we passed a tax bill which did exactly what you just said. said working people ought to not have their taxes increased but those of us who are doing much better ought to help participate in what the american public also said was a problem, and that is...