Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) engaged in a colloquy with Majority Leader Eric Cantor on the House Floor today, where he discussed the need for a balanced alternative to avert the sequester. See below for excerpts of his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, the inability to get to agreement on this sequester is hurting the economy. And I will tell my friend that we've offered three times to have a bill considered as an alternative to sequester which cuts spending, raises some additional revenues.
“I know the Gentleman is going to give me a lecture about raising taxes. I understand that. But I would urge the Gentleman: let a vote happen on this Floor. Let the House, as you said in 2010, work its will. That's what the Speaker said he wanted to do. Let us vote on an alternative. Not just blindly go down this road of sequester, not blindly go down this road that the Gentleman has just agreed with me and we agreed together, I think most of us agree the sequester is irrational. It should not happen. In fact, it was put in the bill on the theory that, surely, we wouldn't let it happen. But in 59 days we've had no bill on this Floor.
“All the Gentleman talks about is a bill that is dead and gone and buried – that we can't consider. That won't make a difference; that will not in any way ameliorate the sequester. I regret that, Mr. Leader, because I think we can. Frankly, we can next week put alternatives on the Floor. If you have an alternative, put it on the Floor. I may vote against it. But that's what the American people expect. They expect us to try to solve problems, and they sent us here to vote on policy.
“Mr. Van Hollen, who's the Ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, has asked three times, Mr. Leader, to bring a bill to this Floor, an amendment, to this Floor to provide an alternative to sequester. It seems strange that when both of us agree that sequester is wrong, irrational, will have adverse effects – Ben Bernanke says it will substantially hurt the economy – that we don't provide alternatives, and all we talk about is something we did yesterday - actually, more than three, four months ago - that is dead and gone. We need to do something now, and we need to come together on a bipartisan basis.”
“As long as the Gentleman believes it's only us saying that we need a balanced program, he will oppose it, because we are Democrats. If the Gentleman listens to independent advice all over this country, from all sorts of sources, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, they will say: you need a balanced approach. We need to cut spending, we need to restrain spending, and we need to balance the cost of what we provide with the income that we have. Every business-person - small, medium, and large - understands that concept. We have not followed it, and we did not follow it in the last decade.
“I regret the fact that the Gentleman doesn't like the President going around the country and telling the truth. Saying what the consequences may well be. Now, are they going to be on March 1? No, but will they inevitably occur if the sequester stays in place? The answer to that, I think is an emphatic yes. So I think the President is going around the country saying, look, these are the alternatives. And saying that the Senate won't act or the President won't act – people did not elect me, I will tell you, to make the President act or to make the Senate act. They didn't think I could do that. What they did think I could do is make Steny Hoyer act. And if I were the Majority Leader, they expected me to have the House act. Even if people didn't agree with me on legislation I put on the Floor.
“But they expect us to do our job, not to cop out, with all due respect, to the fact that the President's not doing something or the Senate's not doing something. We have a responsibility here in this chamber, the People's House, as representatives of 435 districts, to do our job. And if the other folks don't do their job, we can lament that, we can criticize them, we can inform the American public of that. But we cannot say that's why we're not acting.
“So I would hope that next week we would, in fact, act and bring legislation to the Floor, and I’d be, as the Gentleman knows – my friend knows – I’m for a big deal. I'm for getting us to that $4 trillion that the Simpson-Bowles [commission] recommended. Because I think that will give real confidence to our economy, really grow businesses, and put our economy on a fiscally sustainable path.”