House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) laced into Congressional Republicans on Monday for what he called their “deep irresponsibility” in pursuing a strategy that banks on the country’s failure.
In a 25-minute address to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the No. 2 House Democrat laid out an expansive critique of a minority party he charged with choosing “slogans and symbolism over constructive contributions.”
“No one expects Republicans to roll over for President Obama,” Hoyer said. “But the ‘party of no’ strategy is so disappointing because the history of Congress is full of loyal oppositions that shared responsibility for governing in trying times and shaped some of the most importation legislation of their eras.”
In falling short of that record, GOP leaders not only diminish the quality of debate but damage the legislative branch itself, said Hoyer, a noted institutionalist.
The majority party since the start of the year has railed against Republican opposition as empty political posturing at a time of national crisis. Hoyer’s Monday address appears to be the first effort by a Democratic leader to put the critique in historical context. Hoyer contrasted the past year of partisan clashes with a half-century of landmark legislative achievements by lawmakers and presidents who reached across the aisle — including several in which he was instrumental.
“I also know, in closing, how easy it is to accuse me of being disingenuous for even making this argument,” Hoyer said. “It’s easy to say that Democrats actually want extremism to be the face of the opposition — that we would be happy for the ‘party of no’ to keeping saying ‘no.’ But that’s not true. When we say ‘no’ to the work of legislating, we do real harm to the institution of Congress and our nation’s future.”
The Maryland Democrat blamed the Republican strategy on an assumption by the minority that it benefits when the majority loses; on what he called their allegiance to special interests determined to protect favorable Bush-era policies; and, notably, on the media. “I suggest to you that there are millions and millions of Americans who will watch news programs tonight whose major effort is to incite, to make people angrier, to make them more divided, to make our country more divided and angry at itself,” Hoyer said in a question-and-answer session after his remarks. “That is not a productive context in which to create bipartisanship and the ability to work together in the Congress.”
Republicans have dismissed the obstructionist charge, countering that it is Democrats who have been irresponsible for pushing what the GOP has lambasted as a budget-busting agenda. “It is easy to understand why the Majority Leader is more eager to attack Republicans than defend his own Leadership's record — including double-digit unemployment, a mountain of new debt, an ineffective trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ bill, a job-killing national energy tax, and an unpopular government takeover of health care,” Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “Every time out-of-touch Washington Democrats have chosen to go it alone on some liberal scheme this year, Republicans have offered a better solution, rooted in our principles. Democrats need to stop whining about us and actually get something done to help the American people.”