House Minority Whip Hoyer said Monday that House Democrats have done a better job this year of unifying around a common agenda program and said that demonstrating the party can govern is an important step toward winning the House majority.
In an interview with CongressDaily, Hoyer said Democrats have proven they can overcome their internal party differences by producing alternatives to Republican tax cuts.
"We are creating consensus, and we are creating policy that a broad spectrum of the party can support, which will help us in those marginal districts where the control of Congress will ultimately be decided," he said.
House Democrats last year failed to unite around an alternative budget resolution. Hoyer noted this year Democrats crafted their own stimulus plan and an alternative budget that was supported by Democrats running the ideological spectrum from conservative Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas to liberal Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.
"We had a clear alternative about what we wanted to do," Hoyer said. "We got out there early that every Democrat from Ralph Hall to John Conyers was for it."
Hoyer said the war in Iraq has not dissuaded Democrats from criticizing President Bush's tax cut plan or Republican spending priorities. When the fighting in Iraq winds down, Hoyer predicted the public focus would return to Republican handling of the economy.
"There are going to be a lot of opportunities," Hoyer said. "Democrats believe the president's economic program is irresponsible and will damage the economy and the future health of our country."
More than 19 months away from the 2004 election, Hoyer said he could not predict what the political environment would mean for Democrats, but said his party is doing what it can now to prepare for the campaign next year -- raising money and recruiting candidates.
"I think there are going to be 25 to 35 [Republican-held] seats which are going to be very doable," Hoyer said.
Democrats need a 12-seat switch to win the House majority, and Hoyer said competitive races from the 2002 campaign are again at the top of the Democratic target list.
Hoyer listed Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa and Texas as states where Democrats ran competitively, but failed to pick up seats.
In hopes of expanding the number of competitive races next year, Hoyer said Democrats also are working to recruit candidates against GOP incumbents who have not faced recent competitive challengers.
"You can go around the country and you can find a good 20-plus seats that are very doable," he said. "Then you can go to another 10 seats where circumstances can come together where an incumbent isn't particularly strong."
Hoyer acknowledged the Republican fundraising advantage. The National Republican Congressional Committee plans to report it raised nearly $22 million in the first quarter of 2003, compared to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's $7 million.
However, Hoyer noted Democrats have spent their receipts more carefully.
The DCCC's plans to report it had $4.7 million on hand as of March 31, compared to the NRCC's $1.8 million balance.
"The difference is they spent all their money raising it," he said. "We saved most of our money, and we have more in the bank than they do." By Mark Wegner