Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks at a press conference today with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (NY) and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (MD) on the need to reach a responsible budget agreement. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
Mr. HOYER: “First of all, let me say, we don't know what the budget parameters and any agreement are going to be. We have heard rumors. You have written about them. We don't know their substance. What we do know, however, is that we are for a balanced addressing of the budget, of the economic issues that confront our country, and of putting our country on a fiscally sustainable path.
“I am, as you know, for a big deal in which all of the options are put on the table, which is what President Obama did. President Obama did not do small-bore, as is being discussed, as I understand it now, and being urged by Mr. Ryan. The reason he did not discuss small-bore is because he wanted to give confidence to the economy. And he wanted to get off this [governing]-by-crisis. He wanted to get to a sustainable path as we move forward.
“I am very hopeful that, before the budget conference reports out something, that they reach such an agreement. Not a small-bore agreement, but a big agreement, which deals with the issues that Chris Van Hollen talked about – investing in our economy, investing in education, investing in our infrastructure, growing our economy, making sure that unemployment insurance does not expire. I agree with Leader Pelosi: that doesn't necessarily have to be within the budget agreement itself, but it must be a part of addressing the economic challenges that confront our country and our people. I could say more, but enough said now, and unfortunately I'm going to have to leave because my staff is saying I am very late to another event. But I thank Leader Pelosi.”
REPORTER: “I know Mr. Van Hollen said you do not know what the agreement is, but what are the parameters to have you go to members and start to whip this? What has to be in there? They talk about maybe doing a CR. You said the other day you're not going to do something on $967 [funding level], reintroducing the sequester. But there hasn't been any communication at all about next week?”
Mr. HOYER: “I tried to get Mr. Cantor to be more specific today on the Floor. If you were watching, that did not happen. Maybe it is because he does not know. He may not know what the specifics are. However, you are correct. And Mr. Van Hollen mentioned it. One of our principal objectives is eliminating the sequester.
“Why? Because, in a bipartisan fashion, not only did Mr. Rogers say the sequester is unworkable and unrealistic, but his twelve Republican chairmen of the Appropriations subcommittees said it was unworkable and unrealistic. So one of the first objectives needs to be to get rid of the sequester. The sequester was never intended to go into effect. Everybody believed that the ‘supercommittee,’ so-called, would come up with a big, balanced deal. Unfortunately, that did not happen. And they presume that, over the next thirteen months, after failure, that we would come up with an alternate to sequester. We did not.
“But Mr. Cantor today on the Floor, in our colloquy, he said the sequester was not the way to reduce government spending. He is absolutely right. I've been saying that. Mr. Cantor has been saying that. The Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee knows, probably more than the rest of us, that is not the way to do it. Leader Pelosi has been saying the same thing. We think that is a threshold issue that needs to be dealt with.
REPORTER: “On federal workers. We saw the e-mail supporting federal workers, concerned about them in this process. But if it comes down to it, rolling back the sequester or taking a deal where, perhaps, federal pension contributions have to go up maybe even more than the sequester is rolled back, is that something you and other Democrats could swallow? Can you talk about those trade-offs?
Mr. HOYER: “We don't think that is good policy. Mr. Van Hollen talked about it in terms of working people. The only working people that have paid a price so far in trying to bring down the deficit have been federal workers, and they have paid $114 billion to date over the last four years. And that does not include the furloughs. I'm trying to get that figure. I've talked to [Office of Management and Budget Director] Sylvia Burwell to get that figure. But that's billions, I don't know how many billions more, that they have paid.
“So I think it is inappropriate, absent a big deal in which you are dealing with all segments of savings and of investments – which is [what] a big deal contemplates– it is inappropriate to further look to the pockets of federal employees at this point in time. It is not necessary.
“Mr. Van Hollen points that out. He has alternatives which don't deal with that at all. They want to save another $10, $15, $20 billion in the Farm Bill. They also want to shift some of that money to pay very wealthy farmers’ on insurance. We ought to look to those first before we again reduce the pay and benefits of our federal workers, because we have already dipped deeply into their pockets and reduced not only their present benefits and pay but also their longer-term benefits and pay. Thank you.”