Hoyer Discusses Issues with Local Press

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Hoyer Discusses Issues with Local Press

Bowie, MD - 2/4/2013

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By Marty Madden

Congressman Steny Hoyer
Congressman Steny Hoyer

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer [D-MD District 5] conducted an informal discussion over lunch Friday, Feb. 1 with members of the local press. A variety of issues were raised during the session, held at Rip’s in Bowie.

In opening remarks, Hoyer lamented the gridlock that he said has plagued Congress since Republicans gained a majority in the House in the 2010 General Election. He characterized Speaker John Boehner as someone who wants to move the nation forward but has been unable to garner support from members of his own party.

“It’s very difficult once you make a deal and you can’t get your people to support it,” said Hoyer. “Unfortunately bipartisanship is rhetorically respected but not in practice. The performance of the House of Representatives over the past two years has not been a hopeful one in terms of getting constructive, positive resolution. I love this job and I have worked with Republicans to try to get solutions. I will continue to do that and hope to get success. John Boehner wants to make Congress work. That’s something with which to be heartened.”

Hoyer cited the handling of the threat of sequestering billions of dollars for defense, transportation, education and other programs as an example of the difficulties lawmakers have had in reaching consensus.

“I think sequestration is an irrational process,” said Hoyer. “It was designed to be irrational. It was designed to be an option that would compel agreement on alternatives to sequestration. Unfortunately, it didn’t do so.” Hoyer noted late November 2011 was first instance for Congress to deal with sequestration, but since consequences weren’t until Jan. 2, 2013 the issue got pushed back. While there appeared to be resolution at the last minute on New Year’s Day, Hoyer stated “as you’ve noticed we’re having great difficulty reaching consensus. John Boehner is having great difficulty having his people follow his suggestions.”

Hoyer said he “feared” the massive, across-the-board budget cuts could still occur. As to its impact on Patuxent Naval Air Station (Pax River) and other installations in Maryland, “it could be an excess of a billion dollars decreased spending. That’s a big hit.”

Hoyer was critical of a plan proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan [R-WI, District 1], the chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Ryan says he wants to offer a budget that will balance in 10 years,” said Hoyer. “He’s going to do so without additional revenues. If he does that it will savage nondefense discretionary spending and would have to put constraints on defense spending as well. I personally don’t think he can report out a budget that will get us to balance within 10 years without revenues and is politically supportable by this Congress. I think the most important challenge for our country is to get us on a fiscally sound path. All other issues will be functions of our fiscal health.In addition, one of our great challenges will be to grow the economy, create jobs.”

Hoyer also indicated he was outraged by the way Congressional leaders are trying to solve the nation’s fiscal woes by shortchanging middle class federal workers.

“Federal employees have taken a real hit over the last three years,” he said. “Zero COLA [cost of living adjustment] over 2 years, to date, only federal employees in terms of middle income workers are the only ones who have contributed to trying to solve the federal deficit problem. That’s not fair. For Congress to look to them as the sole contributors to that is unfair and very unwise personnel policy. Forty percent of the federal employees are eligible to retire within the next five years. If they did so our country would suffer greatly a loss of expertise.”

Regarding strides being made in energy, Hoyer indicated support for establishing additional wind energy facilities in Maryland. “My principal concern, and the governor shares this concern, is that we do nothing that will adversely affect Pax River’s air space or testing capabilities—electronic interference or anything else. Obviously Pax River is one of the big economic engines in our state.”

Regarding the apparent shelving of the plan to construct a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, Hoyer remarked, “I’ve been a huge supporter of the third reactor. Right now the financing of nuclear power is very difficult because natural gas prices came down. Lenders are somewhat circumspect.”

Asked how he thought the controversial healthcare reform measure was working so far, Hoyer replied, “it’s in its very early stages. Twenty-three, 24 and 25 year-olds think it’s working because they’re still on their folks’ [health insurance] policy. It’s working for a lot of seniors who are getting prescription drugs at a reduced price. It’s working for some kids who had a preexisting condition who now can get insurance. But we have a long way to go. The next two to three, four years are going to be critical.”

Hoyer noted that healthcare costs have not escalated since the bill became law. While he admitted the mandatory health insurance requirement will cause some angst when it kicks in, he also pointed out that the component was first proposed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and embraced by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

On the subject of gun control, Hoyer stated, “I frankly don’t understand the opposition to banning high capacity clips. My view is the only reason for high capacity clips is to kill a lot of people in a very quick time. It puts a great disadvantage on public safety and law enforcement officials. I would be for restricting [high capacity clips.]”

Hoyer was first elected to Congress in the early 1980s. When asked how much longer he plans to serve he replied, “I like this job, people have been good to me. That does not mean I’m going to stay forever.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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