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Interview with Representative Steny Hoyer

Interview with Representative Steny Hoyer

By The Situation Room - July 15, 2011

BLITZER (voice-over): And joining us now, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of the Representatives, the minority whip, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You've been in the White House in all of those meetings that the president's had with the Democratic and Republican leadership. Is there really a split, based on what you've seen and heard, between the House Speaker John Boehner and the No. 2 Republican, Eric Cantor?

HOYER: Well, I think that's -- there's an apparent split. Whether there's a real split or not, I don't know. Whether the speaker is telling his story, and Cantor's telling his story, and they'll converge at some point in time. I hope that's the case.

I was pleased, of course, the speaker has indicated he wants, the president wants, and I share that view, and every Democratic leader sitting around that table shared the view that we ought to do a big plan, that we ought to not just do the temporary -- respond to the temporary crisis and do a little bit on the debt and deficit. But we ought to have a plan that will stand us in good stead for the next ten years.

I hope we can get there. I think the speaker wants to get there. And I'm going to keep working towards that end.

BLITZER: But do you have any reason to believe -- the president and you say there have to be additional tax increases or additional tax revenues as part of that so-called big plan. The speaker says he doesn't have the votes to do that in the House of Representatives. And as a result, it's dead.

HOYER: Well, I'm not sure what the speaker means by the -- he doesn't have the votes. If he means that he doesn't have any Republicans, well, then, of course, we don't have the votes in the majority. If he means that there are some Republicans opposed to that, yes, I agree with that. But there was a Gallup poll just out, Wolf, that showed that 74 percent of Republicans think you need a balanced plan of spending cuts and revenues.

And let me make a point. Revenues are not the same thing as tax increases. For instance, if you eliminate tax loopholes for millionaires or oil companies, you're not raising their rates. You do get additional revenues by eliminating loopholes.

BLITZER: But the Republicans say, Congressman, if you do that, they would go for those kinds of elimination of subsidies of loopholes, but you've got to balance it with a reduction in tax rates elsewhere so that there's no net increase in taxes.

HOYER: And where are you? You're not any closer to reducing the deficit and debt than you were before.

The Republicans, you know, passed a program in 2001. And in 2001, they said the deficit was going to be $4 trillion less of deficit spending than actually occurred. Hear that: $4 trillion less so that we were $4 trillion in debt. They said we were going to be in surplus during those times when we pursued the economic program they're talking about now.

So the fact of the matter is, if you simply get more revenues but then reduce taxes by an equivalent amount, you haven't done anything with the debt and the deficit that they say is so important to deal with.

Do we need to cut spending? Yes. Can we do it without a balanced program? No. Can we do it on the backs of those who are hard-working and struggling? No.

We need to do it in asking for help from those who have had the best success and most profits during this past decade. And cut spending both across the board with discretionary and defense, as well as look at entitlements to make sure they're sustainable and there for the beneficiaries.

BLITZER: But if you don't get there, are you ready to accept Mitch McConnell's sort of last-ditch compromise plan to at least get through to the disaster, potentially, of a default by the United States government?

HOYER: Look, everybody around that table Mitch -- you're not Mitch -- Wolf, believes that default is not an option. We believe that's a unanimous opinion around that table. We're going to make sure that the U.S. does not default on its obligations ...

BLITZER: So the answer is yes. You would accept McConnell's compromise if necessary, as a last-ditch option.

HOYER: If it were the last-ditch option, we're not going to allow default. I hope that's not the last-ditch option, because I don't believe it's a good option. I don't believe our party believes it's a good option. And frankly, Mr. Cantor said in our meetings, he didn't believe it was a good option and has been quoted to saying that in public. So it's not too appealing on our side.

What is appealing, though -- and I want to reiterate this -- is we ought to be able to come together and have a grand bargain, which takes care of the long-term $4 trillion in cuts and revenues, dealing with all elements of expenditures in the federal government, and get our finances in order. That's what the American people want us to do. And they want us to do it in a bipartisan fashion. Hopefully, we can do that.

BLITZER: One final question. The Republicans' leadership in the House, they say they're going to have an amendment. They're going to legislation next week calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And it'll be an up and down vote. Will you go for that?

HOYER: No. But they were going to have a balanced budget amendment on the floor. That was on our schedule. That's what I announced to our members this morning. They pulled that off the floor. I'm not sure why they pulled it off the floor. But obviously, their condition for voting for a debt limit to increase -- which by the way Mr. Boehner and Cantor voted for numerous times before -- their condition was that that pass both the House and the Senate. They knew that wouldn't happen.

Now they've substituted this balance and cut amendment -- and cap amendment -- or legislation which calls for a balanced budget amendment. I don't know why they substitute a balanced budget amendment, which they say they want, for a bill which simply calls for what they had already scheduled. It seems like a bait and switch to me.

BLITZER: Well, they want to get on the record that they support this balanced budget amendment. They want Democrats to vote against it. They want to vote in favor of it, because politically, they think that's a winner.

HOYER: Well, Wolf, they could have done that either way. They could have voted for that -- that amendment that they had scheduled.

I've got a feeling that there are a lot of Republicans who looked at that and said, "This doesn't make sense. This will create further deadlock, further gridlock in the Congress, and further fiscal risk to the American people and to our country, and it really is not justified." And I think, frankly, that may be one of the reasons they pulled it.

BLITZER: Steny Hoyer, thanks very much for coming in.

HOYER: Thank you.

 

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