Addressing a weekly press briefing, Hoyer predicted that House Republicans would hold middle-class tax cuts “hostage” in negotiations over raising the debt ceiling and avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
“Hopefully we will deal with the debt limit extension in a responsible way,” he said. “And by that I mean everybody – everybody – in the leadership, Republican and Democratic, knows that there is not an option but to extend the debt limit.”
Hoyer said he was “hopeful” that Republicans would not use the debt limit increase, which will not be necessary until sometime this winter, as leverage to enact their priorities.
“I am hopeful that the Republican leadership – and we will join them if in fact they are prepared to do this – will deal with the debt limit extension in a way that does not create the lack of confidence, the confrontation, [and] the gridlock that almost led America to defaulting on its debts for the first time in my service here.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already indicated plans to use the debt limit increase as leverage to pursue further spending cuts.
“I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase,” he said in a recent speech.
Boehner accomplished that goal last August in debt ceiling negotiations with the White House, securing cuts in excess of the debt ceiling increase. However, he believes more is possible this time.
“This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance,” he said in the May 15 address to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. “We can make the bold cuts and reforms necessary to meet this principle, and we must.”
Hoyer said that Republicans looked to be holding middle-class tax cuts “hostage” to their other priorities, such as extending tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting spending.
“The Republican agenda again appears to be placing the middle-class tax cuts as hostage for the continued tax cuts on the very wealthiest in America, and we think that’s unjustified,” he said.
Hoyer said Republicans had an “all-or-nothing” attitude that would make coming negotiations over the debt ceiling all the harder. He hinted that Democrats were willing to compromise on some issues.
“The all-or-nothing attitude that the Republicans continue to take is going to assure, I think, that we don’t have agreement. Again, some conservatives will apparently be happy about that because they’re not looking for compromise or agreement, they’re looking for confrontation.”
However, any compromise would come “after the election,” he said.
“I believe one of the most important things that members of Congress ought to be focused on – and the country needs to be focused on – is trying to prepare for this fiscal cliff and do so in a rational, thoughtful, [and] consensus-creating way so that after the election we will have the opportunity to replace and substitute a big, bold, balanced plan for what otherwise will be a economy-threatening, jobs-threatening, end-of-the-year scenario.”