Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Hoyer was asked about Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood’s recent comments that a long-term extension of the highway bill will not be passed before the November election.
“That’s because the GOP doesn’t want to hand President Barack Obama any sort of legislative triumph just months before the election,” Hoyer said.
“I think Ray Lahood knows the Republicans much better than I do, he was the Republican leader… on the appropriations committee,” Hoyer said of the former congressman from Illinois who now serves in Obama’s Cabinet.
“The quote that I would use is Jesse Jackson’s, who said at the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication that there were a lot of people in Washington who wanted to drown the captain and were prepared to sink the ship to do so.”
Hoyer continued: “The ship, of course, is America -- the ship is the American people, and this highway bill is a jobs bill, is an infrastructure investment bill. It’s good for commerce; that’s why the Chamber of Commerce is so strongly for it and every business group that I know of is strongly for it, and it’s been hijacked by, frankly, the Tea Party and their allies that we find ourselves unable to pass this bill.”
At the dedication for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Washington Mall on Oct. 16, 2011, Jackson said King would have been sad that a “redemptive moment of historic proportions” -- the election of Obama in 2008 -- "has been met with unrelenting retribution, retaliation and unprecedented opposition."
"Many seem willing just to sink the ship just to destroy the captain," Jackson said. “We must do better than that."
In an appearance on MSNBC earlier this month, Jackson again used the metaphor, saying, “The captain of the ship is an African American who was taking us out of an economic crisis on an upward swing, but there are those who are willing to sink the ship just to destroy the captain.”
House Republicans approved a short-term extension of the transportation bill last Wednesday on a 293-127 vote, with the support of 69 Democrats. The measure included a mandate for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was previously blocked by the president.
The bill extends the government’s authority to spend money from the federal Highway Trust Fund through Sept. 30. That authority now is due to expire on June 30.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) wanted a five-year, $260-billion extension, but he failed to gather enough support from conservative members of his own party who were concerned about the bill's cost and scope. The 90-day extension will now be reconciled with the Senate’s two-year, $109-billion transportation package, which passed in March.
Hoyer supports the Senate version of the bill and said he hopes it will serve as the basis for long-term legislation.