Washington (CNSNews.com) – House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that conservative Republicans who oppose anything less than the significant budget cuts they promised their constituents were acting like “dictators” and were to blame for stalled budget negotiations.
Harkening back to the government shutdown of 1996, Hoyer blamed what he called the “perfectionist caucus” for refusing to compromise, then and now.
“The last time government shut down President Clinton was President of the United States,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly media briefing.
“And what happened then was the perfectionist caucus thought they would be the dictators and do it their way or no way. That’s what’s happening now.”
The phrase “perfectionist caucus,” Hoyer pointed out, came from an Oct. 20, 1998 speech by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) that lectured House conservatives who opposed the 1999 balanced budget because it made policy concessions to Clinton.
Hoyer, in borrowing Gingrich’s phrase, was criticizing current-day House conservatives such as Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and others for opposing any government spending plan that does not satisfy their particular policy goals.
King has said that he will oppose any spending bill that does not completely de-fund the Obamacare health reform law, including approximately $105 billion in automatic spending programs begun when the law passed last spring.
Pence has said that in addition to the complete defunding of Obamacare, he will oppose any spending bill that does not deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood – the nation’s largest abortion provider – even though it is already illegal for Planned Parenthood to use federal money to provide abortions.
Hoyer said that it was this “perfectionist caucus” who would be to blame if the government shuts down again, not Democrats. Hoyer, trying to drive a wedge between House GOP leadership and the conservative rank-and-file, said that the Tea Party “tail” was wagging the Republican “dog.”
“No,” Hoyer said, when asked if Democrats bore any responsibility in the event of a shutdown. “We showed in the CR [continuing resolution] that we were prepared to bring compromise.
“If we don’t do that [compromise] I think it will be because there’s a revolt on the Republican side of perfectionist caucus members who want to see it their way or no way.”
Hoyer said these conservative members were not allowing the GOP leadership to compromise with Democrats and pass a continuing resolution for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which ends August 31.
“The fact of the matter is that the perfectionist caucus tail is wagging the Republican dog,” Hoyer claimed.
Budget negotiations between House and Senate leaders and the White House are stalled, because neither side can agree on the level of spending cuts to be made. Democrats favor much smaller cuts than Republicans, trying to preserve as much of the spending status quo as possible.
Republicans, on the other hand, are determined to cut spending in many areas of the non-defense discretionary budget, preferring to leave defense spending and federal entitlement programs for the 2012 budget process.
The issue for many House conservatives is that House leaders have insisted on so-called clean continuing resolutions, arguing that adding policy-oriented amendments known as riders to the short-term spending bills muddied the waters and provided Democrats with excuses to oppose discretionary spending cuts on the grounds that they were protecting vital programs.
House leaders argue that using riders to defund certain programs is also a technical violation of House rules, which do not usually allow for spending bills – which set the funding levels for different policy programs – to ‘legislate’ or determine which programs exist or not.
House conservatives argue that because the 2011 spending bill must be signed into law by President Obama, it is a perfect opportunity to fight with Democrats over both spending and policy.
Further, they argue that such must-pass opportunities are rare and therefore should be used sooner rather than later, while the 2010 election victories that sent many House conservatives to Washington is still fresh in the public’s mind.