Steny Hoyer, talking to reporters, categorically denied that he ever suggested an increase in age eligibility for federal benefits. But there is documented evidence to the contrary.
Hoyer said in this roundtable with reporters:
In a roundtable with reporters in his Capitol office, Hoyer said the group’s still a long way from achieving broad consensus, but sought to reassure critics, constituents and other observers that he opposes the GOP’s radical entitlement proposals.
“I want to emphasize, because I get beat up on, I’m for the Medicare guarantee, I’m not for a Paul Ryan alternative that eliminates the guarantee,” he said. “[Some claim] I’ve said we ought to raise the age. I haven’t said that. What I’ve said is I think everything ought to be on the table.”
It’s unclear what age he’s talking about here, the Medicare eligibility age or the retirement age for Social Security benefits. And he weasels out of this by saying that he merely called for putting the eligibility age “on the table.” That’s consistent with his comments in July 2010 and February 2011. But it’s really a weak distinction. What Hoyer actually said in that summer 2010 speech was, and I quote, “We should consider a higher retirement age or one pegged to lifespan.” Maybe in Hoyer’s world that’s not an endorsement. Maybe that doesn’t lead to a raise in the age. But it’s farcical to suggest that it doesn’t move things in that direction. When you “consider all options, including raising the age,” as Hoyer said in February, and your adversaries in the negotiation want to raise the age, what you get in the end is an increase in the age elegibility.
Hoyer is under fire for engaging in backroom talks on deficit reduction a year removed from such talks crashing and burning, as well as having a material impact on the stunted recovery. In this discussion, he continued to argue for a deficit reduction package that would essentially replace the trigger cuts due at the end of the year – a kind of Super Committee without the Super Committee rules.
I personally don’t see this happening, and certainly not before the election. The gambit is to put a deficit deal on the shelf so it can be put into motion with minimal accountability during the lame duck session. Nancy Pelosi actually addressed the lame duck in her press conference yesterday:
“I don’t know that we’re going to be that delinquent in executing our duties between now and I guess you would say the election but probably the month before the election — that all of that would be kicked to the lame duck,” she said. “Some of it’s just a decision. Whatever happens, it’s just a decision. Just get it done. It’s going to be the same Congress in the lame duck. It’s going to be the same President in the lame duck. Let’s just come together, make our compromises, find our common ground if that is possible, or not. And we can do that now just as well as we can do it eight months, nine months from now.”
I read this as a way to ultimately stop the deficit talks. Pelosi knows that nobody will agree to anything in the midst of the election. And she knows that the common ground in the Congress as currently constructed doesn’t exist. Forcing the talks into the open helps to counteract them.
Still, Hoyer clearly wants a grand bargain and he has a plan to get it done.