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February 27, 2012

Steny Hoyer’s Push to Ruin Everything

Posted in: Uncategorized

In the aftermath of a horribly bruising debt limit deal and the Occupy movement, the focus in Washington shifted away from deficits and back to the economy, jobs and income inequality. But as a reminder that social movements must be constant and vigilant, one powerful Democrat, in association with a DC lobbying group, wants to bring us right back to that moment last year when everybody hated politicians.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is looking to shake legislative politics out of unconsciousness as early as this spring, and force a vote on a bipartisan legislative proposal – which would include higher taxes and cuts to federal programs — to reduce deficits by trillions of dollars over the coming years.

The push is intended to disrupt the consensus among most political leaders that Congress will punt budget consolidation efforts until after November — when the election returns are in, and the January 1, 2013 expiry of the Bush tax cuts and deep across-the-board spending cuts make real action inevitable [...]

“Members of both parties, and on both sides of the Capitol, are working to ensure that the next time we find ourselves at an impasse — which could be sooner, rather than later — we will be ready, with a legislative package in hand to address our debt and deficit in a comprehensive, long-term way,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer may have some influence, but he won’t lead either party marching to their political deaths in an election year. Nevertheless, this is something that bears watching. Because it’s true that, at the end of the year, a series of expiring measures and triggered budget cuts will have massive impacts on the federal budget. And Hoyer clearly is trying to figure out how to put something on the shelf as an alternative to that.

The amusing thing is that all the expiring measures would reduce the deficit. At the end of 2012, the Bush tax cuts expire, the trigger will pull on large cuts to discretionary and defense programs, and now, the payroll tax cut, extended unemployment insurance benefits and the doc fix will expire. In the event that nothing takes the place of these measures, the medium-term deficit issue is entirely solved. So an impasse would CREATE the legislative package “to address our debt and deficit.” That’s one key difference here.

However, the debt limit may expire right around that time as well, and that adds an unpredictable variable into the process. And of course, the outcome of the November elections will be a factor.

But Hoyer’s move, in association with Third Way, is pretty bold. He’s trying to build a deal in the shadows, ready to spring in a moment of crisis. Hoyer is pretending that this deal would circumvent the big lame-duck session series of decisions to deal with expiring measures, saying that “There is ongoing work…to put concrete proposals to paper in legislative form” that will get further elucidation in the coming weeks. I don’t really believe that. I think the work will attempt to forge common ground when the decisions get forced on Washington, and in the lame duck, as far away from any accountability moment from an election as possible. I don’t see how much good can come from a Hoyer/Third Way collaboration, so I’m going to certainly pay attention.


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