ABC News John R. Parkinson reports:
Despite vocal concerns on Capitol Hill over the extension of the high-income tax cuts and a costly estate tax break for the country’s wealthiest taxpayers, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says there is “strong support for moving ahead” with President Obama’s tax cut compromise in the House of Representatives after the Senate passes the legislation this week.
Hoyer, D-Maryland, told reporters that the compromise negotiated by President Obama and Congressional leadership contains “provisions within the bill which are very, very helpful to growing the economy, to stepping in to assist those who have lost their unemployment insurance,” Hoyer said. “We think it’s critically important to do that.”
Hoyer, who was just reelected to his 16th term in the House, said the message voters delivered in November's congressional midterm elections was that Congress has not done enough to create jobs and he said that Americans are concerned about the country’s debt and the sky-rocketing deficit.
“There is strong support for moving ahead. The reason there’s strong support for moving ahead is because there’s a very keen sense that allowing middle income taxes to go up on January 1st will not be good for the economy and that other items in the bill which are designed to spur the economy – unemployment insurance being one of the principal items – as well as the two-percent reduction in Social Security tax will all combine to help the economy,” Hoyer said. “We also think that making sure that middle class taxes don’t go up is absolutely essential if we want to continue to expand and grow the economy and create jobs.”
Still, not every House Democrat is on-board with the compromise. Hoyer told reporters that extending the upper income tax benefits and passing the Senate’s estate tax break do not further job creation or help address the deficit issue “and as a result you’ve seen opposition to that” from members of the Democratic Caucus
“You wanna say what the temperature is, I’d say it’s pretty cold,” Hoyer said. “As you know there is a strong feeling in the House that the upper income, the wealthier in America, tax cut are not warranted in terms of dealing with the deficit.”
Hoyer said the House Rules committee will consider the Senate bill as soon as it passes there — which could be as early as today. Later this week, Hoyer said, House Democrats will have opportunity to vote on an amendment that could change the estate tax provision to a more acceptable levels for the progressives of the caucus.
Hoyer said that he did not believe it was necessary for President Obama to come to House Democratic Caucus this week.
“I don’t think that’s necessary. I think the president has met with a lot of people in the caucus on this issue. I think the president’s been very clear on the fact that he is uncomfortable with certain parts of this bill. I think others have indicated they are uncomfortable with the bill,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer also reacted to former President Bill Clinton’s visit to the White House briefing room last week, calling it “Classic Clinton.”
“I did not see all of it, but saw a significant part of it, and it was — I thought, ‘Classic Clinton,’ demonstrating an extraordinary command of the facts,” Hoyer said. “I’m always amazed at how much he knows and how much he can recall. He’s doing a lot of things and he obviously had extraordinary command of the facts.”
Hoyer added he was impressed by “how well [Clinton] communicates and reasons about the options that are available to people in public life where you have various points of view represented and his articulation of the necessity to move forward on an issue.”
Hoyer, who is set to maintain his status as the House Democrats’ No. 2 ranking leader as minority whip, chuckled as he entered the packed conference room tucked away in his spacious office wing, clearly impressed by the standing-room-only setting.
“Is this a going-away-party? Hoyer asked. “I am staying here [in Congress], we’re just moving down the hall, you understand?”
All joking aside, Hoyer congratulated Speaker-designate John Boehner for the Republicans victory in the House and thanked them for a smooth transition, unlike the Republican takeover in 1994, which Hoyer called “an uncomfortable transition.”
Hoyer predicted this year’s transition would be a positive indicator for working together in the 112th Congress to advance the causes of the American people.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Boehner and the Republican leadership for — obviously any time you lose the majority, it’s difficult. You gotta move offices, you have to do all sorts of things, you lose people that – but I want to publically express my appreciation to Mr. Boehner, to his chief of staff Barry Jackson, for their work with the Speaker, myself and others,” Hoyer said. “The attitude I think is an attitude which will provide I think for positive undertaking of our respective responsibilities next year.”