ABC News' Amy Walter (@amyewalter) report:
Despite calls from top military commanders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for a more gradual drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says House Democrats want to see “significant, substantial drawdown” in the region.
Speaking on ABC’s Top Line, Hoyer said that his caucus wants "to see the drawdowns begin this summer to be more significant than the numbers that were being talked about." While Hoyer is known as one of the more moderate members of the Democratic caucus, he joined 177 of his Democratic colleagues and 26 Republicans in supporting an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have required a speedier withdrawal from the country. The amendment was defeated by a narrow 215-204 vote.
More Hoyer: "I think Democrats want to see and what I think the American people want to see is a shift from the U.S. playing the dominating role in Afghanistan to a significant and early transfer of responsibility to the Afghan people and certainly I think the end of the year, a significant, substantial draw down would accommodate that objective."
On the domestic front, Hoyer said he’s “optimistic” that a deal can be reached with Republicans on legislation that would raise the debt ceiling. But, Hoyer said, “if there’s going to be an acceptable deal,” it needs to deal with “significant reductions in spending” as well as “revenues” (otherwise known as taxes).
“The Republicans have said they don't want to look at revenues,” said Hoyer, “but I think that ultimately if there's going to be an acceptable deal that will be part of it.”
As for the issue of whether embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) can or should remain in Congress, Hoyer demurred, “I don’t know all the facts concerning this” and “as a result we’ll have to see how this plays out.” Even so, he did admit that the issue was a distraction from more substantive issues that Congress is dealing with now.
"I mean there are some very, very important critical things that we're dealing with right now. Certainly the deficit and debt are primary of those and we ought not to be distracted from that."