House Majority leader gives outlook on control of Congress as midterms loom

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer touted recent wins in New York and Alaska.

ByABC News
September 21, 2022, 4:03 PM

As the November midterm elections quickly approach, all eyes are on the latest efforts by both parties to gain control of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-M.D.) spoke with "GMA 3" Wednesday to discuss his outlook on the Democrats' chances of keeping their majority.

GMA 3: A recent Siena College-New York Times survey found Democrats up two percentage points over Republicans among registered voters. Here to discuss is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Maryland. Leader Hoyer, thank you for being with us. And yes, T.J. just referenced that a lot is at stake. The power, the control of both the House and the Senate are at stake in that two percentage points. Difference is, as you know, razor thin. And we also know, looking back at 2016, not a lot of confidence necessarily in some of these polls that we're seeing. So how are you feeling heading into the midterms as a Democrat?

Hoyer: Well, I'm feeling good.

Yes, that poll shows [two percentage points] but we've had some real polls. And what I mean by real polls, voting people going to the ballot box, casting their votes for candidates and expressing their opinion. And we've had two huge victories, actually, three but two members, one in New York, Pat Ryan, in a district that the Republicans were expected to win.

And then 2,600 miles further west in Alaska, again, we had former Gov. Sarah Palin running and our candidate, Mary Peltola, the first Native American to represent Alaska. And she is doing very, very well. So we won two races that we weren't supposed to win, just this past four weeks.

And then the voters from Kansas, a red state with the Republican leadership, voted essentially 60-40 to make sure that a woman's right to choose was protected, [and] that her freedom to choose her healthcare options would be protected. So, you know, in a red state, a Republican state, that we won that election as well.

PHOTO: House Majority leader Steny Hoyer speaks to GMA 3 about the upcoming election, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 2022.
House Majority leader Steny Hoyer speaks to GMA 3 about the upcoming election, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 2022.
ABC News

But going forward, we have some very, very good candidates. The polling data you showed was a two-point ahead. But we have been as much as four or five points behind so that the movement and the momentum and the direction of support is coming our way. So I am confident that we're going to hold the House. I think we can expand our membership in the Senate to beyond 50. And so I think that on Nov. 8, we're going to have a good night and I'm looking forward to it.

And I think we are showing that by the issues that we've adopted, whether it was the rescue plan, whether it was the infrastructure investment that we've made that's going to grow America and grow American jobs, or whether it was the bill that invests in science and chips to make sure that we rely on American technology, not a technology overseas that fails us. And then the inflation reduction plan where we're reducing the costs of healthcare for people, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, capping the cost of insulin, and we're going to make energy more available and more affordable for people. So I think that the issues are on our side, I think the people are on our side and I think the votes are on our side.

GMA 3: You talked about the polling and some of that polling that we look at has to do with the president's approval rating, which has improved as gas prices continue to drop. We know that streak of gas prices dropping into the 99 days. They ticked up a little bit. We'll see what happens then in the coming days and weeks. But also, look, food prices are at highs that we haven't seen in the past since 1979, actually the inflation we've seen. So I know Democrats and the president love to talk about gas prices as one indicator, but what do you do when people are still hurting by trying to put food on the table?

Hoyer: T.J., what we did is we passed a food and fuel bill, unfortunately, got almost no Republican support for it, which was directed at making sure we have competition in the food producing industry, that we have availability of supply chains in getting food to where it needs to be. Now, that's an uphill battle. Inflation is a serious issue that we are dealing with. That's why we passed the Inflationary Reduction Act to bring other costs down. Medical costs in particular down and energy costs down for people. But we've got to bring food prices down as well. Unfortunately, we have a war in Ukraine. That is creating a real challenge of starvation in Africa and some other places, not in America, but it is pressing prices up and we've got to get a handle on that. I go to the grocery store almost every weekend and see those prices rising and people are hurting and we're responding. And the Republicans don't have any response to inflation. They can complain about it. They can point the finger.

And as you know, T.J., I'm sure inflation is impacting people throughout the world. Why? Because the pandemic, in effect, shut down the supply and it shut down supply routes. And so there are shortages. But people are hurting and we're acting. The Republicans are simply talking and criticizing.

GMA 3: Let me ask you this. The president predicted and I'm going to quote him here, "If we lose the House or lose the Senate, it's going to be a really difficult two years." My question is, does it have to be difficult? Do you have any hope or belief that if either of those scenarios happen or one or both, could reach across the aisle, that Republicans and Democrats could work together to try and ease some of the pain that people are feeling in every part of their lives, especially when it comes to finances? Can you pass important legislation regardless?

Hoyer: We have passed important legislation. But very frankly, Amy, if you look at the record, when Paul Ryan was Speaker and when John Boehner was speaker just a few years ago, it was Democrats that stepped up to help them get legislation through that America needed because they couldn't get the votes on their own side, even though they had the majority, very frankly, with a four-vote majority. We passed major pieces of legislation without help, which were designed to put people -- put money in people's pockets, get kids back in schools, and get 250 million shots in arms. Not a single Republican voted for that bill.

And so, yes, there is a possibility of doing that. But let me tell you what's going to happen if the Republicans take over the House. They've said what they're going to do. They're going to investigate the president of the United States. They're going to try to tear him down. And our country is going to be deeply divided. And very frankly, what the Republicans have done, what Donald Trump has done is deeply divide our country, [and] polarize our politics. That's not good for our country. It's not good for our people. It's not good for success in the Congress of the United States. So I believe that Democrats over the years, whether it was Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush, or any other president, we have seen Democrats support in a bipartisan way critical legislation. Frankly, we haven't seen that from our Republican friends. And I hope we do in the future.

PHOTO: The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol Dome is seen on Sept. 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol Dome is seen on Sept. 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

But I don't want to see our country locked down by partisan politics. And that's what's going to happen, I'm afraid, if our Republican friends win the majority in the House of Representatives because their agenda is not a constructive agenda. It's a negative agenda. It's creating fear in people. It's creating division in our country. And that's not good for anybody. And it's not good for the world. And we're at war.

I'm wearing the Ukrainian flag as a symbol that we need to win this war against dictatorship and war criminals. And we need to be united to do that. And I think we Democrats, frankly, and I think Joe Biden, President Biden has worked all his life in trying to create bipartisanship. And so I will pursue that whatever happens in November.

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