As the congressional midterms elections rapidly approach, Democrats have become increasingly bullish about their prospects to win back the House majority – exuding so much confidence that the party's top leaders have begun speaking openly about their prospective agenda in the next session of Congress.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who has served as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s top deputy since 2003, continues to help lay the groundwork for a blue wave this fall – not only campaigning for candidates across the country but also building his policy vision for a Democratic majority.
“There’s no accountability in Washington,” Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, observed during a major policy address on government reform on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “Under a Democratic House Majority, that would change. A Democratic House would conduct fair, honest, and thorough oversight to investigate abuses and hold officials accountable.”
While countless Democrats are clamoring to turn an electoral victory on November 6 into the impeachment of President Trump next year, Hoyer says oversight “must not” be about playing politics but rather “to safeguard the public interest and make government work again.”
“On one issue after the other, this Republican-led Congress has abandoned its oversight responsibilities,” Hoyer contended, ticking through a slate of scandals that have rocked the Trump administration. “The corruption starts at the top, with the president clearly benefiting from foreign governments currying favor by financially supporting Trump-family investments. Congress has abdicated one of its basic roles.”
“People feel locked out of their democracy right now,” Rep. John Sarbanes, a close ally of Hoyer, told ABC News. “Folks wanna see that we’re serious about reforming this system.”
Hoyer, whose 15-year grasp on the No. 2 position in the House Democratic Caucus is in jeopardy as a new cohort of progressives enters politics seeking generational change, says that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation will “inform” Democrats about which course to pursue if they win the majority.
But the 19-term Democrat warned that impeachment could distract Democrats from enacting reforms to make government more transparent and responsive, while also undermining their ability to adopt economic policies that improve the lives of Americans.
“It is our responsibility to try to work with the president of the United States if he’s elected and as long as [Trump] is there we need to work with him,” Hoyer told ABC News in an interview following his remarks. “But it is also our primary responsibility to put forward proposals both for reform and for substantive policy that we believe is best for our country, and hopefully we can work with him to do that and if we can’t, we have a responsibility to at least lay out what we believe ought to be done.”
Hoyer says he won’t challenge Pelosi for the top position in the caucus, but if she lacks the support to lock up the post, Hoyer has floated stepping up as a short-term, experienced “bridge” to the next generation of Democratic leaders.
Although he has made a career in public office, Hoyer’s reputation and/or notoriety does not extend coast to coast or evoke passionate debate on the same level that Pelosi consistently inspires.
So what should people learn about Hoyer that they may not already know?
“What they need to know is that Steny Hoyer has had a career of trying to make sure that they have education for their children, health care for their families and a country that is open and honest working on their behalf,” Hoyer said. “That’s something that I would hope that they would know from my career and from my present role as the whip in the House.”
As the lower chamber’s No. 2 ranked Democratic leader since 2003, Hoyer has consistently demonstrated sufficient political support across the caucus to fend off any potential challengers -- leaving the validity of chatter of a Democratic generational coup in question.
“This a man who loves the institutions of democracy. He’s committed his life and his career to that,” Sarbanes, also a Maryland Democrat, said. “Every time he speaks, every time he writes, he’s writing from that place of commitment to our institutions, which is why having him weigh in and talk about the importance of reform and accountability and trust is so important because nobody understands that better or feels that in their bones more than Steny Hoyer does.”
Despite the praise, Sarbanes stopped short of predicting a Speaker Hoyer.
“We’ve got an election to win, right? We go win the election and we’ll see what happens with all the various contests,” Sarbanes said.
“What is important is that we pursue policies that are for the people,” Hoyer added. “Policies that are designed to make sure that their lives are better – not that our lives are better.”