House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s first Capitol Hill press conference of 2010 on Tuesday was supposed to be a chance for him to outline the House Democrats’ agenda for the year. Instead, Hoyer spent most of his time talking about today’s special election in Massachusetts to fill the United States Senate once held by Edward Kennedy and the impact it may have on health care reform legislation.
At the beginning of the discussion, Hoyer readily admitted that it has been a long process to get bills passed in the House and Senate, “It seems like it must have been years ago, but in reality it was three weeks ago.” But he was not as quick to discuss the Democratic strategy for health care reform should Republican State Senator Scott Brown win on Tuesday. “I’m not going to speculate or hypothesize on what may or may not happen in Massachusetts today…. Our objective is to get agreement (on health care legislation).”
As the event wore on Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that a Brown victory would make final passage of health care reform legislation more difficult. While he said that it was feasible to get legislation passed in the next 15 days, the amount of time it will take the Massachusetts Secretary of State to certify the election, he did not say that it was a desirable course of action. Hoyer also admitted that passing the Senate bill unchanged would be an option if Senate Democrats lose their 60-seat majority. “I think moving ahead on health care is essential… I think clearly the Senate bill is better than nothing.”
Hoyer also shied away from suggestions that Tuesday’s special election is a reflection of the public’s reception to the Democratic agenda. “I don’t need the Massachusetts race to tell me the psyche of the American people. I just need to go to the grocery store. People are angry. People are fearful. People are very concerned about where the economy is.” But he was quick to remind reporters that this was, in his eyes, not a new development. “Very frankly they knew that in November of 08 and they voted accordingly.”