Interviews

Rep. Steny Hoyer on if another government shutdown is looming

Rep. Steny Hoyer weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 4, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I have reached out to the speaker and said, extend the hand of friendship. We want to work together to pass bill to keep government open. As we had to supply the votes last year to open up government, let us supply the votes to keep government open.

But we can't do it unless we have a bill that is worthy of our support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, now, we don't know if the speaker reached out to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that spending measure to keep the government running, which would essentially be through the middle and past 2015.

But word is, he did talk to this man, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who joins me right now. Congressman, very good to have you.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-MD., HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Hi, Neil. Good to be with you.

Actually, I want to correct. I talked to Kevin McCarthy...

CAVUTO: OK.

HOYER: ... the majority leader.

CAVUTO: The majority -- OK.

HOYER: We talked about scheduling and talked about the bill.

CAVUTO: All right. OK. I apologize for that.

HOYER: That's all right.

CAVUTO: Washington Post reported otherwise, but who am I to trust The Washington Post?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, though, sir, why even insert the language, as Nancy Pelosi did, government shutdown? No one is saying that. No one has been even broaching that.

HOYER: Well, I think that the speaker does not want a government shutdown. McConnell has indicated he doesn't want a government shutdown.

And none of the rest of us in the leadership want a government shutdown. But, Neil, there have been some people talking about shutting down the government if they can't reverse the immigration action that the president took. So, it's not without having been discussed by some people not in the leadership.

CAVUTO: No, no, fair enough.

But I guess what she just...

HOYER: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... what she just volunteered that, I want to avoid that, that -- that came out of nowhere, because it's only been a couple and others have argued just as vehemently for trying to tempt Republicans, so you can back and forth on that.

But, having said that, there -- there are others who argue that -- that if Democrats get in a lame-duck session a spending bill that carries it essentially through much of 2015, you guys have extracted much more than the electorate wanted you to in a midterm election that repudiated you, not you individually, Congressman.

HOYER: Oh, I don't...

CAVUTO: What do you say?

HOYER: Yes, Neil, I don't -- I don't agree with that proposition.

Assuming we pass, as I think we should pass, a bill consistent with the Ryan -- Paul Ryan and Senator Murray agreement that was passed by the Congress overwhelmingly on a bipartisan fashion, assuming that we stay within those constraints, which we have to, consistent with the agreement, then I think we are doing what, in a bipartisan, overwhelming fashion, the Congress said it was going to do.

The issue, as you well know, is whether or not they're going to add in extraneous issues into the appropriation bill, which may make it impossible for us to support.

CAVUTO: Well, let's assume they -- let's assume they don't do that. Every party kind of threatens that kind of...

HOYER: OK. We will support it.

CAVUTO: And let's -- wait -- let -- you're better at legislating than I am, but let's say what the Republicans agree to is...

HOYER: Right.

CAVUTO: ... let's give an extension that will take us to the new Congress when it comes in, because, after all, it's going to be a whole new bunch, including a whole new Senate.

What -- what would you say?

HOYER: What I would say, Neil, is that that undermines the confidence of the people running programs in government, good, bad or indifferent, whatever you think, but there are programs that Congress has set up.

CAVUTO: No, it wouldn't. I mean, you would just be reflecting the reality and the will of the people in the midterm election.

HOYER: No, no, Neil.

CAVUTO: And then the onus and the burden would be on both parties then...

HOYER: Neil...

CAVUTO: ... under the new makeup in the new Senate and the new House with the president.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Right?

HOYER: Neil, very frankly, as you well know, we are three months past when we should have passed these bills. And none of them have been adopted, none, so that they all should have been adopted by October 1.

CAVUTO: Whose fault is that? Whose fault is that?

HOYER: Both parties...

CAVUTO: OK.

HOYER: ... I think.

But I would -- you know, my perspective -- and it may sound like a partisan perspective -- is that, in the House, they passed eight out of the 12 bills -- or seven out of the 12 bills...

CAVUTO: Right.

HOYER: ... and they couldn't pass the other five, frankly, because they didn't want their members to vote on them before the election, because it would have required doing some things that they thought the electorate wouldn't like.

In the Senate, Harry Reid couldn't bring any of the bills to the floor because he believed they would be subject to endless debate. And he couldn't get 60 votes shut down that debate. So both parties are somewhat responsible, but that's not the point. The point is, this -- this is last year's work. This is last year's work.

CAVUTO: No, you're right about that. And both parties are to blame.

HOYER: So, so...

CAVUTO: But on this -- but on this, Steny -- and maybe help me with this...

HOYER: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... because now, lately, I have been watching the fight over what is going to become of the health care law, whether you take...

HOYER: Right.

CAVUTO: ... away some of the onerous provisions. There seems to be a coalition building, even among some formerly resistant Democrats, to remove onerous features, like the -- the surgical device tax and all the rest. Not clear as to how they make up for that revenue.

But I'm wondering -- I'm hearing other powerful Democrats, including outgoing Senator Tom Harkin, who is saying that we had the power to do it in a way that would have simply identified health care, referring to the law, sir, made it more efficient and made it less costly, and we didn't do it.

You hear those comments. You also hear comments from Chuck Schumer bemoaning the way this all went down. And I'm wondering whether it's like rats abandoning ship. What is going on here?

HOYER: No.

CAVUTO: These guys seem to be saying the whole thing was a mistake.

HOYER: Oh, I don't think it was a mistake at all. You just...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, you don't agree with what either were saying?

HOYER: No, I -- what -- I don't agree that it was a mistake.

I don't agree that it wasn't perfect. I don't want anybody confused by what I'm saying. I think passing the Affordable Care Act was a positive step for the American people. We have seen millions and millions of people added to having insurance and having access to affordable, quality health care, which is what the intent was.

We have seen millions...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Did you see the -- did you see the possible fallout though of a lot more people paying a lot higher premiums and a lot of the young people who did that get coverage, to your credit, paying, you know, very sky-high deductibles? Did you see that?

HOYER: Well, I think young people can sign up for a number of different policies, some of which have higher deductibles than others.

But the fact of the matter is, what the real problem, in my view, Neil, is we had an election in 2010. A group of members in the House of Representatives and the Senate were elected who hated the Affordable Care Act. And their total focus was repeal of the Affordable Care Act, not fixing it, not make it work better, but repealing it.

CAVUTO: No, I understand that. But now -- no, you're right.

HOYER: So, we -- so now we need to...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But now, in 2014, going in 2015...

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: ... many in your own party, Steny, are saying, all right, we have got to do something here. They're divorcing themselves from it. They might still be for keeping it. But they are -- they are very, very nervous. And they saw what happened to their colleagues who were up this year, and they're memories, they're roadkill.

HOYER: Neil, frankly, I don't think the Affordable Care Act played a controlling act in this election. I think that, in my experience...

CAVUTO: Oh, I don't know. I think it was a big factor. Come on. It was a huge factor.

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: Neil, I have traveled all over the country. I -- there wasn't as much discussion. Frankly, the ads were not focused on the Affordable Care Act in many, many of these races.

CAVUTO: Yes, but then what made Chuck Schumer say what he said? What made...

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: No, no, what Chuck...

CAVUTO: You know what I'm saying? That these are bright men. What do they see you that you -- you are not seeing?

HOYER: Neil, I'm not -- I'm not disagreeing with Chuck Schumer.

CAVUTO: Yes.

HOYER: Don't create a disagreement where none exists.

Both Chuck and I would say, look, this was a very large piece of legislation passed in a very clumsy fashion.

CAVUTO: Yes.

HOYER: It was passed in a clumsy fashion because Republicans in the United States Senate wouldn't give 60 votes to go to conference.

So we adopted a Senate bill without correcting it. We needed to have spent the last four years, in my opinion, in fixing and making work better that which was adopted.

CAVUTO: Fine, but do you think Gruber, whatever...

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: We haven't done it.

CAVUTO: But Gruber...

HOYER: Well, I...

CAVUTO: ... whatever you make of how influential he was -- I don't know who to believe now, because they always say he was crucial and then he's not crucial. Nancy Pelosi said he was crucial. Then she forgot his name.

So, I'm -- I will leave that aside.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But do you think everything he said has hurt the law and hurt the view of the law and hurt Americans' perception of the law? And Kathleen Sebelius herself compounded it by all but calling Americans idiots for appreciating all that was good in it?

HOYER: I don't think Americans are idiots at all, nor are they stupid.

The fact of the matter is, this is a complicated law. And, literally, tens of millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars was spent to making it look terrible. And so Americans getting bombarded with this attack that it was an awful bill, it was socialism, which of course it's not. It's private markets offering insurance on a marketplace which is very much free market.

CAVUTO: Well, Americans are seeing a lot of the problems for themselves right now, right? I mean, that's not a nightmare, right?

HOYER: Oh, no, no.

Neil, are there problems? There are problems. Very frankly, there were a lot of problems before the bill was passed.

CAVUTO: Right.

HOYER: What has happened now is, when people have a problem, what do they say? It was the Affordable Care Act. It may well be the insurance companies who don't want to cover, don't want to pay out for a particular malady, so that they would have been blamed before the Affordable Care Act with that failure.

But now everybody says, well, it must be the Affordable Care Act. You just saw that for now, four years in a row, health care costs have been stable. That is a historic accomplishment. Did the Affordable Care Act result in that?

CAVUTO: Premiums have not. What is always left out of that argument, Congressman, is premiums have not been stable. They have been skyrocketing.

Maybe we're addressing overall medical costs. Maybe that's a result of a very weak recovery, but to credit the law is a bit of a stretch, don't you think? Because then Chuck Schumer would have referred to that, and he didn't.

HOYER: Look, I think you're taking -- you're exploding what Chuck Schumer had to say beyond what he meant.

CAVUTO: No, I'm not. I'm just saying, believe me, if Chuck Schumer found good news like that...

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: And, Steny, you're a good and honorable man. I'm just telling you, he would have leapt on that like me a Ponderosa buffet. And he didn't.

HOYER: Look, what -- Neil, come on now.

You have been in the legislative process. You're a pro here. Clearly, you pass a piece of legislation. It is a complex piece of legislation. And you need to see how it operates. And then what you do...

CAVUTO: You have no regrets? You have no regrets at all?

HOYER: I have regrets that we didn't take more time to consider it in a way that was the appropriate legislative process, and that is to go to a conference committee.

The only reason we couldn't go to a conference committee was because the Republicans wouldn't vote to do so.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, I don't want to get into the blame here.

But the medical device tax, that is going to go, right? Medical device tax goes.

HOYER: Let me tell you what.

We have large debts in this country.

CAVUTO: Right.

HOYER: You know why? Because people don't like to pay for things. This was a pay-for in the bill.

Now, if we're going to take out the medical device tax, we need to substitute it with some other way to pay for it.

CAVUTO: All right.

HOYER: You know, we have -- we -- the Republican Congress in the House of Representatives, we passed about $600 billion in tax cuts over the last four months that were not paid for.

That is in the same thing. Nobody likes to pay for things. If that's the case, we ought not to buy things, health care or anything else.

CAVUTO: Steny Hoyer, thank you very, very much.

HOYER: You bet, Neil.

CAVUTO: We will watch closely.

HOYER: OK.

CAVUTO: Thank you, sir. All right.

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