House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., appears to have taken on another role on Capitol Hill: House Majority Media Critic.
In a gathering with reporters in his Capitol office, Hoyer started by making a joke at the expense of the fourth estate. "You know things are bad when you're happy to see the press," Hoyer said with a laugh. He then knocked down a report in the Politico newspaper that said the House could adjourn as early as this week, telling reporters "I don't know where that report came from," and promising journalists that members would be in town working next week.
After debunking that report, he encouraged the assembled media to instead check out a Saturday New York Times article entitled, "Tax Increase Would Hit Few Small Businesses." In addition to providing recommended reading, Hoyer offered several tips on how to cover recent polling data and political deal making.
He first took issue with how some outlets have reported on a swing in the Gallup generic ballot poll. The Gallup poll, which asks respondents if they generally prefer a Democratic or Republican member of Congress in November, has fluctuated throughout this year and in the last three weeks has gone from a ten point Republican advantage to a one point Democratic advantage this week.
"Some of you put front page bold headlines ‘Democrats down by ten in Gallup poll,'" Hoyer boomed. "The next week," Hoyer said while dropping to a whisper, "Democrats are tied in the Gallup poll." The Majority Leader's tone reflected an apparent attempt to guilt reporters and their editors into giving this week's news of the Democratic advantage the same treatment as they did several weeks earlier for the Republicans.
The characterization of discussions on the status of the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of this year were also a point of contention for Hoyer. He cited several media reports that said that the Majority Leader was open to negotiations with conservative Democrats on extending all of the Bush tax cuts. Hoyer said that was not the case. "When I say that I'm willing to talk that does not mean I'm willing to compromise as so many have reported," Hoyer sighed. "Come on guys, give me a break."
The journalism critiques were out of character for Hoyer, who usually reserves his fire for House Republicans and often voices frustrations with the pace of legislative action in the Senate. Hoyer admitted at least some of his uncharacteristic vigor was seasonal, asking reporters, "can you tell I've been out on the campaign trail?"