House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration remain at a stalemate over spending priorities for the rest of the fiscal year. But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is optimistic that something could be in the works.
"We've come a long way. I think we're very close to an agreement. We're very close to a number that could be agreed on," Hoyer said in an interview with FOX.
With Congress out of session this week, budget and spending talks have continued at the staff level this week, with few signs of a breakthrough. Federal programs are currently funded through April 8 on what is now the second ad hoc spending measure to prevent a government shutdown. Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle believe that the endgame to cut a deal is fast approaching as support for approving another stopgap bill is waning.
Hoyer spoke Tuesday morning to a meeting of the National Association of Development Organizations in Arlington, VA. During his remarks, Hoyer indicated that lawmakers from both parties want to trim government spending. But Hoyer said it was critical that lawmakers make smart choices when they cut.
"This is a hard time for our budget," Hoyer said. "Cuts have to be smart and targeted."
Hoyer accused House Republicans of pulling a number "out of the air" for the big spending bill that slashed $100 billion for the rest of the year. He also believes the debate over this spending bill is minor compared to looming fights over entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and a need to raise the debt limit.
"$100 billion is easy," Hoyer said.
At the end of his remarks, one member of the audience rose to ask Hoyer a question.
"Where is the courage by leadership and the administration and to stand up and face reality and fix the debt?" the man asked.
Hoyer responded that polls show that 70 percent of Americans don't want cuts to defense or entitlements which account for the bulk of government spending.
"Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have to be on the table. That makes everybody nervous," Hoyer said. "Everybody in America needs courage."