Hoyer warns GOP to abandon efforts to repeal healthcare law

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned his Republican counterpart on Friday that the GOP will have no hope of finding bipartisan agreement on any issue if it continues to insist on repealing the 2010 healthcare law.

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"If we want to do something in a bipartisan fashion, if we want to get to an end here, we ought to stop pretending that we're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act," Hoyer told Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). "We had an election about that. We won. The president won."

Hoyer's comment echoes President Obama's response in 2009 when Republicans objected to elements of his stimulus plan, when he told the GOP, "I won."

Hoyer was reacting to Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget proposal, which slows the rate of spending and balances the budget over 10 years and includes the longstanding GOP demand that the healthcare law be repealed.

Cantor replied by saying Republicans would not back away from their effort to terminate the law.

"We have big differences on healthcare," Cantor said. "We believe that ObamaCare is not good for this country, not good for healthcare, and we're going to continue to advocate that position.

"Unfortunately, what we're going to see is continuing increase in cost, rate shock that will come into play over the next year, whereas more and more of the American people are going to realize this is going to be a very expensive endeavor," he said.

The exchange between Hoyer and Cantor took place during their weekly colloquy, which often showcases the vast differences between the two parties on taxes and spending.

This week, Hoyer asked Cantor whether the GOP had any plans to replace the sequester with another combination of spending cuts. Cantor said only that he agrees the sequester could be rearranged and that he hopes the two sides can find a way to do so.

"These kinds of cuts are not smart, they're indiscriminate. They cut good programs just like they cut bad programs," Cantor said. "I don't think any us would choose to do things that way."

Cantor said the House would pass the GOP budget next week and confirmed that the House would also hold votes on alternative budget proposals, as it usually does. But Hoyer said the GOP budget that will pass is too extreme to implement.

"[Even] if there were no Democrats in the Congress of the United States, in my view, you could not implement the Ryan budget," he said. "You couldn't get appropriation bills passed, and you could not pass a Ways and Means tax provision that would meet the requirements of the Ryan budget."

Cantor said the two parties should find areas where they can agree. He highlighted the passage of the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act as something that should have had bipartisan support. That bill consolidates dozens of federal job training programs, but it had only two Democratic votes in favor earlier in the day, which Hoyer said reflected the lack of Republican cooperation on that bill.

Cantor replied that Democrats walked out of a committee markup of the bill last week, making it hard to cooperate. "If you can't show up for work, how are you going to participate in the markup and shaping of a bill?" he asked.

Hoyer said both sides need to do a better job letting go of their firm positions. "I tell the press, the 10 percent of the people think we're doing OK, they're wrong. We're not OK," Hoyer said.

In the end, the only thing they could both agree to is that they were glad to have attended the annual Selma March in Alabama, which commemorates the event that led to the Voting Rights Act.

"I was proud to have joined Congressman John Lewis [D-Ga.], Congresswoman Terri Sewell [D-Ala.] and Martha Roby [R-Ala.] as well as others, and the gentleman as well, in that trip to Selma ... this year," Cantor said.

"I was pleased that he had the opportunity to go to Selma with John Lewis and others of us who had the opportunity to go to the birthplace of our colleague Terri Sewell," Hoyer said.

Looking ahead, Cantor outlined legislation that is likely to come up in the House in April, which will include cybersecurity legislation.

"We'll look to do and consider some cybersecurity legislation that will result from the work of multiple committees," he said. "We face a very serious threat in the cybersecurity arena, and we want to take action as a House — we want to take bipartisan action."

He also said the House would take up a bill aimed at giving working families more flexibility to deal with work and home, called the Working Families Flexibility Act. And he said bills that boost medical research and domestic energy production would be on tap.


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