An outraged House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday that Americans have every right to be disgusted with Congress and blamed House GOP leaders for wasting the week on noncontroversial issues rather than working on alternatives to the sequester.
"America is disgusted with us. I don't blame them. I'm disgusted with us as well," he said on the House floor.
"I don't blame Mr. and Mrs. America for saying that Congress is not doing its work. They're right, we're not."
"Now we're going to take two days, today and tomorrow, to consider a bill about helium that could be passed in ten minutes, which is noncontroversial," Hoyer said.
"Will we deal with the sequester, which is causing Americans such grief right now? We will not," he said. "It is a shameful performance by the Congress of the United States. It is an irresponsible performance by the majority leadership of this House."
Hoyer frequently blasted Republicans for not taking up any legislation to avoid the $85 billion sequester cuts. GOP leaders have said Senate Democrats must act first to alter the sequester, but even if they do, it's unlikely that the two parties will be able to find any agreement.
Still, Hoyer said the growing problems related to the cuts, including flight delays at airports around the country, stand in stark contrast to the bills being considered by the House.
In addition to the helium bill, the House has considered a handful of noncontroversial bills this week. One of them honors the victims of a 1963 bomb attack in Alabama, and another fixes a law requiring the minting of Baseball Hall of Fame memorial coins.
The one major bill the House did consider this week, to expand a provision of ObamaCare, had to be pulled after it became clear that not enough Republicans support it. Hoyer zinged the GOP on this as well, and said it's a sign of disorganization within the Republican leadership.
"We ought to be doing some real work this week, not putting bills on the floor and then taking them off the floor because, very frankly, the majority party can't get its act together," Hoyer said. "Not having a helium bill on the floor for two days — we're not even going to vote on the helium bill today.
"My, my, my, what a hard workday," he said. "We're not dealing a budget, we're not dealing with a budget conference, we're not dealing with getting this country on a fiscally sustainable path, we're not dealing with getting rid of the sequester."
In morning debate, Hoyer was followed by other Democrats who also called on the House and Senate to start meeting to work out a budget agreement. Senate Democrats are pushing for a budget conference as well, although House GOP leaders have said the House and Senate Budget Committee leaders have been meeting to agree on a framework first before a conference starts.