Hoyer casts 'no' vote in break with Dem leaders

Breaking with his fellow Democratic leaders, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Thursday voted against a bipartisan deal to finance the government for the next two years.

The minority whip conceded that the controversial measure was "better than the alternative" of not reaching a deal, but he said he also wanted to make a statement that the package "does not deal with the fundamental issue of long-term fiscal stability."

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"This bill needed to pass. As you heard me say, it is better than the alternative," Hoyer told The Hill after the vote. "But it is an extraordinary missed opportunity." 

The Maryland lawmaker, who represents thousands of current and retired federal workers, acknowledged that his opposition came despite his role in negotiating some of the details of the final bill.

Republicans initially wanted to cut $20 billion from current federal worker pensions by raising payroll contributions from 0.8 percent to 2 percent. In the final deal, current civilian workers face no increase, and future workers get a $6 billion cut. 

"I was instrumental in getting that down," Hoyer said. "[But] I was making the point we need a comprehensive bill."

He emphasized that his opposition was in no way "criticizing" Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a fellow Maryland Democrat who had supported the measure after helping to reduce the pension cut.

Hoyer's opposition put him at odds with President Obama and other House Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said her many concerns with the bill were trumped by the need to enact a concrete budget blueprint, remove the threat of an government shutdown in January and move on to other legislative priorities.

"Let's get through it; let's get it off the table; let's move on to addressing specific issues," she told reporters earlier Thursday. "We're very unhappy about it, but not enough to say, 'Therefore, we're going to make matters worse by not having an agreement.' "

Hoyer was one of just 32 Democrats to oppose the budget deal. Others cited similar reasons for their "no" votes.

"To call this a budget deal is making it out to be more than it is," said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). "We need a budget that injects certainty into our economy so that businesses have a good reason to invest and create jobs."