By Mike Lillis - 07/06/11 04:56 PM EDT
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday said he's willing to help Republicans secure the votes they need to pass an increase in the debt ceiling, but not without conditions.
But the second-ranking House Democrat said Republicans would need to make some concessions in the debt-ceiling deal if he’s going to get on board.
"I'm not going to help on some draconian, do-it-my-way-or-the-highway vote," Hoyer said. "But we Democrats are prepared to cooperate in order to assure that the credit-worthiness of the United States of America is not put at risk."
"When I say everything, I mean everything," Hoyer said.
Despite being in the House minority, Democrats find themselves with some leverage in the debt-ceiling debate because Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will likely struggle to rally 218 members of his own behind the bill — as he did in April with the bill to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2011.
Democratic leaders — particularly House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — have been quick to use that leverage to demand a seat at the negotiating table as the debt talks progress.
Hoyer indicated that the burden is on Boehner and House Republicans to accept some revenue raisers in return for the steep cuts the Democrats say they're willing to swallow.
"Revenues need to be a significant part of it," Hoyer said, adding that Congress will never reach a deal "if … Republicans are unprepared to take 'yes' for an answer."
Hoyer also signaled Wednesday that he’s open to passing a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, an idea that seems to be losing steam in Congress.
"I would vote for something less than that [$4 trillion] if that's what we could get 218 votes for," Hoyer said during a press conference in the Capitol.
Hoyer said he'd prefer a single vote on a $4 trillion deficit-reduction package, but that preventing the government from defaulting takes precedence.
"I want to get to an objective," he said. "If it takes a two step or three-step [process] — I'm prepared to take the three steps, or do it in a one step. The key is [to pass] something that is responsible, effective, default-preventing and keeping in faith with the … most vulnerable [people] in America."
President Obama shot down a short-term debt fix Tuesday and urged lawmakers to do “something big” on the deficit.
"I've heard reports that there may be some in Congress who want to do just enough to make sure America avoids defaulting on our debt in the short term, but then wants to kick the can down the road when it comes to solving the larger problem of our deficit," Obama said during a short White House press briefing. "I don't share that view."
"I think that's more likely than not at this point because we're basically running out of time," Cornyn told KRLD radio in Dallas, "because the House has to pass it as well as the Senate and really we're coming up against an Aug. 2 deadline."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office pushed back, noting that Cantor continues to oppose a short-term deal.
On Sunday, Boehner and Obama met privately at the White House to discuss the debt ceiling, according to numerous reports. A broader gathering with bipartisan leaders from both chambers has been scheduled for Thursday.