Voters share blame for gridlock in Congress, Dem leader says

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer suggested Tuesday that voters are to blame for the partisan bickering and standoffs that have defined Congress this year.

The Maryland Democrat said voters are “absolutely right” to think that “Congress isn’t working very well.” But that dysfunction, he said, is largely of their own making.

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“The American people have every right to be angry [and] disappointed by the performance of the Congress,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “Of course, the American people have also elected people with hard stances, so that to some degree the American people are realizing the results of their votes. 

“If elections have consequences — which I think they do — some of those consequences are getting what you vote for,” Hoyer added. “In this case, many people voted for people who thought compromise was not something that they ought to participate in.”

In response to the economic downturn and deficit spending, voters last year sent scores of Republicans to Capitol Hill with a mandate to fight rising debt. 

Many of the freshman Republicans have taken a hard stand against government spending. As a result, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been unable to pass some of the biggest budget bills of the year without Democratic support — an odd dynamic that has prolonged debate on the year’s must-pass spending proposals, several of which have bumped up against the deadline for a government shutdown.

The year’s budget debate culminated in the creation of the deficit-reduction supercommittee, a 12-member, bipartisan panel charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade. The move was acknowledgement that Congress, in the current political environment, likely couldn’t muster the political will to make those tough choices through traditional legislative channels.


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Although the members of the supercommittee have met several times in recent weeks — in both public and private forums — Hoyer on Tuesday suggested the panel isn’t moving quickly enough to meet its Nov. 23 deadline.

“The timeline is getting short. I think there needs to be a growing sense of urgency among the 12 [members],” Hoyer said. “The 12 have been given a responsibility by their country, which ought to weigh on them. And hopefully it will impel them to act … on the absolute necessity to come to grips with the fiscal challenge that confronts us.” 

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Asked, however, if the panel members should remain in Washington during next week’s House recess, Hoyer declined to promote such a schedule, arguing that panel members “ought to take whatever time is necessary to get this job done and to get it done successfully.” 

The Democratic whip also reiterated his earlier push for the supercommittee to shoot for $4 trillion in deficit reduction in lieu of the minimum $1.2 trillion mandated by the law. 

“I continue to believe that success is imperative if we’re going to stabilize the finances of our country,” Hoyer said. “Doing the lesser package is not success.” 

Updated at 8:00 p.m.