Hoyer: No stopgap to avoid shutdown

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) vowed Tuesday to oppose a short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown on Jan. 15.

The minority whip voted with every other House Democrat in October to reopen the government for three months at the fiscal 2013 spending level of $986 billion, which included sequester cuts.

But Hoyer, who represents a district populated with federal workers, said he's not willing to back another continuing resolution (CR) that adopts the 2014 level of $967 billion, as Republicans are pushing.

"I'm not going to support a short-term CR that leads to a $967 billion level [of spending]," Hoyer said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. "I believe that hurts our national security, it hurts our economy and it undermines our responsibility of running government at a level that is productive for our people."

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Hoyer noted the long string of failed budget talks that have dogged Congress since President Obama entered the White House, including the Bowles-Simpson negotiations, the talks led by Vice President Biden and the supercommittee discussions that ended in vain.

He accused Republicans of abandoning the negotiations — or opposing the final product — in each of those cases, and suggested they are ready to do so again this month.

"We've seen a pattern of Republicans walking away from any kind of budget agreements," Hoyer said. "A clean CR alternative, that apparently is being considered for next week, [is] another indication of that walking away from getting an agreement."

The comments arrive as Congress gets ever-closer to the Dec. 13 deadline for a budget deal. Although both sides insist an agreement is within reach, there's been little evidence of concrete progress.

House appropriators had urged the bipartisan negotiators to come up with a top-line budget number by Dec. 2, but the date passed without any such deal.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday accused Senate Democrats of blocking progress.

"We can’t get Senate Democrats to say 'yes,' " Boehner told reporters in the Capitol.

Without a broader budget agreement, GOP leaders are eying a short-term CR to prevent another government shutdown in January. The length of the stop-gap bill remains undecided, as is the timing of the vote, though it could reach the floor as early as next week.

Hoyer said Tuesday that the length of a short-term spending bill is less concerning than the notion that Congress has repeatedly resorted to CRs after budget talks have fallen apart. He noted that the bipartisan supercommittee, formed in 2011, had more than a year to reach a deal to avoid the sequester, and failed to do so.

"The issue is not time, the issue is willingness," he said. "When the supercommittee failed, they thought we had 13 months to solve the sequester. Thirteen months was not enough time. It's a matter of will, of willingness to compromise."

Erik Wasson contributed.