Hoyer slams GOP summer agenda as substance-free and 'totally political'

House Republican leaders have scheduled a summer legislative agenda that won't create jobs or reduce deficits, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) charged this week.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Friday unveiled an outline of the Republicans' schedule from Memorial Day to August, featuring proposals to eliminate federal regulations, expand domestic energy production and repeal parts of President Obama's signature healthcare reform law.

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But Hoyer on Wednesday characterized Cantor's calendar as a substance-free political ploy, warning that it's "sadly lacking in terms of addressing some of the most important issues confronting our country."

Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said the GOP agenda lacks "comprehensive jobs legislation," fails to take on deficit spending "in a serious way" and all but ignores the long list of federal spending cuts and expiring tax benefits — the so-called "fiscal cliff" — that looms in the lame duck.

"To me, it appears to be a Frank Luntz package of rhetoric without substance — poll-tested rhetoric, to be sure, but totally political in nature," Hoyer said, referring to the influential Republican strategist.

In a Friday memo to House Republicans, Cantor laid out the GOP's legislative plans for the next two months, including scheduled votes on proposals to eliminate fees on medical device makers, expand oil and gas production on federal lands and extend the Bush-era tax rates for all income levels.

The schedule highlights the GOP's philosophy that the government can best help the limping economy by getting out of the way of private enterprise.

"Above all," Cantor wrote, "we must continue to focus on economic growth and small business — producing results that get Americans back to work."
 
Hoyer had a different take, hammering GOP leaders for excluding two pieces of soon-to-expire legislation: the reauthorization of the highway bill and an extension of lower rates on certain student loans. If Congress doesn't act before July 1, the government loses its authority to spend highway trust-fund dollars and rates on Stafford loans double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.

After voting twice this year for the 6.8 percent rate, House GOP leaders last month passed a proposal keeping the 3.4 percent figure, which has been in place for almost five years. Democrats, however, have objected to the GOP's plan to offset the $5.9 billion cost by cutting a preventive healthcare fund created by Obama's healthcare reform law, and the bill has hit a wall in the Senate.

The highway reauthorization bill is similarly stalled. Although the Senate in March passed a transportation bill with broad bipartisan support, a number of House conservatives want less federal influence over transportation programs, and House GOP leaders have so far declined to consider the upper-chamber proposal.

Hoyer on Wednesday warned that the GOP's unwillingness to compromise — even on bills with solid GOP support in the Senate — set the stage for continued gridlock through the rest of this year.

"The all-or-nothing attitude that the Republicans continue to take is going to ensure, I think, that we don't have agreement," Hoyer said.

"There is such a psychology of 'no compromise' that exists in the Republican Party at this point in time, which leads to gridlock and the failure of democracy to move forward and create consensus for action," Hoyer added. "It's a great shame."