Hoyer: 'Volatility' in Congress hampered Obama budget plans

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that it would be "helpful" to have President Obama's budget plan to guide this month's debate over 2014, but added it was unrealistic given the 11th-hour fiscal debates that have raged in Congress post-election.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Would it be useful? Yes. But it probably was not possible given the volatility ... caused by the Congress over the last 60 days," Hoyer said.

GOP leaders have hammered Obama in recent weeks for failing to issue his 2014 budget blueprint by the Feb. 4 deadline, instead pushing the expected release to early April. The Republicans argue that the absence of such a document is crippling Congress's efforts to tackle deficit spending and other fiscal issues.

"Rather than helping to lead Congress toward a reasonable outcome, it appears the president is happy to drop the bomb on the congressional budget process instead, by releasing his budget plan after — after — the House and Senate have already acted," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) charged Tuesday.

Hoyer pushed back Wednesday, saying Congress bears much of the blame. He cited the drawn-out debates over the "fiscal cliff" and sequester cuts as reasons that Obama's budget missed the deadline.

"It would be helpful [to have a White House plan], but the president's ... budget was confronted with some real challenges in terms in getting here on time," he said. "First the fiscal cliff, and then the sequester. So the baseline's changed, and so they've taken more time."

The 2014 budget debate was launched in earnest this week when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced his spending outline, which would eliminate deficit spending in 10 years, largely by repealing the health coverage expansion under Obama's reform law and slashing spending to other domestic programs. The plan includes no new tax revenues, but offers a a tax cut – from 39.6 to 25 percent – for the wealthiest Americans.

Hoyer called Ryan's budget an "unserious" document that makes "schizophrenic" claims about being balanced — while containing no tax hikes — and repealing Obama's healthcare reforms, while keeping the law's revenue provisions intact.

"The math doesn't work, the values don't work and it is an unserious plan," Hoyer charged. "It is a political statement, not a policy statement."

"The Republicans," he added, "are pretending the election didn't happen."

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are poised to offer their alternative budget on Wednesday. Sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Democrats' plan would eliminate the sequester cuts, provide $100 billion in new infrastructure spending and hike tax revenues by closing certain benefits enjoyed by corporations and wealthy individuals. The plan does not eliminate the deficit over its 10-year window.

Hoyer said Wednesday that budget bills are more important as values statements than pieces of legislation.

"The budget's not a law, it's not signed by the president," he said.

He also suggested that, given the stark ideological divisions between the two parties on fiscal matters, there's little chance Congress passes a budget agreement this year.

"If we do get to a budget, that would be nice," he said. "[But] if Ryan is unprepared to compromise — which his budget appears to be 'no compromise, no adjustment based upon the election, no recognition of reality' — if that's the case, we're not going to get a conference."

House Democrats are expected to release their 2014 budget plan next week.