By Mike Lillis - 09/17/13 07:47 PM EDT
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is itching for a fight on government spending.
"I've made it pretty clear; I think we're going to have a fight. I think we ought to have the fight now rather than later," Hoyer said during a press conference in the Capitol.
"Delaying the [process] is a little bit like the Super Committee's thinking it could fail and 13 months later, somehow, the problem would be solved," he added, referring to the bipartisan group whose 2011 failure to reach a budget deal triggered the sequester cuts in March.
"Thirteen months later, it was not solved, and I'm more interested in addressing it now than a week before Thanksgiving or a week before Christmas."
Hoyer has raised eyebrows this month for vowing to vote against a continuing resolution (CR) at the current $988 billion level, a level that includes the sequester cuts, even if the proposal excludes the attacks on ObamaCare many Republicans are demanding.
Other Democratic leaders are suggesting they could accept such a "clean" CR, at least in the short term, to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Asked directly Tuesday if he would vote against a clean CR at the $988 billion level, even if it meant the bill would fail, Hoyer answered, "Yes."
He said the $988 billion spending cap is "the Republican number," arguing that GOP leaders should be forced to move closer to the $1.058 trillion level proposed by Senate Democrats.
"Invariably, over the 33 years that I have served in this Congress, a responsible CR was a compromise between the House position and the Senate position," he said. "Compromise does not mean doing it their way."
Hoyer declined to predict how many House Democrats would support his hard-line position.
Republican leaders were forced to pull their CR from the floor last week when conservatives in their conference revolted over the ObamaCare provisions, which they deemed too weak. A replacement bill has not yet surfaced, but Democrats expect GOP leaders to shift their proposal to the right to attract more Republicans, rather than to the left to lure more Democrats.
"There's been no reach out to me," Hoyer said Tuesday.
While most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are eying a short-term CR to meet the Sept. 30 deadline, Hoyer argued that such temporary measures only hobble the economy and postpone action on mounting fiscal problems.
"The shorter the term of the CR, the more undermining of confidence [and] the more disruption of the economy," he said. "A 30-day CR? I don't think the issues change."
Hoyer insisted Tuesday that he's not threatening a government shutdown but only wants to mitigate the sequester's effects and force the GOP to compromise.
To promote that message, he's invoking the words of Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who issued a statement in July calling on Washington policymakers to come together to forge "a comprehensive compromise that repeals sequestration [and] takes the nation off this lurching path from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis."
Hoyer said he's talked to numerous Republicans who agree, but they're afraid to speak up for fear of it leading to a primary challenge from the right.
"I believe there are enough Republicans, if they aren't terrified of the Tea Party, [that] we can get a bipartisan agreement," Hoyer said.
The House is scheduled to recess Friday for a week, but with the fiscal year coming to a close, and the GOP bill yet to be released, lawmakers are expecting the break to be canceled.