Hoyer explains vote to kill Bowles-Simpson, sees no ‘broad’ support

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) explained late Wednesday that he voted against a bipartisan budget plan based on the approach of President Obama's fiscal commission, a measure he has often lauded in public, because it still lacked broad support.

A budget based on the recommendations of fiscal commission Chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson was badly defeated on the House floor by a vote of 38-382 earlier in the evening.

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Hoyer said the version of Bowles-Simpson offered on the floor by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) had come prematurely, and that was why he voted no.

“In order to achieve a big and balanced deficit-reduction package, we must build a broad consensus. The budget substitute offered tonight by Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve LaTourette came to the floor before that broad consensus could be achieved, which is why I voted against it,” Hoyer said.

“However, we must continue working to achieve a big and balanced deficit-reduction solution in order to set our country back on a sustainable fiscal path.  I continue to believe that the Bowles-Simpson model should be a basis for ongoing discussions in the effort to create the needed consensus,” he added.

Only one month ago, Hoyer gave a speech arguing for seeking a deficit grand bargain before the 2012 elections. At a Third Way event, he argued that a time of divided government is a good time to find a solution on the debt and that a day after the next election, the 2014 elections will start to loom before members of Congress, a prospect that would encourage more delay. 

It was the second major setback for Bowles-Simpson, which in 2011 was ignored by President Obama himself. The plan contains pain for both parties — tax increases and entitlement cuts — but supporters say such a balanced approach is the kind of compromise that could become law. 

Supporters of the measure, however, were unable to corral even the 100 members who last fall called for a Bowles-Simpson-like solution to the deficit wars in Congress. 

Sources close to the Bowles-Simpson effort said that supporters were divided earlier in the week about pushing for a vote at this time. Negotiations, involving Hoyer, have been taking place on how exactly to put Bowles-Simpson into law, and the Cooper-LaTourette version was denounced by the leftist think tank the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities hours before the vote.

Members who told The Hill they would vote for Cooper-LaTourette hours before the vote backed out at the last minute, including Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and John Larson (D-Conn.).

Cooper's statement on the failed vote called the 38 members who bucked party leaders and supported the plan “brave.”

“The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan had been vetted, but never tested. Powerful special interests and the leaders of both parties opposed it tonight, but 38 brave souls were willing to do the right thing for the country. When we eventually solve our nation’s deficit problem, the final blueprint will look like this,” he said.