Hoyer updates Dems' economic agenda with sights on taking House

Hoyer updates Dems' economic agenda with sights on taking House
© Anna Moneymaker

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (D-Md.) on Monday unveiled his long-evolving economic agenda, vowing that Democrats will be laser-focused on easing middle-class financial anxieties if voters deliver them the Speaker’s gavel next year.

Central to that effort, Hoyer said, will be moves to bolster federal infrastructure projects and promote education and skills training for workers left behind by the swiftly shifting economy.

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“People are getting by, but they’re not getting ahead,” Hoyer said during a speech at a workspace-sharing facility in Washington, D.C. “And that’s what our country is supposed to do: give everyone a shot at getting ahead.”

Hoyer hammered President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE and the Republicans for enacting a tax overhaul that he said showers most of the immediate benefits on the wealthy, seeking to distinguish the Democrats as the party that would concentrate its gaze on middle-class economic concerns if they win control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

“The economy is doing very well for some. … But unfortunately over the years it has not done so well for so many in the middle class who are just getting by,” he said. “That’s our premise.”

Hoyer has spent the past several months touring the country on what he billed a “listening tour,” which focused on heartland cities like Toledo, Ohio; Peoria, Ill.; and Pittsburgh, where he lamented a gap between employment opportunities and a local workforce lacking the skills to take advantage of them.

“We have a shortage of skilled workers, with more jobs available than people to fill them,” he said.

Hoyer’s “Make it in America” plan — a collection bills aimed at helping workers — has been around for almost a decade. On Monday, he updated the package to include a sharper focus on efforts to promote education, infrastructure and business enterprise.

The bundle includes proposals to broaden the reach of Pell Grants to include worker training programs; encourage the portability of health and retirement benefits when workers change jobs; expand access to high-speed internet; and stimulate construction of a modern electrical grid, featuring a shift to clean energy.

The effort intersects with the Democrats’ broader “For the people” messaging campaign, which is designed to expand the party’s appeal to those voters who either sided with Trump in 2016, or stayed home altogether. Despite all the inside-the-Beltway focus on a chaotic White House, the ongoing investigation into Russia’s election interference and Trump’s alleged relationship with Moscow, the Democrats are betting that most voters are more concerned which party can better help ease their financial strains.

“The economic issue is the critical issue for us to seize upon,” Hoyer said Monday.

Trump, on the campaign trail, had vowed to prioritize a big boost in infrastructure projects. But his $1 trillion proposal — which would have provided $200 billion in federal funding, with the rest falling to state and local governments — was roundly panned by Democrats as insufficient. And many Republicans balked at the price tag.

“I haven’t seen any reasonable proposals, and none are being taken up by the Republicans in the House of Representatives,” Hoyer said.

He lamented that efforts by Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to forge a bipartisan infrastructure package didn’t bear fruit — a missed opportunity, in Hoyer’s eyes, for cooperation in a Congress practically defined by partisan bickering.

“That did not happen,” Hoyer said, “and it’s unfortunate.”