Hoyer: Fiscal panel plan should be at center of debate

Citing the possibility of "fiscal turmoil," outgoing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Monday called for bipartisan cooperation in the next Congress to tackle budget deficits and reform the tax code.

"The threat of fiscal turmoil is concrete, not abstract — and it will be felt in the life of every American," he said in prepared remarks at the National Press Club. "No other issue calls so strongly for leaders who understand the importance of hard choices and hard truths."


Hoyer said he was "heartened that the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission put forward a provocative, challenging plan on debt — a plan that needs to be at the center of our national conversation."

He said the plan should be looked at, along with those by the Bipartisan Policy Center, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and the Center for American Progress.

As he has in the past, Hoyer stressed the need for entitlement reform, including reform of Social Security possibly by raising the retirement age and raising the cap on income taxes to pay for Social Security.
He said discretionary spending needs to be carefully reviewed, especially with an eye toward defense spending.

"As [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates has said, the Pentagon’s 'culture of endless money' is now a grave threat to our military strength and national security," he said.  

Hoyer pushed President Obama to take up far-reaching tax reform in the next Congress, seizing on reports that the president might make the issue his next major legislative effort.

"A simplified tax code can save families and businesses precious time, unleash economic growth, remain progressive, and help reduce the deficit. President Obama has indicated that he’s giving tax reform serious consideration," Hoyer said. "He has my support, and I hope that it’s an area on which we can make bipartisan progress in this Congress to come. I would urge him to do so ad to move in this Congress," he added.

He added: "In the realm of fiscal discipline, more than any other, our economic future rests on our ability to find common ground. But if we continue to see the future in two-year increments, each party can continue to demagogue these hard choices until the crisis comes — and that crisis would make even more painful choices unavoidable." 

Russell Berman contributed.

This post was last updated at 11:22 a.m.