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Player of the Week: Steny Hoyer

Which party won this week's round of high-stakes legislative deal making on Capitol Hill? On both the just-passed terrorist surveillance bill and the supplemental spending package that passed Thursday night, Democrats and Republicans have been crowing that they got the better end of the bargain. That's as it should be; if one side didn't feel it had anything to brag about, then it wouldn't have agreed to the deal in the first place.

Rep. Steny Hoyer
(Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images)

But in Capitol Briefing's mind, there's little doubt which member played the most important and interesting role in the deal-fest: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Nineteen months ago, Hoyer trounced Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) in the race for Majority Leader in a contest that was partly a referendum on the Iraq War and Democratic tactics to end it. Backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Murtha ran on a platform of bringing the war to a hasty end and the assertion that Hoyer was too moderate and too inclined to cut deals with Republicans. (This charge was ironic, since Murtha has been cutting deals with Republicans for years on a whole host of issues, but that's a blog post for another day.)

Hoyer won that race, 149to 86. but that didn't mean 149 Democrats thought he was right about Iraq, or any other issue, while 86 thought he was wrong. Rather, the victory was a testament to Murtha's flaws and to members' appreciation for the role Hoyer plays in the Caucus -- an emissary to conservatives and a leader who knows how to sit down with Republicans (he's even friends with a few of them!!) and cut a deal.

Fast forward to this week. Hoyer has been the lead Democratic negotiator on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act since the GOP's version of the bill expired in February. Like nearly all Democrats, Hoyer was opposed to granting immunity to telecommunications companies for their past cooperation with intelligence operations. But unlike some in his party, Hoyer did think Democrats needed to cut a deal eventually, lest their candidates be accused in November of not caring about national security.

So cut a deal he did, and not every Democrat liked it. Plenty of liberals and civil liberties groups attacked it. Pelosi said some nice things about the measure Thursday, that it was "balanced" and "an improvement over the Senate bill," and she voted for it today. But her praise was definitely measured: "I could argue it either way, not being a lawyer, but nonetheless, I could argue it either way."

Speaking on the House floor today just before the FISA bill passed, Hoyer summed up his own thoughts and, perhaps, his governing philosophy: "Today, I stand in support of a different kind of bill - a compromise. To be clear, this is not the bill I would have written in an ideal world. However, in our legislative process, no one gets everything he or she wants. Different parties -- often with deeply competing interests -- come together here to produce a consensus product, where each side gives and takes."

Maybe the deal on FISA helped lay the groundwork for an agreement on the supplemental bill. Or maybe the timing was a coincidence. But that agreement also shed light on Hoyer's worldview.

Back in late January, Hoyer made clear he believed Democrats needed to stop tying troop withdrawal language to every Iraq funding bill that moved through the pipeline. That strategy simply hadn't been working, and as with FISA, Hoyer was concerned about making Democrats vulnerable to attacks from the GOP.

"The problem with -- in my opinion, this is my view, speaking for Steny Hoyer -- always attaching [withdrawal language] to funding issues ... [is] that is subject on both sides of the Capitol to concerns about supporting the troops," Hoyer said at the time.

This week's deal on the supplemental bill, of course, did not include any substantive strings attached to the war money. Hoyer and most Democrats knew that they were never going to get withdrawal language signed into law, but they were still able to extract other concessions from President Bush and Hill Republicans on the GI Bill and an extension of unemployment benefits. This wasn't necessarily a victory for Hoyer, since he wasn't the one that negotiated the deal.

He did, however, vote for the no-strings-attached war money part of the bill along with 79 other Democrats, while Pelosi was one of 151 Democrats to vote against the measure. It is rare for the top two leaders in either party, in either chamber, to split on such a crucial issue, but Pelosi and Hoyer have been voting apart on Iraq and a handful of other issues for years and will continue to do so.

The two have also been known to part ways on the political front. During the heated Democratic presidential primary, Pelosi joined many party activists in fretting that unelected superdelegates might somehow conspire to hand the nomination to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Deliberately or not, Hoyer repeatedly echoed the arguments of the Clinton camp that superdelegates should vote their consciense and not feel unduly pressured by the popular vote or pledged delegate totals.

After 27 years in the House, Hoyer has likely hit his ceiling in Congress, and in politics. His 69th birthday was last weekend, and, barring a dramatic event, it's hard to see how he'll ever become Speaker. He has no particular designs on any higher federal or statewide office. At the same time, his demonstration of strength against Murtha and Democrats' likely continued good electoral fortunes mean his job as Majority Leader appears secure for the foreseeable future.

After his decisive loss to Pelosi for the party whip post back in 2001, Hoyer never was able to reach the top House Democratic position. But his opponents within the Caucus haven't been able to unseat him, either. So one could argue that his current and final standing in the House, appropriately enough, is a compromise.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 20, 2008; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , Player of the Week  
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Comments

So, who's afraid of a little name calling, more importantly name calling without any facts to back it up? Apparently the Democrats led by Mr. Hoyer. Every member of the House is up for reelection. Perhaps all those liberals and members of civil liberties groups will remember and Hoyer and his ilk will learn that voting in fear to provide further cover for what everyone who cares knows was wrongdoing, much like sticks and stones, will likely break bones, but names, like weak on terror and not supporting the troops, will never hurt you -- especially when most every poll shows that the American People understand who the obstructionists are (or, more likely now, were).

Posted by: po | June 20, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Steny, we're sick and tired of you meekly capitulating to Bush and his cronies. We DON'T CARE if they call you weak or soft. In the first place, we elected you to serve our interests DESPITE them. In the second place, they'll call you weak and soft NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. In the third place, this kind of capitulation simply proves that they're right - you are weak, spineless cowards, easily bullied and cowed. You disgust me. The Bush-Cheney actions made me ashamed to be an American. Your actions reinforce that.

So, now we have a great precedent - it's illegal for big companies (with top legal staffs) to knowingly break the law, unless the government pretty-please asks them to. And it's illegal for the government to break the law, unless they say they think they really should.

You deserve to be burned in effigy just as much as the Bush-Cheney Constitution shredders.

Posted by: Aelfric (Falls Church, Va.) | June 20, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

For uncensored news please bookmark:

www.wsws.org
www.takingaimradio.com
www.onlinejournal.com
www.counterpunch.org
www.globalresearch.ca

http://www.counterpunch.org/nader06192008.html

Why Won't Corporations Take on Big Oil?

By RALPH NADER

Here is a counter-intuitive story for you. Why don't organized corporate interests challenge damage or risks to their clear economic interests?

Think about oil prices for big consumers, not just your pocketbook. Airlines are groaning, limiting flights, and laying off employees because of the skyrocketing price for aviation fuel. Executives in that industry say that fuel costs are close to 40 percent of the cost of flying you to your destination.

The powerful chemical industry is under pressure from the prices they're paying for petroleum--probably their main raw material.

The powerful trucking industry is beside itself with diesel fuel going to $5 per gallon.

You can add your own examples--cab companies, tourist industry, auto companies, etc.

Why aren't these very influential lobbies throwing their weight around Washington to get something done about the speculators on Wall Street determining what is paid for gasoline and related petroleum products? It is in their own economic interests.

To do what? Well, for starters, push Congress to legislate higher margin requirements for the speculators at the New York Mercantile Exchange--the same fellows who, based on rumors, took the price of a barrel of oil up another $10 in one day.

Higher margin requirements (and wider disclosure rules) result in dampening speculation by reducing the amount of borrowed money these traders can use in their gigantic commodities casino.

Long-time member of the New York Stock Exchange, Michael Robbins--an astute and fair analyst--says margin rules have historically been used to dampen speculation on stock exchanges. He mentioned a time years ago when the Federal Reserve raised the margin requirement to ninety percent--meaning the traders had to put up 90% of their own money on trades.

There are other moves that can be made by Washington to ease the oil price crisis that is fueling inflation throughout the economy and shocking consumers. Suffice it to say that ExxonMobile testified earlier this month in Congress that absent the speculators, the price of a barrel of crude oil would be half what it is today. That would mean about $65 a barrel instead of $130 a barrel.

What else do these big corporate buyers of oil need?

Another area of major business firms not acting in their own interests involves the proposal in Congress (HR 676) to establish a single-payer health insurance system. That would mean government health insurance, private delivery of health care, free choice of doctor and hospital and saving about half a trillion dollars in insurance company administrative expenses and computerized billing overcharges a year.

Presently, tens of millions of workers have employer-based health insurance. For years, CEOs have complained that this cost puts them at a competitive disadvantage with their corporate competitors abroad and in Canada where there is universal government health insurance.

Former General Motors CEO, Jack Smith, publicly approved of the Canadian medicare system, which he had experienced when he was head of GM Canada. Under full medicare, these companies will pay less even with an assessment.

So, what's up here? We don't see these weighty corporate lobbies on Capitol Hill supporting the 91 House members who have endorsed HR 676.

Then there is the small business lobby ostensibly represented by the large National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Small business is regularly subject to government policies and market discriminations that put them at a disadvantage with their large competitors.

Presently, for example, a Small Business Administration report concludes the following:

"Small businesses in their commercial sector faced a 30 percent price differential for electricity and a 20 percent price differential for natural gas. In the manufacturing sector, small businesses faced a 28 percent price differential for distillate fuel oil, a 27 percent price differential for natural gas, and a 14 percent price differential for coal."

Are these volume discounts all fair for the Big Boys? Doubtful. Don't count on the NFIB to protest. More often than not, the NFIB talks small business but walks the walk of the National Chamber of Commerce, which primarily lobbies for the interests of large companies.

So, why the overall reticence to fight for their own economic interests? First, corporations do not like to fight each other because they may need each other on other matters. Second, hey also have exposable skeletons in their own closets. Third, they do not have to initiate a business war of retaliation. Fourth, they do not want to give their traditional labor, environmental and consumer adversaries cause to strengthen their own power by, in effect, siding with these groups' traditional causes.

If investors in this country had any power over the companies they own--as individuals, or through mutual funds and pension trusts--an inquiring process could open up on this fascinating question.

But as Robert Monks--a leading shareholder activist and writer--has said many times, those same CEOs have their own economic interests--think CEO compensation--in keeping investors powerless.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

Posted by: che | June 20, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

So Ben has got into the Obama Kool Aid again and operating under the delusion that
Madame Nutty Nancy Pelosi and her pet
cockroach Steny Hoyer and the Do Nothing
Democrats will be re-elected in 2008...
However WAPO forgets how angry and fed up
with the lying sell out Democrat Do Nothings and Steny Hoyer and Mad Madame
Speaker Nancy Pelosi "I Took Impeachment
Off The Table" BS will hurt the Democrats
chances of retaining control of Congress and Phony Messiah Barack Hussein Obama
getting his butt kicked by John McCain will
spell the end of the Demcoratic Party as
well. Some choice you made Ben here! NOBAMA

Posted by: Sandy5274 | June 21, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

This is an issue that captured established politicians by surprise. I think Steny Hoyer expected the main action in this debate would occur in Washington meeting rooms, when in fact it is an issue that resonates strongly with the millions who care about civil liberties and government accountability. Witness the incredible activity (650+ comments on just one post) on Glenn Greenwald's blog.

The Democratic congress is largely held in contempt by the people. Barack Obama has also done some damage to his own image among the more politically committed (obviously, many people are not following this issue), by not putting himself into this fight, despite his strong statements against telecom amnesty last year. It seems he is reluctant to buck his party in a year when he will need their support. However, principles are not always relative and it is immoral to compromise one's core values if the only goal is maintaining political survival.

A sad day for American democracy. There have been many such days over the last seven years. I guess we are all hoping someday more people will wake up and care.

Posted by: t-bird | June 21, 2008 2:29 AM | Report abuse

Hoyer needn't worry about his political future... he has none. Off to K Street with you, Steny!

Posted by: Anton Sirius | June 21, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Democrats endorse domestic wiretapping and immunize phone companies. Obahma puts himself up for sale. Need another reason to vote for Ralph Nader? He's Not For Sale.

Posted by: steve conn | June 21, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I have to laugh when reading the comments here. Well I can easily immage what we could reading now if FISA was rejected because of Democrats...How outraged Republicans would be...oh well most damage was done by this government not just by shredding Constitution but by damaging brains to ordinary Americans by their propaganda games.

Posted by: Jarda1 | June 21, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Hoyer fills his pockets with lobbyist dollars and trashes the Constitution.

He's no better than a rethuglican.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | June 21, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

As a recovering Republican, I must show my utter contempt for the Republican Party, their neo-con fascist supporters and Their Democrat accomplices. They have sunk to the level of Soviet era politburo members.

Democrats are now serving as enablers and criminal accomplices. This latest piece of Stalinist spyware, (FISA w/ex post facto, telecom immunity), authored by the Bush administration hacks and sheparded through the Congress by Steny Hoyer and the rest of the Democratic leadership is just the latest in our slide toward a police state.

For those diehard Democrats that believe Barak Obama is going to miraculously save the country and convert all the Nancy Pelosis' Steny Hoyers' and the rest into real Democrat Representatives,
there's more bad news.

Obama is reconstituting many of the Clinton admin cronies for his campaign staff and possibly his cabinet.
You remember the Clinton administration cronies dont you? The ones that brought us the Waco Massacre, numerous domestic scandals, the destruction of Yugoslavia and the resultant Bosnian Civil War. The unprovoked and illegal bombing of Kosovo using NATO as cover. The Nato/UN occupation that turned a blind eye to our friends the Kosovo Albanian Mafia's slave trading, drug and weapons smuggling and murder for the last nine years. And more!

Airstrikes on aspirin factories in Karthoum. Weekly airstrikes on Iraq civilian targets for Clinton's entire term of office causing hundreds if not thousands of civilian deaths and billions of $$ of destruction.
Mad Bomber Madeline Albright appears to be heading up Obama's campaign operation. She is (in)famous for stating that 400,000 Iraqi children's deaths as a result of the US controlled Iraq sanctions were "worth it."

I'm afraid that there is nowhere to go for either Democrats or Republicans this November without more of the same and possibly worse. Holding your nose and voting for the lesser of evils won't get it! Lesser of evils is still evil.
It looks like Bob Barr for me. I believe he is also a recovering Republican

It is long past the time to give both the House and the Senate a thorough "House Cleaning." Any Congressman or Senator (one third of the Senate is up for reelection)that has served for more than two terms should be updating their resumes. Maybe they'll find out what it feels like to be a working American in the society and the economy they have created for the rest of us.


Posted by: jsbar | June 21, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

As a recovering Republican, I must show my utter contempt for the Republican Party, their neo-con fascist supporters and Their Democrat accomplices. They have sunk to the level of Soviet era politburo members.

Democrats are now serving as enablers and criminal accomplices. This latest piece of Stalinist spyware, (FISA w/ex post facto, telecom immunity), authored by the Bush administration hacks and sheparded through the Congress by Steny Hoyer and the rest of the Democratic leadership is just the latest in our slide toward a police state.

For those diehard Democrats that believe Barak Obama is going to miraculously save the country and convert all the Nancy Pelosis' Steny Hoyers' and the rest into real Democrat Representatives,
there's more bad news.

Obama is reconstituting many of the Clinton admin cronies for his campaign staff and possibly his cabinet.
You remember the Clinton administration cronies dont you? The ones that brought us the Waco Massacre, numerous domestic scandals, the destruction of Yugoslavia and the resultant Bosnian Civil War. The unprovoked and illegal bombing of Kosovo using NATO as cover. The Nato/UN occupation that turned a blind eye to our friends the Kosovo Albanian Mafia's slave trading, drug and weapons smuggling and murder for the last nine years. And more!

Airstrikes on aspirin factories in Karthoum. Weekly airstrikes on Iraq civilian targets for Clinton's entire term of office causing hundreds if not thousands of civilian deaths and billions of $$ of destruction.
Mad Bomber Madeline Albright appears to be heading up Obama's campaign operation. She is (in)famous for stating that 400,000 Iraqi children's deaths as a result of the US controlled Iraq sanctions were "worth it."

I'm afraid that there is nowhere to go for either Democrats or Republicans this November without more of the same and possibly worse. Holding your nose and voting for the lesser of evils won't get it! Lesser of evils is still evil.
It looks like Bob Barr for me. I believe he is also a recovering Republican

It is long past the time to give both the House and the Senate a thorough "House Cleaning." Any Congressman or Senator (one third of the Senate is up for reelection)that has served for more than two terms should be updating their resumes. Maybe they'll find out what it feels like to be a working American in the society and the economy they have created for the rest of us.


Posted by: jsbar | June 21, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Amazing stroke piece for Steny.

Does your jaw hurt, Ben?

Posted by: TeddySanFran | June 21, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

So has anyone else ever noticed how this
old creepy crooked total corrupt phony
Democrat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
slithers around the House floor just like
a sidewinder rattlesnake? Hoyer is as big
a phony and as sleazy as old botox beauty
"I Took Impeachment Off The Table" DINO
Bush-Cheney Co-War Criminal Democrat Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi and throw in
scumbag Democrat Senate Majority Leader
Horrid Harry Reid and Racist Hidden Muslim
Extremist Marxism Liberal Barack Obama for
good measure now then? NOBAMA! VOTE GOP!

Posted by: Ralphinphnx | June 22, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Why would standing up for the Constitution every be considered aa weak thing to do?

Posted by: RENEA1 | June 22, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on Ben you should correct this story to read slimey Steny Hoyer wins as
Democratic Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi's
Pet Cockroach of the week again. And please
voters donot forget Pelosi Stooge Steny
Hoyer was standing next to Mad Madame Nutso
Nancy Pelosi when Pelosi said,"I Took
Impeachment Off The Table"and backed Pelosi
up on it and that makes both Nancy Pelosi
The Worst Speaker In History and Steny Hoyer The Most Pathetic Worst Democrat
House Majority Leader as well,plus Horrible
Harry Reid as Worst Senate Majority Leader
of all times. So is it any wonder the dimwit Democrats are also running the biggest most arrogant smirking cocaine user
Muslim extremist Religious Hypocrit Liar
Barack Hussein Obama and his bitter hostile
wife Michelle Obama for our First Couple,
President and First Lady now then? Just Say
NO to Pelosi,Hoyer,Reid,Obama and Obama
and Howard Screamer Dean in 2008! NOBAMA!

Posted by: Sherry Kay | June 22, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it is a surprise that Steney Hoyer screwed the American public by shepherding this legislation through the House. People who pay attention always knew he was a tool. The big let down was that Obama had his back. I took down my Obama yard sign yesterday. I have never failed to vote for the Democratic candidate in my 30 years of voting, including my primary vote for Obama. This week I came to the sad realization that there is barely a thread of difference between the two major parties. Before announcing the capitulation on the so called FISA compromise, I believed the rhetoric about changing the way Washington works. It turns out that Obama doesn't walk the walk. He is just another cowardly unprincipled politician who would sell us out on constitutional rights for a perceived political advantage. He shows that he is willing to give the finger to his base with the cynical belief that they have no where else to go. This bill smells more due to it's shredding of our founding priciples than because of the odor of retroactive imunity. Obama the constitutional law professor needs to take a refresher course in the 4th ammendment. Who would ever have thought that Bob Barr would have more respect for the foundations of our union than Barak Obama. Go figure.

Posted by: Timburger | June 22, 2008 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ben you need to Correct Your Headline
Again,as it should read more correctly as;
"Democratic House Majority Leader Steny The
Creep Hoyer Wins This Weeks,Madame Speaker
Nancy Pelosi's "Best Culture Of Corruption
Democrat Of The Week Award!" So Ben please
do to get it right next week,will you now?
NO Pelosi No Hoyer No Reid No Dean and above all NOBAMA!

Posted by: Ralphinphnx | June 23, 2008 2:49 AM | Report abuse

Will someone show this Ben Pershing where
the WAPO Personel Office is now? So Ben can
go pick up his final pay check at WAPO.
So the truth about that phony total corrupt
Democrat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
is that Hoyer is not but a Yes Nancy Stooge
for Power Mad Sleazy Blinky Nancy Pelosi,
the most totally corrupt Speaker of the
House in US History! Please San Francisco
Voters Kick Nancy Pelosi Out of Office in
2008 and please do remember it was this
same Nancy Pelosi who told us,"I took
Impeachment off the table" and that Pelosi
is the "brains" behind empty suit fellow
liberal ding dong Barack Hussein Obama too.
So just say NO to all the Democrats from
Nutso Nancy Pelosi,Steny Hoyer,Harry Reid
and Barack Hussein Obama in 2008! NOBAMA!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

"Today, I stand in support of a different kind of bill - a compromise. To be clear, this is not the bill I would have written in an ideal world. However, in our legislative process, no one gets everything he or she wants. Different parties -- often with deeply competing interests -- come together here to produce a consensus product, where each side gives and takes."


This was the intention of the founding fathers. This is the outcome that we should always hear. This is the cooperation that is required to reach good middle-ground policy.

In a good comprimise, everyone feels like they got screwed - and thats ok with me.

Posted by: The way it should ALWAYS be done | June 23, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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