While the sort of centrist shape-shifting at which Steny Hoyer excels may be helpful to the president's reelection efforts (I'll reserve judgement, since I still believe people want to vote for real Democrats), his growing influence is certainly not a good sign for the rest of us who want the Democrats to hold the line against Republican policies:
[...] GOP leaders in the lower chamber have struggled to rally enough votes to pass legislation, making them reliant on Democrats. The unusual dynamics cater well to Hoyer, a fiscal centrist known for his working relationships with Blue Dogs and GOP leaders.
“If you’re going to have anything done in the House [that’s] bipartisan, Steny Hoyer is going to have to be involved,” said a House Democratic aide who works for a Blue Dog.
Hoyer, who has taken a backseat to Pelosi for a decade, has been quick to seize the opportunity.
On the morning of the final vote on the fiscal 2011 continuing resolution (CR), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the Maryland Democrat requesting help to get the bill over the finish line. Shortly afterward, Hoyer tweeted that he planned to support the measure.
The Democrats’ support proved necessary, as only 179 Republicans voted for the bill — well shy of the 218 needed.
Pelosi, meanwhile, voted no, pointing out she felt “no ownership” of the deal Obama struck with Senate Democrats and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The California Democrat, who also rejected stopgap spending measures that Obama backed, suggested she would have voted for the final deal if her support was needed. But Pelosi also made clear she knew Republicans had the votes, with the help of 81 of 189 voting Democrats.
In January, 19 House Democrats did not vote for Pelosi for Speaker as all Republicans supported Boehner. A 20th Democrat who has been critical of Pelosi, Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), skipped the vote. All of those members — minus Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is recovering from a gunshot wound — voted with Hoyer in favor of the 2011 spending bill.
If Pelosi made a point to oppose the spending cuts to draw a distinction between the parties, Hoyer took pains to cast himself as the pragmatist who would make concessions for the sake of a deal. He also recently called a past vote against raising the debt limit a “mistake,” echoing a statement made by Obama just days earlier.
It’s not just the spending debate where Obama’s centrist shift is now melding with Hoyer’s legislative leanings. Hoyer traveled this week to Colombia, where he endorsed an imminent trade deal historically opposed by liberals, including Pelosi.
“Colombia is a critical ally to the United States, and I strongly believe it is in our economic and national security interests to strengthen our ties by moving the agreement forward,” Hoyer said in a statement.
Julian Zelizer, political scientist at Princeton University, noted the “constant battle” between the liberal lawmakers who constitute the Democrats’ base and the centrist Blue Dogs who helped the party win control of the House in 2006. In the current political environment, he added, it’s the latter’s fiscal policies that are winning out — even in the face of Pelosi’s opposition.
“While making many deals with the Blue Dogs, Pelosi always kept coming back to core ideas of liberalism and insisted on that framework as negotiations took place,” Zelizer said. “But the balance seems to be shifting.”
[...] “Hoyer is a far more serious legislator and negotiator than former Speaker Pelosi,” said a GOP leadership aide.
Hoyer enjoys good relationships with Boehner and McCarthy, as well as with many rank-and-file Republicans.
In a 2009 survey conducted by The Hill, Republican lawmakers cited Hoyer as one of the most bipartisan members in Congress.
Unlike many of his Democratic colleagues, Hoyer has said he is open to raising the retirement age for Social Security.
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