Signaling his frustration with the House Republican leadership, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) chastised reporters for ignoring House Democrats’ alternative stimulus plan last week.
“If Democrats become irrelevant, people will never be able to judge if our plans make any sense,” Hoyer said Tuesday.
Coverage of last week’s House debate over the tax-cut package centered on the differences between the Senate and House Republicans’ plans instead of between the House GOP’s proposal and the Democrats’ alternative, Hoyer complained.
Most articles just reported that Democrats were not allowed to offer their option on the floor and ignored its substance, he said.
“It’s one thing for the Republican leadership to marginalize” Democrats by not allowing their bills and alternatives to come to the floor, “but it’s another if the press doesn’t cover our alternative,” Hoyer said.
“We represent 140 million people,” almost half the nation’s population, he added.
Democratic leaders have complained that House Republicans are stifling debate and denying the voice of millions of Americans by stymieing their efforts to bring legislation to the floor.
On Friday Democrats were furious when the tax-cut package was debated and passed by the House after only a few hours because the Republican-controlled Rules Committee denied Democrats the ability to present and debate an alternative plan.
Nevertheless, Hoyer said Democrats couldn’t be afraid to discuss important issues and criticize the Bush administration or the Republican leadership.
On that point, he said he was very concerned about the Defense Department reauthorization bill that is likely to come to the floor next week.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has proposed a plan that would make it easier for the Pentagon to circumvent traditional civil service employee protections.
Hoyer acknowledged that Republicans might paint those who object as being unconcerned about national security but said that should not be a deterrent.
“We cannot be kowtowed by the assertion that somehow protecting the professional service class undermines national security,” he said.