Hoyer Says December Session Possible

Posted November 18, 2008 at 10:33am

Updated: 12:33 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the House could come back into session next month if Congress fails to address the struggling auto industry during this week’s lame-duck session.

He said Members could return the week of Dec. 8, when Democrats plan to hold an economic conference.

“We’re prepared to work with the White House … and Republicans in the Senate,” Hoyer said of the proposed automaker bailout. He later said the House would probably adjourn this week subject to the call of the chairman should another session be necessary and Congress’ work remain unfinished.

“The year has not ended,” he said.

Hoyer also said that a decision on what to do on pending free-trade agreements would likely be up to President-elect Barack Obama, although he noted that President George W. Bush wants to get pending agreements approved before he leaves office.

Hoyer, speaking at the National Press Club, also weighed in on the contest between two of his Caucus’ most powerful chairmen, Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (Mich.) and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Waxman is making a bid to wrest Dingell’s gavel in the upcoming Congress.

The Majority Leader has stayed neutral in the race, but has tried to broker a deal to end the contest. He acknowledged having talked to both lawmakers, and said, “I hope it ends peacefully.”

More broadly, Hoyer called for an expansive agenda for the next Congress, including economic stimulus, health care, energy, global warming and reform of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But Hoyer said the agenda will be addressed “thoughtfully” rather than in a politicized fashion.

“For the first time in decades, we are a true national majority party — and if we want to stay that way, we must govern like one,” he said.

Hoyer said Republicans may end up pursuing a narrow, partisan agenda, but he said that would be bad for the country.

“Our country needs Republican leaders in the tradition of Bob Michel, Everett Dirksen and Howard Baker: conservatives who are strong in their principles, but who would rather help shape legislation for the common good than reflexively obstruct it for partisan positioning,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer said the immediate agenda for the 111th Congress would be dealing with the country’s economic problems as well as wrapping up the remaining fiscal 2009 appropriations bills and passing the children’s health insurance expansion.

Hoyer also notably suggested that while pay-as-you-go rules still need to be enforced in the long term, the economy needs to be stimulated in the short term.

He also said he anticipated legislation clarifying the parameters for offshore drilling, although not a return to the blanket ban that was in place for most of the country’s coastline until Sept. 30.

Hoyer also said immigration would be on the agenda next year, although not first in line.

Responding to a question about a gas tax hike, Hoyer said that there is no proposal on the table to do that at this point, but that “as we look at needs for infrastructure and we talk about PAYGO, we need to look at ways to pay for it.”