House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Sunday he was confident he would have been elected Minority Leader for the 112th Congress had Speaker Nancy Pelosi not run for the post.
During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the Maryland Democrat repeated the party’s explanation for the drubbing House Democrats took Nov. 2, when Republicans netted a gain of at least 61 seats on their way to securing the House majority. He said the message sent by midterm voters was related to jobs, the economy and deficits, and that it was not a direct rebuke of leaders such as Pelosi, who had a starring role in GOP-produced TV ads that proved effective in ousting incumbents.
He acknowledged that the California Democrat is “the leader of our party.”
“Had she not run, I would have run for leader and I think I would have been elected leader,” he said. “Having said that, this election was, I think, about issues — about concerns and anxieties that the American people have, not about personalities. They want us to focus on jobs and growing the economy and bringing the deficit down. I think leader Pelosi will do that. I’ll do that.
“Hopefully, our Republican colleagues will do that as well, and we’ll find common cause to reach that objective.”
Pelosi was elected Minority Leader on Wednesday despite defections from 43 Members who voted for Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), a Blue Dog Coalition member. Hoyer, who has served behind Pelosi in the leadership since 2001, was chosen by acclimation to be the Minority Whip next Congress. He previously served in that post before Democrats assumed majority control in 2007.
Also on Sunday, Hoyer addressed controversial Transportation Safety Administration screening practices — which include new full-body scanners and thorough pat-downs that have been criticized as invasive and uncomfortable — that were a topic of discussion on the Sunday show circuit in advance of the heavily traveled Thanksgiving holiday.
He said Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has written to the TSA on the matter and that he expects Congress to hold hearings.
“There’re going to be hearings on this. So it’s a very controversial item with two worthy objectives: No. 1 keeping us safe, but No. 2 honoring our personal privacy,” Hoyer said.
Both Hoyer and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said they would not want to be subjected to the pat-down procedure.
“I don’t think any of us would want to undergo that. I don’t think any of us feel the discomfort and the delay is something that we like,” Hoyer said. “But most people understand that we need to keep airplanes safe.”
Clinton, also appearing on “Face the Nation,” had a similar response.
“Not if I could avoid it. No, I mean who would?” she told host Bob Schieffer.