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Hoyer: Jobless Benefits Must Pass Before Christmas Break

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that Congress should remain in Washington, D.C., until both bodies can pass an extension to unemployment insurance benefits.

“I don’t want to predict when we’re going to get out of here, but we ought not get out of here before doing that work,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters.

The $50 billion extension to the program, which is slated to expire in January 2012, should not be offset with cuts elsewhere, Hoyer said.

“We don’t believe [it] needs to be paid for,” he said. “Trying to stimulate, you don’t want to depress at the same time.”

That differs from his views on a payroll tax cut extension and the “doc fix” to cover the shortfall in Medicare payments to providers, both of which Hoyer said should be passed with offsets.

“We will cooperate with Republicans on paying for them. We believe in pay-for. Pay-for is discipline; pay-for is tough to do,” he said. “It is easy to cut taxes. It is easy to buy things for people that you don’t pay for. What is tough is paying for things, and we need to pay for things.”

Hoyer, however, stopped short of endorsing any particular compromise on offsets, instead redoubling his calls for increasing taxes on millionaires.

“We think that enhancing the revenue stream is a reasonable thing to do, particularly on those on the upper end whose additional contributions would not in any way, we believe, undermine the economy,” he said.

Hoyer also said he would help Speaker John Boehner keep the government funded into next year, but only if the Ohio Republican brings to the floor a bill free of any controversial policy riders.

“If he does, I have indicated we will try to help, if in fact other facets of the bill are perhaps not exactly what we want, but nevertheless consistent with what we think is good policy,” he said.

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