House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said that President Obama should strike a bipartisan tone in his State of the Union address, but he also emphasized that with the November election coming up, it’s inevitable that both sides will be playing politics.
“No president with whom I’ve served over the last 30 years has spent as much time working with Republicans and Democrats in the room, exchanging ideas, evidencing a willingness to compromise, as President Obama has,” Hoyer said at his weekly pen and pad briefing with reporters.
“I think he needs to convey that to the American people -- that’s what they want on the one hand,” he added. “On the other hand, very frankly, you see on both sides the message of ‘Don’t compromise. Don’t give an inch. We’re right.’ And very frankly, we’re seeing some of the most divisive figures in American politics over the past 30 years do reasonably well.”
Hoyer’s last comment appeared to be a reference to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who surged to a 12-point win over Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina GOP primary.
At the same time as he emphasized cooperation, Hoyer also noted that Obama -- and the entire political environment -- is influenced by the 2012 election.
“I think he is the president,” Hoyer said. “We are a democracy. Presidents have to be re-elected. Members of Congress have to be re-elected. There is nobody in the Congress or in the White House who will not talk unrelated to their political recognition that they have to seek approval of the electorate in a few short months.”
He added: “That’s what makes our system so great. Yes, it is shaped by the political environment, but I think it’s also shaped and what’s the best politics will be his expressing the best policy and continuing to reach out to the other side to work together.”
As Congress’s payroll tax conference committee gears up for its first meeting at 2:30 p.m., Hoyer also expressed optimism that the group will reach an agreement well before its Feb. 29 deadline.
Hoyer said he views the payroll tax debate “with the expectation that we may be able to get that past the Congress by the 17th of February so we pass it prior to leaving for the President’s Day break and not leave it for the last three days [before the deadline].”