WASHINGTON — House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday he anticipates a productive session of Congress because Republicans have learned from the “black eye” they got last month for trying to block an extension of the payroll tax deduction.
In general, the American public is not pleased with the 112th Congress’ first year. In a Washington Post-ABC News survey of 1,000 adults conducted this month, 84 percent of Americans disapproved of the job Congress is doing.
“I am a very strong member of the 84 percent,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters during a briefing in the Capitol. “I want to talk to the 16 percent to find out what they’re missing.”
This session follows last year’s near shutdown of the government, the first debt downgrade and a failed bipartisan supercommittee.
Early this year a divided Congress will face several issues, which likely will be difficult because 2012 is an election year. Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration expires at the end of January, the president is pushing to extend the payroll tax cut and the funding for different transportation programs expires in March.
The only thing on this week’s House schedule is a vote Wednesday on a bill that would express Congress’ disapproval of the president’s use of executive authority to increase the debt limit. Hoyer called it a “charade.” He said that, even if it gained approval in the Republican-controlled House, the Senate is unlikely to pass it.
Hoyer said he hopes a House-Senate conference committee will reach agreement on the payroll tax cut by the end of the month, giving the Feb. 20 Presidents’ Day holiday as a final deadline. In December, rather than extending the tax holiday for 160 million workers for an entire year as President Barack Obama wanted, Congress extended the 2 percent tax cut just through the end of February.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promoted Obama’s re-election strategy of using Congress as a political foil earlier Tuesday. She said she expects the president’s campaign against a “do-nothing Congress” will be successful.
“I’m all for it,” Pelosi said at Politico’s “Playbook Breakfast” Tuesday morning. “This is a Congress that has done such a disservice to our country.”
Hoyer said this session of Congress cannot be a “do-nothing Congress” caught up in spin and presidential politics as many second sessions are.
As far as what Congress should do about jobs and the deficit this year, Hoyer said he wants Republicans to take a look at a “balanced fiscal plan,” including both tax increases and spending cuts. He also hopes that a presidential commission’s deficit reduction plan, which included raising the Social Security eligibility age, eliminating some tax breaks, cutting defense spending and increasing military health premiums, will be “given new life.”
“America needs a productive session,” Hoyer said. “We need to be focused on jobs and we need to be real about focusing on jobs.”