Hoyer Takes Veiled Jab at Obama Negotiating Style

Making upfront concessions to the GOP doesn’t work, top Dem says.

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House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer of Md. gestures during a news conference in Washington, Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, where he urged House Republicans to end the pro forma session and call the House back into legislative session to negotiate a solution to the fiscal cliff.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer took a veiled shot Tuesday at President Obama's penchant for preemptive concessions aimed at inducing Republicans to compromise during budget negotiations.

President Obama has caught a lot of flack from the left, including on this blog, for reportedly including cuts to Medicare and Social Security – the latter by way of using "chained CPI" to alter the formula for cost of living adjustments for seniors – in his budget that is set to be unveiled tomorrow. Progressive critics see this as a return to the mistakes Obama made early in his tenure, when he would open negotiations with a compromise offer which Republicans would reject, moving any ultimate solution unnecessarily far to the right.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Hoyer spoke on manufacturing policy at the Center for American Progress earlier today and was asked about the president's budget in the Q&A afterward. He was careful not to be critical, saying that he hasn't seen the budget but that he supports a "big, bold, balanced deal" and that his position has been that "we need to consider all options."

But asked about the notion of giving up too much too early, Hoyer was a bit more pointed.

I will say this: Our experience has not been good, frankly, where we've put things on the table – forgetting about chained CPI or other things related to either Social Security or Medicare – putting things on the table, our Republican friends at the bargaining table pocketing those and then when you get to the balance part of it – that is revenues – the negotiation stops.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Of course, that's precisely the trick that Republicans tried to pull, again, when word leaked about Obama's budget last week. House Speaker John Boehner's immediate response was: "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes." Yes, in other words, we'll take your concessions, thanks, but why would we give up anything in return?

Hoyer also noted that the entitlement cuts were not a "news flash" because they were part of a failed deal that Obama and Boehner had made in earlier negotiations (and though he didn't mention it, part of a proposal that has been sitting on the White House website for months). That's true as far as it goes, but there's a difference between a proposal as part of negotiations and the president's budget, which is a statement of administration policy.

Update: Hoyer Press Secretary Stephanie Young takes issue with my reading of his comment. She emails: "Mr. Hoyer was speaking to House Republicans' notorious record of unwillingness to compromise or come to the table to reach real and balanced solutions to our fiscal challenges. That was what he was criticizing; not President Obama's continued efforts to work together on a critical problem for the American people."