ANNAPOLIS – U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer promised state lawmakers Friday to focus on strengthening the economy and restoring fiscal balance over the coming year.
In his meeting with the Maryland General Assembly, Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said he was concerned that American politics were “becoming more and more divisive” and urged bipartisan cooperation.
Later in a meeting with reporters Friday afternoon, Hoyer praised initiatives aimed at restoring fiscal balance in the federal government, including the domestic spending freeze in President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget and a proposed commission to reduce the federal deficit.
Obama pledged to create the bipartisan commission during his State of the Union address last month, but the idea was met with resistance from Republican congressional leadership.
U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement last week that the idea was, “(an) exercise rigged to impose massive tax increases and pass the buck on the tough choices we need to be making.”
Hoyer said he had urged Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to support the commission.
On Obama’s job creation agenda, Hoyer said he was confident Congress would pass legislation to promote job growth, but that it may take more than the bill working its way through the Senate.
“This may be (one) bill that gets passed, but there will be others as well,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer praised last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the stimulus, intended to create jobs and spur economic growth.
“For the most part, it did just what it was supposed to do,” Hoyer said.
Maryland has been awarded more than $4.6 billion in stimulus funds, which created or saved more than 6,700 Maryland jobs in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to Recovery.gov, the government’s web site for tracking stimulus spending.
Hoyer said he was still hopeful about the prospect of passing meaningful health care reform legislation, but said it wasn’t the primary focus for congressional leaders.
“We’re focused like a laser … on growing the economy and getting jobs available,” Hoyer said.
Republican delegates argued that the federal stimulus has had little, if any, impact.
“I have four words in response: Show me the jobs,” said state House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert. “They appear to be non-existent … I think it’s delusional to think that the stimulus spending has worked on any level.”
Delegate Gail Bates, R-Howard, said that job-creation numbers cited as a result of the stimulus are often unreliable because the jobs are described as “saved or generated,” terms that are difficult to define and measure.
“We had more people out of work,” Bates said. “Private sector jobs have been hurting.”
Bates also objected to Hoyer’s calls for across-the-aisle cooperation.
“It was very interesting to hear him lecture us about partisanship at a time when partisanship is rampant in D.C.,” Bates said. “Democrats choose to go their own way and blame Republicans when they don’t join in.”