House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer remains optimistic that Democrats will pass the voting rights legislation and the Build Back Better bill despite roadblocks but offered few details about how that could happen.
“I do not buy your characterization of the Voting Rights Act being ‘dead’ in the Senate,” Hoyer told POLITICO Playbook co-author Rachael Bade in a livestreamed interview on Tuesday. “It certainly is not in the shape I’d like it to be in, but we’re not going to forget about that.”
Hoyer was similarly bullish about the fate of the Build Back Better bill, a key piece of President Joe Biden’s social infrastructure agenda. Biden hinted last week that the bill may need to be broken into “chunks” to be passed, a move designed to appease Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who blocked passage in December after it made it through the House.
Hoyer said he is confident that he can corral House Democrats to rally around a smaller bill. “I think we can and I think we will,” he said. “We have to look at what we can get, not what we’d like to get.”
Hoyer declined to say which provisions might be shaved off in the Senate but did say that the child tax credit is “very important.”
One of Manchin’s concerns with Build Back Better was the impact of increased federal spending on already-high inflation. Hoyer argued that the legislation, combined with measures like the Make It In America Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, would help people get back to work, thus boosting the economy and counteracting inflation.
“When the Republicans say, ‘What are you going to do about inflation?’ I say, ‘We’re doing it,’” Hoyer said, referencing the bills. Hoyer pointed to supply chain shortages, not federal spending, as the lead cause of inflation.
Hoyer was optimistic when discussing Democrats’ efforts to protect voting rights but offered no blueprint forward after Senate Democrats’ efforts to modify the filibuster and pass voting legislation failed last week. When asked about a bipartisan group examining reforms to the Electoral Count Act, Hoyer expressed support but said it is not a substitute for voting rights legislation.
Hoyer blamed Republicans, not Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), for the Senate’s inability to pass voting rights legislation. The two Democrats deviated from their party by voting against a change to filibuster rules.
“The reason it’s not done is because we don’t have a single Republican who’s prepared to vote for legislation that would make it easier for Americans to cast their vote,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer also chided Republicans for their opposition to the Build Back Better Act. “In my opinion, the Republican opinion is, ‘you’re on your own,’” he said.
Hoyer said the Democrats’ push to pass voting rights legislation is “very much alive,” but he referenced the same strategy that failed Democrats last week. “We either need to change the rules, or get 60 votes [in the Senate],” he said.
In a press conference prior to the Senate’s vote last week, Biden cast doubt on the 2022 midterms by saying the elections could “easily be illegitimate” if voting rights legislation did not pass the Senate.
Hoyer offered an appraisal of Biden’s assertion. “President Biden is correct,” he said.