House Majority Leader Hoyer Says Democrats Won't Negotiate with Hostage-Taker Trump

January 15, 2019

By Chloe Aiello and Justin Chermol

President Trump has taken the government hostage, and House Democrats refuse to negotiate with a hostage-taker, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told Cheddar on Tuesday.

"This is not about the wall, it's not about health care, it's not about ... spending. This is about a promise the president made, and he has now taken the government hostage," Hoyer told Cheddar's J.D. Durkin as the 25th day of the partial government shutdown dragged to a close.

To some-800,000 federal workers ー and an estimated 4 million contractors ー who have gone without pay, the U.S. government's longest closure in history may seem to have no end in sight. But Hoyer said House Democrats have no intention of giving in to Trump's demands just to put an end to the shutdown. While the House Majority Leader said he's confident a compromise can be reached on border security funding, Trump's behavior threatens the democratic process.

"What's to stop him from doing the same thing next month, or the next month, or the month after that," Hoyer said. "If you negotiate with somebody who has taken a hostage, you are very likely to lose that hostage."

"This is a much bigger issue than just [Trump's] wall. This is an issue about how do we morally run and effectively run the government of the United States of America. And this is not it. And Mitch McConnell knows this is not it, and Mitch McConnell ought to do the right thing," he said.

He said it is "irrational" to blame Democrats for the shutdown, because they have given Republicans and the president "every opportunity" to reopen the government ー noting that the Democrat-controlled House has passed multiple bills to open the government over the past week.

As for whether or not Trump will declare a national emergency, Hoyer said Trump is too erratic to predict.

"I'm not certain of whatever the president will do. This is the most unpredictable president that I have seen and served with. He is very impulsive. He's, in my opinion, many times acted irresponsibly and ー frequently ー contrary to the advice of his advisers."

"So, I don't know what the president's going to do."

Hoyer also commented on internal party politics, denying that fault lines are being exposed between a new, progressive wing of the Democratic Party and its more moderate leaders, including Hoyer. He said "new ideas, new energy, new focus, new perspectives on things" are "good for the system."

However, he said he does not support a 70 percent marginal tax rate proposed by the progressive wing's rising star, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"While I think a 70-percent marginal rate ー which by the way was in existence some decades ago ー is not reasonable to attain either politically or frankly, I think, from a policy standpoint. We need to make sure that we have a tax system that in fact provides the revenues necessary to pay for our priorities and our needs."