March 1st, 2010
04:40 PM ET
13 years ago

Hoyer: Failure not an option. Really.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that Congress needs to focus on reducing America's debt."]

Washington (CNN) - There's a lot of talk in nation's capital about failure. The failure of Congress to pass health care reform. The failure of the Senate to extend unemployment benefits. The failure of the House to pass bills the Senate supermajority will find palatable.

You get the idea.

Then there's the kind of failure that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer addressed Monday at a Brookings Institution speech on "fiscal responsibility."

Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat serving his 15th term, was warning about failure of a different magnitude entirely: The decline of America's economic dominance because of the growing weight of its debt.

"This, then, is our turning point and our choice: the point at which we join the debt-ridden powers who saw the story of their greatness end in fiscal ruin, or the point at which we as a nation refuse that ending and write a new chapter," Hoyer said.

The government runs on mega-borrowing these days and its debt could hit $13 trillion this year. It's largely the product of two wars, the Bush tax cuts, an expensive Medicare change, a colossal financial crisis and a deep recession.

But that's just a preview of the real problem that threatens to consume the federal budget: rising interest rates, which will make U.S. debt more expensive to repay, and growing health care costs.

"Our willingness to face reality is a measure of our character," Hoyer said. He offered a few ideas, speaking gently about gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security, and adjusting entitlement benefits to better reflect the finances of the retirees receiving them. Beyond that, he didn't get too specific.

In fact, just about everyone is leaving the details to the new National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. That's the 18-member panel that President Obama created last month by executive order – after Congress couldn't reach agreement on doing it by law – to recommend ways to start closing the gulf between what Uncle Sam spends and what he collects.

The commission, which has an end-of-year deadline, still hasn't gotten down to business. Only half of the panel has been selected so far: among them, its leaders – former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles – and three key senators named by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

And on Friday, Obama named four additional members including Alice Rivlin, one of Washington's leading fiscal hawks and founding director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Hoyer says voters are angry and ready to hold lawmakers to task. "Anger can be a constructive motivator or a negative impediment to thinking. Let's hope it's the former," he said.

Filed under: national debt • Steny Hoyer
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. John D

    Steny the failure is yours and the Democrats for trying to pass this massive and destructive healthcare bill against the will of the people. You do not have a clue because you keep your nose is so far up in the air you just do not care about the people.

    You and Obama are spending this country to bankruptcy. You talk about fiscal responsibility. What a joke coming from your mouth! Makes me want to Puke I'm laughing so hard.

    March 1, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  2. Mr Independent

    Ok, ok, so some of us do not like the President, got it. So what, who cares? I am a little tired of going to conferences, meetings and secret blogs about how things will be better for us if Obama fails. I do not mean to be a doubting Thomas, but come on, what’s the plan?

    I don’t care anymore about who created this debt or making someone own it. I want to know how the hell we are going to get hardworking Americans back to work!

    March 1, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  3. Jenn, Philadelphia

    "Failure is not an option"? And yet, spend spend spend is all they do. Failure is an inevatibility.

    March 1, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  4. valwayne

    Warren Buffet the 2nd richest man in our nation worth tens and tens of billions of dollars, who supported Obama, is advising/warning Obama to KILL the corrupt monstrosity put together in the House and Senate. He's advising Obama and the Democrats to start over, work with the Republicans, and pass smaller real health reform that won't destroy our economy. Will the Democrats kill the corrupt mess they've put together an listen, or move forward with destroying healthcare and our economy for generations!!!!

    March 1, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  5. Repugnants are Taliban

    Read the constitution should get a brain and save us all from his hate filled rhetoric, I am sure he is supporting so many, LOL, probably a deep pocketed banker who got bailed out so has no worries.

    March 1, 2010 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
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