House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer on Monday said Republicans have failed the test of leadership by refusing to come to the table on the big issues facing the country, offering a preview of a line of attack in next year's campaigns.
The Maryland Democrat, in a speech to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said Republicans are making all of Congress less effective by deadlocking on issues, and he began to lay the groundwork for arguing that Democrats' failures are the result of a Republican Party that won't help.
"The hard choices that are being forced on our country demand engagement by both parties, by all participants," Mr. Hoyer said, ticking off entitlement spending and climate change as examples. "Those challenges are dangerously likely to stay untouched as long as at least one party is willing to be a 'Party of No.' "
Mr. Hoyer blamed the press for promoting bad actors among the Republican Party, saying some media outlets find it "more profitable to incite rather than to inform."
And he challenged Republicans to match leaders of the past, such as Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen who helped President Lyndon B. Johnson pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 or the Republicans and Democrats who compromised to overhaul Social Security in the 1980s and pass the No Child Left Behind bill in 2001.
Democrats control the levers in Washington as never before under the Obama administration, with a huge margin in the House and with their caucus holding 60 seats - enough to overcome a filibuster - in the Senate.
Republicans said that with that sort of control, voters will blame Democrats for "double-digit unemployment, a mountain of new debt, an ineffective trillion-dollar 'stimulus' bill, a job-killing national energy tax and an unpopular government takeover of health care."
"Democrats need to stop whining about us and actually get something done to help the American people," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Other Republicans just dismissed Mr. Hoyer's speech as out of hand.
"If the majority leader gives a speech and no one listens, did the speech actually happen?" asked Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Democrats are bracing for election losses next year, and the president's party traditionally loses seats in the first off-year election. But Mr. Hoyer said Democrats won't be caught unaware of the danger this year, the way they were in 1994, when the Democrats overwhelmingly lost their majority.
"Democrats have been working very hard from the beginning of this year with the realization that next year will be a very significantly tested year," he told reporters last week during a political briefing.
He said retirements among Democratic House members are running at a slower pace than any other recent year, which he said is a good sign for Democrats' hopes to keep control of the chamber.
He said August "was a low point" for House Democrats, who spent their summer vacations being pounded by constituents angry at the size and scope of Democrats' health care efforts. But he said they've rebounded since, leading directly to the House passing its version of a health care bill.
"Frankly, I think our members have re-energized in September and October," he said.
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