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Wherein Steny Hoyer Gets Cordially Invited to Shut It

If the Democrats lose the House in the midterm elections, their top public official in the lower chamber could well become Steny Hoyer. Traditionally, Speakers of the House do not become backbenchers after losing their gavel in a partisan changeover. So if Nancy Pelosi follows suit, and even if she doesn’t, it’s more than possible that Hoyer will be made Minority Leader. And then you’ll have a lead Democrat in the House who thinks like this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) was neither humored nor pleased with Stephen Colbert’s recent testimony before the House Judiciary committee’s subcommittee on immigration, calling it an embarrassment for the Comedy Central host.

“I think his testimony was not appropriate,” said Hoyer, during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House.”

“You asked me, Chris [Wallace] whether the testimony was appropriate,” he added. “I think it was not appropriate.”

First of all, Hoyer should talk about the testimony to some of his fellow Democrats, like Rep. Judy Chu, who were in the hearing, rather than John Boehner, who clearly spooked Hoyer into this by criticizing Democrats for bringing a comedian to Congress “when they should be passing jobs bills.”

Second of all, Hoyer didn’t even bother (nor did he seem to know) that the legislation about which Colbert testified WAS A JOBS BILL. The AgJobs bill would allow for a path to legal residency for a couple million seasonal agricultural workers, most of them already in the US, instead of the current policy, where they face incredible hardship and toil and no guarantee of any legal rights. Hoyer could have identified the policy and welcomed the opportunity to give it the attention it deserves. He could have noted the bipartisan support and asked if John Boehner has spent any time in the fields to understand the struggles of the migrant community. There were about ten ways to parry the question which Hoyer blew right by.

Incidentally, Hoyer has apparently been the counterweight on holding a vote on the Bush tax cuts before the midterms, with Pelosi wanting to draw a contrast with Republican fealty toward the rich, and Hoyer, well, desperately afraid of that, again.

Welcome to your Hoyer era in Democratic politics, should it come to pass. It will feature pathetic, knee-jerk cutting off of the legs of any remotely liberal-sounding policy. It will feature a rhetorical agenda designed to please Fox News. It will feature the kind of “liberals” America hates, because they sense they have no principles or values.

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David Dayen

David Dayen