December session to bail out auto industry a possibility, Hoyer says

November 19, 2008|By Paul.West | Paul.West,paul.west@baltsun.com

WASHINGTON -

House Democratic Leader Steny H. Hoyer said yesterday that Congress could come back next month to deal with an auto industry bailout, even as he conceded that action this week looks unlikely.

At a question-and-answer session with reporters at the National Press Club, the second-ranking member of the House called a December session of Congress a possibility.

"The year has not ended," said the Southern Maryland Democrat, who was formally re-elected yesterday to his leadership post.

Republican opposition has dimmed chances for approval of an immediate cash infusion for U.S. automakers. Democrats want the auto industry to get $25 billion of the $700 billion that Congress set aside to rescue financial markets. Chrysler and General Motors executives say their companies are on the brink of collapse and need emergency government assistance.

An economic conference planned for the week of Dec. 8 will bring many House members back to Washington. It could lead to a second lame-duck session, Hoyer said, if bailout legislation, now blocked in the Senate, is not acted on before then.

A similar conference last year provided the impetus for bipartisan approval of $600 rebate checks last January. The newly elected Congress, with substantially more Democratic senators and congressmen, will convene Jan. 6.

In prepared remarks, Hoyer, 69, said Democrats must govern from the center if they expect to be a true majority party. The new House Democrats, more than 30 in all, "are pragmatic, not dogmatic," he said, and "were elected, quite simply, to solve problems, not further politicize Washington."

An expanded Democratic majority in the House - the largest since the first year of Bill Clinton's presidency - will include at least 50 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of centrist and conservative Democrats who often find themselves at odds with the party's more liberal members.

Hoyer warned Democrats against practicing "the politics of division in our own ranks."

He called on Republicans to play a constructive role while predicting that they are "likely to move toward a more narrow agenda" and be obstructionist. That, he said, "would be dangerous for our country," which "needs a loyal opposition to work constructively on legislation, to challenge the Democratic arguments and hold us to account."

The top items on the Washington agenda next year, he said, will be the economy and keeping a watchful eye on the nation's security. "As [Vice President-elect Joe] Biden observed, it is a time of risk when you have a transition and you are tested by those who would wish you harm," Hoyer said.

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