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GOP Congressman Would Support Hoyer for Speaker if Dem Backs Reining in ‘Extremists’

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) talks with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on April 16, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said he would vote for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) as speaker of the House if the Democrats win the majority – as long as Hoyer backs rules changes to stop “extremists” on both sides of the aisle.

“I think from a Republican point of view, obviously, if the majority vote goes over to the Democratic side, you know, may happen, may not happen –bottom line, though, I’m looking for candidates, as a Republican, who are committed to breaking the gridlock. These rule reforms are going to be more responsive to the people back home,” Reed said during a webinar organized by the organization “No Labels” on Friday.

“I’ll say it here again: I’m willing, as a minority member on the Republican side, to support a candidate, like Steny Hoyer, on the floor of the House for the vote of 218 when the tally is called and say, ‘If you’re going to support these reforms, I’m looking for people who are going to lead and start to get things done for the people back home,’” he added.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said their proposed rule changes, known as the Break the Gridlock reform package, would help legislators tackle many key issues.

The package includes changes such as establishing a “fast-track procedure to enable bipartisan legislation and amendments to receive priority consideration.” Under the new rules, a bill that gains at least 2/3 of the House as co-sponsors or a majority of members from each party “must be marked up by its relevant committees and reported to the Rules Committee within 30 legislative days of receiving its 290th co-sponsor.”

“The whole thing is that it’s not actually about party – it’s about country. It’s about governing and about getting things done. And on a host of these issues – infrastructure, immigration reform, prison reform – there’s a host of issues that we’ve taken on – healthcare – on the toughest issues we’ve found common ground to move the country forward and make progress,” Gottheimer said. “We’ll work with anybody who is willing to do that.”

Gottheimer noted that Hoyer and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), both prospective candidates for House speaker, have indicated that they would support the rules changes outlined in the package.

Reed said the midterm election in November presents a “great opportunity” for the caucus to move its Break the Gridlock package forward.

“We have been working together for almost two years now – Josh and the other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, so we have great friendships and relationships built on trust. And with the new speaker candidate coming in, we see that as a great opportunity to say to those candidates, ‘We’ll support you, as long as we reform the rules of the House to break the gridlock.’ And we’re using that opportunity,” he said.

“We’ve got the work done. The caucus came together and did a tremendous amount of work to come up with reforms that we as members feel will open up the body to be more responsive to the American people, and we’re going to use the speaker candidacy as leverage to get it done,” he added.

Gottheimer said he didn’t realize how much power “extremists” have in Congress until he was elected to serve in the House.

“As a new member of Congress, one thing I didn’t realize when you get here and you figure this out is that you can have bipartisan support for an idea for a piece of legislation, enough people to actually pass something on the floor – yet you can’t bring it to the floor for a vote, you can’t get debate on the floor because the extremists, this happens on both sides, the extremists get in the way and block it,” he said.

“Our whole idea is to say, ‘Let’s break this gridlock, let’s figure out if we can change some of these rules that are arcane, that are stopping things from being able to go to the floor,’ and actually have a real debate,” he added.

Reed explained that he and Gottheimer are “reaching out” to House candidates to garner their support for the proposed rules changes in advance of the midterm election.

“They’re standing with us. I know some candidates are already stepping forward saying this is exactly where they want to be in Washington, being responsive to the people they represent and start getting some legislation and getting some things done and accomplished for the people back home,” he said.

Gottheimer said his constituents are “frustrated” with the legislative process and many of his colleagues are hearing the same feedback in their respective districts. 

“They want us to actually figure out a better way forward: they’re frustrated, they’re sick and tired of the screaming at each other. When I talk to candidates, they hear exactly the same thing. They want people to come together and break the gridlock and do things differently. That’s why we got together around this one this one,” he said.

“I really think this is something that the whole country can rally around beyond party. It’s good for the country and for governing. As Tom always says, it’s about getting to ‘yes.’ Instead of focusing on what we disagree on, let’s focus on what we can agree on and make progress for the country.”