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Hoyer: Kratovil a top priority, will win reelection

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Sunday that Democrats "probably" will lose seats in the midterm elections — but not their majority in the House.

Appearing on CNN, Hoyer also identified freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, an Eastern Shore Democrat, as one of two House members who are "absolutely top priorities for me and for our party."

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Hoyer was responding to a front-page report in The New York Times last Sunday that the House Democrats' campaign operation would soon be cutting funding to candidates it sees as having little chance of winning and diverting the money to more competitive races.

"If there are candidates that are very substantially behind, and they can't make it, clearly we will have to make some tough judgments," Hoyer said on CNN's "State of the Union."

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"But with all due respect to my good friend [Times congressional correspondent] Carl Hulse, who I think is a terrific reporter, that decision has not been made, as Chris Van Hollen [the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] made it very clear.

"And in fact, [Democratic Rep.] Betsy Markey [of Colorado], who was one of those, Frank Kratovil, one of those mentioned in Carl's article, are absolutely top priorities for me and for our party. Betsy Markey is tied in the polls. Frank Kratovil is slightly ahead. So these candidates are in very good shape, and they are going to win."In 2008, with the Obama campaign energizing record turnouts of young and African-American voters— and the popular incumbent, moderate Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, defeated in the GOP primary — Kratovil defeated conservative state Sen. Andy Harris by fewer than 3,000 votes to become the first Democrat in nearly two decades to win the First Congressional District.

Harris is running again for the seat. Given the narrow margin two years ago, the district's voting history, Republican momentum and the absence of a popular presidential candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket to turn out new supporters, Kratovil is seen as one of the House's most vulnerable incumbents. Among leading analysts, the Cook Political Report rates the race a toss-up; the Rothenberg Political Report sees it leaning Republican.

Hoyer, a Southern Maryland Democrat, has known the Kratovil family for years. He has risen to the No. 2 seat in the House in part by campaigning aggressively for fellow Democrats; on Sunday, he said he had appeared with 20 candidates in 11 states over the last two and a half weeks.

"State of the Union" host Candy Crowley asked Hoyer about predictions that Democrats might lose as many as 60 seats, and the majority, in November.

"We are going to lose seats, probably," he acknowledged. "I'm not going to speculate on a number, Candy. But we are going to hold the House.

"And what is going to happen is, people are going to compare not the perfect, but the alternatives. As Joe Biden likes to say, they are not going to compare us with the almighty, they're going to compare us with the alternative, an alternative that wants to go back to the exact same Bush policies, according to Mr. Sessions, their campaign chairman, which led to high deficits, the worst job performance of any administration since Herbert Hoover, and extraordinary reduction in wealth of our country, and the stock market tanked."

Hoyer also spoke of the Democrats' "Make it in America" agenda, and the prospects of a compromise with Republicans on allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire. The complete transcript follows.

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CROWLEY: Joining me now is the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

HOYER: Candy, always good to be with you. Thank you.

CROWLEY: I want to start off with what I think is going to occupy your fall, and that is these Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in January.

The Democratic position and the administration's position has been we want to keep them for the middle class, and any household making $250,000 or above, we're going to repeal them.

So what you have here now is the argument, no, bad time; there's not enough jobs out there; you can't create jobs by essentially raising taxes, even if you want to call these rich people.

I want to introduce into this argument something that Peter Orszag wrote. Now, he, of course, is the former director of the Office of Management and Budget for the president. And he's talking about the idea of this huge deficit versus the huge jobs deficit.

"In the face of the duelling deficits, the best approach is a compromise, extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them altogether."

And by extending the tax cuts, he means for the rich; permanent ones for the middle class. How about that?

HOYER: Well, Candy, first of all, we need to realize what is going to happen was put in place by the Republicans in '01 and '03, to meet their budget numbers. They had these taxes go up for all Americans. The president has said; we have said we absolutely, in this troubled economic time, are not going to allow families to have a tax increase, period.

Now, families, as you say, we referred to as the $250,000 and under people, which is 98 percent of America. And we don't believe that their taxes ought to go up.

CROWLEY: But what about a compromise here?

HOYER: Well, compromise has been very tough to get, as you know, Candy.

CROWLEY: But are you open to it?

HOYER: Sure, we'll...

CROWLEY: Do you think the Democratic...

HOYER: We'll talk about compromise, but we don't believe -- I don't agree with Mr. Orszag or others who believe that a tax cut on the richest Americans are going to have any affect on the economy.

CROWLEY: OK, then what about...

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: ... we gave 98 percent of America, as you know, tax cuts in the Recovery Act.

CROWLEY: So a lot of people make the argument, look, this isn't going to create jobs if we allow these tax cuts to expire for the rich. Then why not get behind a payroll holiday?

HOYER: Well, of course we did on the FICA tax, as you know, passed legislation that it's in place that gave small businesses, if they hire people who are unemployed, a tax holiday, as you point out.

And not only did we give that, but we gave $1,000 bonus if those people are on the payroll a year from now.

So we have done things of that nature. We've done a number of things in the House of Representatives to spur job creation, job growth. Unfortunately, we've had trouble getting them through the Senate.

One of the bills that we absolutely want to get done this coming four weeks is to provide for dollars for small business to get loans to expand their businesses.

CROWLEY: To ease the credit?

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HOYER: We've passed that twice, and it's still sitting in the Senate. We hope that they'll pass it.

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CROWLEY: When it comes to this -- these tax cuts for the wealthy, do -- you're a smart guy. It seems to me one of two things is going to happen here. Either you take this off the table, because your own Democrats are out there going, oh, no, don't want to do this. You've got more than a handful of Democrats in the House saying this is not a good idea.

So you either need to take it off the table and deal with it after the election or come to a compromise. What's going to happen?

HOYER: Candy, one -- well, what's going to happen is, A, we're going to see what the Senate can do. As you know, the House is -- we've got over 400 bills pending in the Senate that have passed, 70 percent of them with 50 Republicans, so non-controversial; they're just sitting in the Senate.

So one of the things we're going to do -- and I've talked to Senator Reid about this -- we're going to see what the Senate is going to do. Then the House will make its determination...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Because the art of the doable, and you might go along.

HOYER: Sure.

CROWLEY: And you know the Senate's going to come up with a compromise because that's the only way...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... they get anything done.

HOYER: But, again, our policy is, we are not going to allow the Republican policy of increasing taxes by having these taxes expire.

HOYER: Which was Republican policy, we are not going to allow that to happen for the middle income Americans, working Americans.

CROWLEY: You have spent your break in 11 states, 20 candidates. We are now looking at some fairly well-respected political pundits saying Democrats might lose as many as 60 seats. What's the problem out there?

HOYER: Well, I think those pundits are wrong. Number one, we are going to hold the House. We're going to win...

CROWLEY: But you are going to lose seats?

HOYER: We are going to lose seats, probably. I think that's undoubtedly, historically...

CROWLEY: Twenty-four, 34?

HOYER: I am not going to speculate on a number, Candy. But we are going to hold the House. As I say, I have been to -- as you said, I have been with 20 candidates, 11 states over the last two-and-half weeks. Our candidates are feeling good.

And what is going to happen is, people are going to compare not the perfect, but the alternatives. As Joe Biden likes to say, they are not going to compare us with the almighty, they're going to compare us with the alternative, an alternative that wants to go back to the exact same Bush policies, according to Mr. Sessions, their campaign chairman, which led to high deficits, the worst job performance of any administration since Herbert Hoover, and extraordinary reduction in wealth of our country, and the stock market tanked.

CROWLEY: But can you stave off disaster for Democrats...

HOYER: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: ... when you have Democrats who don't particularly want to talk about health care reform, and those who voted against it are -- actually have ads out there for it, who don't much want to talk about the stimulus program and how much it costs?

Is it enough to say, yes, but the Republicans got us into this mess? I mean, that's not much of a bumper sticker.

HOYER: Well, you have -- the American public is smart, and they pursued a vote in 1992 that elected a president. He put in place a program, they were somewhat skeptical, as you recall. But they became very enthusiastic when they saw how well that economic program worked, opposed by every Republican.

Then the -- in 2000, a new administration came in, said their policies were going to work. In fact, they failed and gave the worst economy in 75 years. So people are going to compare the failed Bush policies, which the Republicans say they want to return to. That's a quote, not a supposition.

CROWLEY: But you agree it's a bit -- right now you could say we are on a path, we're moving forward, it's going to get better, but it's kind of a weak hand to go into November with?

HOYER: Well, I think in fact that things have gotten better. We have had four quarters of economic growth. The stock market, Dow, S&P, Nasdaq, up now over 60 percent. Things are getting better, 2 million, 3 million, 4 million jobs have been created under the Recovery Act.

So, yes, we are not where we want to be. We want to get those 8 million jobs back that were lost under the Bush administration, so we can get people back to work. And we are going to continue to focus on policies, which is what the president said in Cleveland when he gave his speech about investing in infrastructure and creating jobs.

The other thing, Candy, I want to mention, is we have an agenda, not just for the balance of this year, but an agenda for the coming years, and that's the "Make It in America" agenda.

People are concerned and fearful they're not going to be able to make it in America. And one of the things they believe is we need to make things in America. We need to manufacture things in America so people have the availability of good-paying jobs with good benefits.

So our "Make It in America" agenda is going to be one of the hallmarks as we move forward. And frankly when you look at the Clinton administration's creation of 21 million new jobs in the private sector as opposed to George Bush's 1 million, you see that there is a real contrast.

CROWLEY: And just quickly, on a matter of strategy. We know that there has been much made of the fact that eventually your money does run out and you have got to save who you can and toss some others overboard. When are you going to begin to toss some of your weaker Democratic candidates overboard in terms of money?

HOYER: We don't think we have weak Democratic candidates right now.

CROWLEY: OK.

HOYER: Candy, I'm not done. You didn't expect an answer to that. Clearly we will look at, and if there are candidates that are very substantially behind, and they can't make it, clearly we will have to make some tough judgments.

But with all due respect to my good friend Carl Hulse, who I think is a terrific reporter, that decision has not been made, as Chris Van Hollen made it very clear. And in fact, Betsy Markey, who was one of those, Frank Kratovil, one of those mentioned in Carl's article, are absolutely top priorities for me and for our party. Betsy Markey is tied in the polls. Frank Kratovil is slightly ahead. So these candidates are in very good shape, and they are going to win.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much.

HOYER: Thank you, Candy.

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CROWLEY: Democratic leader Steny Hoyer, we appreciate your time.

HOYER: Appreciate it.

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