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Hoyer: Van Hollen is a progressive Democrat

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, during a Congressional Flag Presentation Ceremony to honor the nation's fallen firefighters, as part of the 2015 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ORG XMIT: OTK
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, during a Congressional Flag Presentation Ceremony to honor the nation's fallen firefighters, as part of the 2015 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ORG XMIT: OTK (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Rep. Steny Hoyer is steering clear of the Senate primary in Maryland, but the longtime legislator said Friday he doesn't buy some of the criticism being leveled at Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, is running against Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince George's County for the seat. Edwards has frequently questioned Van Hollen's progressive bona fides, and has suggested he is too cozy with the banking industry.

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"I think that Chris Van Hollen is not a Wall Street Democrat," Hoyer said with a chuckle in response to a question about Edwards' criticism.

"He's a progressive Democrat, and I think his record reflects that," the Southern Maryland lawmaker added. "Have I read the attacks or the assertions? The answer is yes, and I don't agree with the conclusion."

The remarks came during a wide ranging interview with Maryland reporters that touched on the looming fight over government spending, congressional redistricting and the effort to bring the new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Prince George's County.

Hoyer said he was encouraged by a recent environmental review of the three sites competing for the FBI building -- two in Maryland and one in Virginia -- that, read one way, appeared to underscore advantages for his state. He said he is already working across the aisle in an effort to secure funding for the building.

"I think there's an appetite for getting the FBI into a consolidated, new facility," Hoyer said. "It's much more efficient -- much more conducive to effective work."

Hoyer was more circumspect on the appropriations process working its way through Congress ahead of a deadline to fund the government or trigger a government shutdown.

Despite a broad budget agreement signed by President Barack Obama this month, lawmakers still must approve specific spending by Dec. 11. There is concern the process could get mired in a recurring fight over funding for Planned Parenthood.

Hoyer said it would be a significant setback for House Speaker Paul Ryan, sworn in late last month, if Congress doesn't come together on a spending bill.

"If we don't, then Paul Ryan will have failed," Hoyer said. "We've come to an agreement, we have funding levels. I would certainly hope that this speaker would exercise his leadership to assure that we come to a compromise...We ought not to have riders that put at risk keeping the government of the United States open."

Hoyer has largely avoided questions about the contest to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, and he reiterated Friday that he did not expect to endorse in the race, nor in the state's two open House contests.

Hoyer (himself more of a centrist) and Edwards (often ranked among the most liberal lawmakers in Washington) have had a sometimes rocky relationship that has occasionally spilled into public view.

Hoyer's comments marked the second time a member of House leadership has appeared to come to Van Hollen's defense over questions about his political ideology. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is close with the party's liberals, pushed back against criticism from national liberal groups that Van Hollen has been too open to entitlement cuts.

"I have every confidence in Mr. Van Hollen," Pelosi said in March. "He's gone to the table bringing values of our caucus to the negotiating table under any one of these configurations.  And in every case, quite frankly, he has been the champion on these issues -- but again, a value that he shares with the other candidates who are running as well."

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