Hoyer Guides Moderate Dems as Impeachment Heats Up

Hoyer and Pelosi
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are guiding the House Democrats' impeachment strategy. File photo

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer is a main player in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, but much of his work is happening behind the scenes. 

The Maryland Democrat isn’t in as many national news headlines or on as many cable TV hits as some of his colleagues leading the charge on the impeachment proceedings, but he’s been central in shaping the messaging, guiding moderate members through the process and translating complicated procedural details for newer members of Congress. 

Hoyer, who’s served in the House for 38 years, will also be tasked with scheduling floor votes on articles of impeachment if they’re adopted by the House Judiciary Committee, which could happen this year. 

“As the majority leader, [Hoyer] plays a key role,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). “He has been promoting unity in the caucus across different committees and different political and intellectual tendencies.” 

Hoyer’s basic message to the caucus on impeachment is simple, he told Maryland Matters in an interview this week: “We have a responsibility to the Constitution, to our democracy and to the American people to make sure that power is not being abused. … That has been my message from the beginning until this very day, and we are exercising that responsibility.” 

Within the caucus, Hoyer has a reputation for resonating more with moderates, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has more sway with progressives. 

“Obviously the speaker represents the entire caucus and Steny represents the entire caucus, but he has very much carved out a role for himself in general of making sure that the views and the political context of more moderate members are taken into account,” Raskin said. 

Hoyer said he and Pelosi have long complemented each other in that way. 

“One of the reasons we’ve had success over the years,” he said, is that “Nancy and I could reach across the breadth of the caucus.” Hoyer said he could connect with some of the more conservative Democrats, while Pelosi “could reach probably more effectively the center-left of our caucus.” 

Hoyer is also seen as a mentor to House Democratic freshmen, and he’s a top fundraiser for other House Democrats, including the “Frontline” members the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified as vulnerable incumbents in 2020.

Thirty-nine of the 43 “Frontline” lawmakers are freshmen; many are moderates who represent districts that voted for Trump in the 2016 White House election. 

“I think they have a level of confidence that I’m concerned about their interests and their districts and their re-election,” Hoyer said of freshmen Democrats.

He noted a candlelight tour of the U.S. Capitol he gave to the freshmen who came to Washington, D.C., for orientation after their elections. During the tour, he said, he tried to convey to the newcomers: “They don’t work for me; they don’t work for Nancy; they don’t work for anybody else in the caucus. They work for some 750,000 people in their districts.” 

Impeachment ‘is a unifying thing’ 

Hoyer and other Democrats say that he and Pelosi are fully in sync on House impeachment proceedings, although their personal relationship has long been complicated.

It helps to have the caucus aligned against Trump’s behavior, Raskin said. 

“Impeachment right now is a unifying thing within the Democratic caucus; everyone is appalled by the criminality and the corruption,” he said. Raskin serves on the Judiciary Committee, and will likely be central to drafting articles of impeachment after the investigation phase of the impeachment inquiry wraps up. 

Another House Democrat who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that, during caucus meetings, Pelosi tends to lead with broad speeches about impeachment before Hoyer dives into the details of the procedure. 

Pelosi’s role as speaker, Hoyer said, is to “set an overall direction and vision” for the caucus. 

As the majority leader, Hoyer is in charge of the action on the House floor. 

“He is controlling the schedule and the timing of different legislative events and debates so he does translate everything into the nitty-gritty details of legislative process and procedure,” Raskin said. 

Hoyer said that those roles aren’t steadfast; Pelosi is interested in process and he’s similarly interested in the vision of the caucus. 

Asked about possible Republican votes on articles of impeachment, Hoyer said it would be appropriate for Republican lawmakers “to do the same thing I ask of others and myself. Do what you think is right.” 

He added, “My feeling is that if you substitute [Barack] Obama as the president of the United States and the exact same fact pattern we have seen … they would vote, I think, to say that this was wrongdoing.” 

[email protected]