From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Expect health-reform legislation to emerge from the House next month, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters in one of his regular off-camera briefings.
He also touched on the economy, saying he saw positive signs, as well as Afghanistan and tomorrow's auto talks designed to give some say to dealers who had their franchises closed on them -- even if they were profitable. On Afghanistan, Hoyer reiterated that he'd like to see what Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- the U.S. commander in Afghanistan -- has to say.
Though he expects a health-reform bill in October, Hoyer noted that there is no deadline set.
"The speaker and I are in lockstep on this," he said, adding with a smile, "I'm sure that'll be the headline."
Echoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hoyer said a bill won't come up for a vote until it's ready. He outlined familiar requirements for the bill, like bringing costs down and bending the curve, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office -- all things he and Democratic leaders have stressed previously.
What's in or out -- i.e. the public option -- Hoyer said is still "in flux."
He labeled Republicans again as the "Party of No" and accused them of wanting to slow down the process and for not being genuine about their want for reform.
Hoyer said he does not believe Rep. Charles Boustany and Minority Whip Eric Cantor agree with 80 percent of what's in various pieces of legislation, as they have said. Hoyer reached out to both last week, but said he met with just Boustany, but has not met with Cantor and doesn't expect to at this point. [*** UPDATE *** In response to this post, Cantor's office said Hoyer never reached out. "Last week the Majority Leader suggested that he wanted to meet with Republican Whip Eric Cantor," said spokesman Brad Dayspring. "In the absence of an invitation from the Majority Leader, Mr. Cantor will request a meeting with Mr. Hoyer this week to focus on the areas of agreement as outlined in previous public statements. Mr. Cantor looks forward to a positive policy forum where the exchange of ideas is welcome."]
Hoyer accused Republicans of "trying to scare seniors to somehow project themselves as the protectors of Medicare." He said it was not believable, considering the GOP's past positions on Medicare. Hoyer added that Medicare would not be substantially affected under legislation going through the House.
On the economy, he said he sees positive signs, including that Wall Street is about to report its most successful quarter since 1998, "the last time," Hoyer pointed out, that "we had a Democratic president."
He noted that unemployment applications are down. New jobs numbers come out on Friday, and Hoyer said he hopes they will reflect a further decrease in the number of jobs shed. He called TARP "unpopular" but "necessary," and credited it and the stimulus with helping the economy out of a "trough." Hoyer added that financial institutions are beginning to pay back TARP money and that so far the government has made a 17% profit on what's been paid back -- though he stressed it's too early to tell that the government will make a profit overall on TARP.
On Afghanistan, Hoyer said, "Where I stand is I want to hear from McChrystal." Republicans have also called for McChrystal to testify before Congress, and the commander was profiled this Sunday on 60 Minutes.
Hoyer left the door open for supporting more troops to the country, as he said that the U.S. took its eye off the ball by going into Iraq and there's no doubt that "Afghanistan is, in fact, the place in which attacks were planned and launched." But, he added, he wants to hear about the plan proposed and if it can succeed.
Hoyer is also set to attend talks tomorrow on car dealers, who had their franchises closed during the auto companies' restructuring.
"We want a credible appeals process" for profitable dealers, Hoyer said, adding, "Many of us feel these dealers were treated relatively without process, due process or any process."
He noted that some states have laws on the books protecting franchisees from franchisors, "so we're very concerned."