Steny Hoyer: GOP Congress Focuses On Appeasing Conservatives, Not Legislating

WASHINGTON -- The man in charge of keeping House Democratic votes in line isn't holding out hope that Republicans will actually cooperate with President Barack Obama.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said during an interview ahead of Tuesday night's State of the Union address that it's important for Obama to strike a conciliatory tone, but he's seen little to suggest that Republicans plan to use their majority in both houses of Congress to find areas of common ground.

"The Republicans continue to send messages to their most conservative wing," Hoyer told HuffPost Live. "If that’s all they’re going to do, we’re not going to go forward very quickly or very successfully."

Hoyer pointed to some of the bills Republicans have brought up since they took control of both chambers in January, including approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for rape or incest and to save the mother's life. The White House issued threats to veto both bills.

If Republicans fail to act as serious legislating partners, Hoyer added, then Obama has the authority to take limited action on his own, as he did with his executive order on immigration in November.

"Ultimately, it takes two to tango. And if the Republicans don’t want to tango, there’s nothing that the president can do," Hoyer said. "The Republicans have a decision to make ... are they able to take half a loaf, two-thirds of a loaf, or do they need 100 percent of a loaf?"

Watch the interview above.

Hoyer also expressed confidence that Democrats will continue to hold influence over the legislative process despite being relegated to the minority in both chambers. Obama is looking to broker deals on trade and tax reform with Republicans, but Hoyer noted that divisions within the GOP will require Democratic votes for any deals.

Maxwell Tani contributed reporting.