The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition has been a rather enigmatic lot in recent years. And its members get grief from liberals for being too conservative and/or too corporate, yet Indiana’s Blue Dog Congressmen (Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill, Joe Donnelly, etc.) are constantly blasted in the conservative blogosphere for being — pardon me for this — "lapdogs" for the Obama administration.
But now, it seems Speaker Pelosi may be taking genuine heat from this caucus. Roll Call explains:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made passing a jobs agenda her top priority this year, but an anti-deficit insurgency led by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), the administrative co-chairwoman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, has forced Pelosi to scale back her ambitions.
With concerns about deficits rising and rank-and-file Democrats fearing losses in November, Blue Dog clout has soared in recent weeks, and liberal priorities from health care benefits for the jobless to tens of billions of dollars in aid to the states have ended up on the chopping block. In the tumult, Herseth Sandlin has emerged to head a new generation of Blue Dogs as old-guard members such as Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) are heading for the exits or lowering their profiles.
The pivotal moment came shortly before the Memorial Day recess, with Pelosi planning to push through a nearly $200 billion package of tax cut extensions, doctor payments, jobless benefits and state aid. But Herseth Sandlin warned the measure didn’t have the votes and would have to be trimmed significantly.
“While we’ve been invited to share our concerns and leadership has listened, not everyone is hearing us,” she told reporters at the time.
Within a day, Democratic leaders were forced to carve their bill nearly in half in a mad scramble for votes.
And this week, the leadership’s plans for a war spending bill had to be cut back in the face of demands from Blue Dogs that add-on aid for states and money for the Pell Grant program be fully offset. The bill will include just $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs — less than half the amount sought by leadership and President Barack Obama…
Blue Dogs won another victory in this year’s budget battles by extracting a $7 billion cut from Obama’s budget request — a level that will likely force cuts to some domestic spending programs treasured by liberals.
So what do you think? Genuine uproar within the party that could alter its platform, or just contrived friction that will ultimately mean nothing?
UPDATE: Also discovered this article, contemplating a possible Blue Dog coup to overtake Pelosi’s speakership. Doesn’t seem likely, but an interesting thought.