Pelosi Facing Bite from Blue Dogs?

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.

An Early Look at the 2010 Congressional Vote

Politicos tell us it’s never too early to look ahead to the next election. Washington’s CQ Politics does so for Congress, rating 100 House districts in play in some form in the 2010 mid-term elections.

CQ has eight of Indiana’s nine incumbents in the safe category. They are Visclosky, Donnelly, Carson and Ellsworth on the Dems’ side, and Souder, Buyer, Burton and Pence for the Republicans. Baron Hill (9th District) is in the Democrat Favored listing.

Key items to watch, according to CQ:

  • Democrats will likely lose a portion of their 256-178 (one current opening) advantage. The party in charge of the White House typically loses seats during the first mid-term vote (although the GOP and President Bush were an exception in 2002)
  • Swing seats will be a big focus. In 49 districts, voters favored John McCain for president but elected a Democrat to the House; conversely, 34 districsts backed President Obama but put a Republican in the House
  • Of the 100 seats rated competitive, 59 are held by Democrats. Only three are viewed as toss-ups, a slightly higher numbers as highly competitive and the majority as slightly competitive

Much can change, however, over the next 15 months.

Stimulus Funds Available for Indiana Small Businesses

Whether you supported the stimulus or not, it’s important to know that some small businesses in Indiana may now be eligible to receive funds. Here’s the info:

On Monday, Congressman Baron Hill announced that many Southern Indiana small businesses may be eligible for interest-free loans under a new program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The “America’s Recovery Capital” (ARC) program, which goes into effect today, allows small firms to take out loans of $35,000 to pay down existing business debts. Borrowers pay no interest on the ARC loans and repayment does not begin for one year.

“Our small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and they deserve our support during this difficult period,” Hill said. “One of the best ways we can help small businesses is to provide access to capital, which is why this new loan program is so important. The ARC program gives small business owners extra breathing room so they can pay operating expenses, make payroll, retain employees, and continue their work as job creators in our economic recovery.”

To qualify for the ARC loans, small firms must demonstrate they are experiencing immediate financial hardship due to the economic downturn, but are otherwise deemed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to be viable. The loans will be made by commercial lenders and can be used for payments of principal and interest for existing, qualifying small business debts like credit card obligations, mortgages, lines of credit, and balances due to suppliers, vendors, and utilities.

To apply for ARC loans, businesses should visit their local SBA-approved small business lenders. The loans will be available through Sept. 30, 2010, or until appropriated funding runs out. Additional information about the ARC loan program is available at http://www.sba.gov/recovery/arcloanprogram/index.html.

In addition to the ARC loan program, the ARRA contained other measures aimed at helping small firms access credit. For instance, the new law increases the percentage of a loan that the SBA can guarantee, makes SBA-backed loans more affordable and provides tools to unfreeze the small business credit markets, helping small companies access capital at affordable rates.

Hat tip to Inside INdiana Business.

Obama’s Budget Passes, Indiana Chamber Opposes

The U.S. House passed the budget on a party-line vote Thursday night, 233-196; later the Senate passed a modified version 55-43 with two Democrats joining all 41 Republicans in opposition. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Shirkieville) was one of the two.

This budget calls for approximately $4 trillion in expenditures in a single year, or nearly 29% of our country’s gross domestic product (GDP). According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the Obama Administration’s budget blueprint, if followed, would double the national debt in five years and nearly triple it by 2019 – a point at which America’s federal debt would equal 82% of GDP.

The Indiana Chamber adamantly opposes such irresponsible spending, as well as many of the specific programs and tax increases included in the president’s proposal and urged the entire Indiana congressional delegation to reject the president’s proposal and adopt a more fiscally restrained, responsible alternative.

In addition to unsustainable spending and unacceptable levels of public indebtedness, President Obama’s budget would radically alter the federal government’s relationship to its citizens through expansive new proposals regarding taxation, energy, environmental regulation and health care. Hoosiers are looking for a common-sense solution to restore the economy, not an expansive overhaul of federal government programs. Increasing taxes as a means to finance new federal spending on health care reform, Medicare and energy policy resulting in the country’s largest government expansion in decades is the wrong answer at the wrong time. The country simply cannot afford a budget this out-sized, nor can we expect small businesses to invest in the economy or employ workers while their livelihoods are threatened by tax hikes and federal intervention across numerous markets and industries.

The Indiana Chamber is alarmed at the sheer size of the president’s proposal and what it portends for the future of free enterprise, job creation and economic growth in our country.

HOW THEY VOTED:  Within Indiana’s Congressional delegation, Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republicans Dan Burton, Steve Buyer, Mike Pence and Mark Souder voted against the budget plan. Democrats Andre Carson, Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill and Pete Visclosky voted in favor. In the Senate, both Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh voted against.

Auto Bailout Passes House

The auto bailout for the Big 3 (Chrysler, Ford, GM), worth $14 billion of assistance, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 237-170. Here’s how Indiana’s Congressmen voted:

For
Andre Carson (D)
Joe Donnelly (D)
Brad Ellsworth (D)
Baron Hill (D)
Pete Visclosky (D)
Steve Buyer (R)
Mark Souder (R)

Against
Dan Burton (R)
Mike Pence (R)

The bill now heads to the Senate. Indiana’s junior Senator Evan Bayh (D) has this to say:

“We’re faced with trying to choose the best among unpalatable alternatives. Nobody wanted to give money to the banks or to the insurance companies, and nobody wants to give money to the auto industry. I don’t. But if the alternative is losing hundreds of thousands of jobs and having automakers, dealerships, part suppliers, and other retailers in local communities go down, we have to make a hard choice here.

“People think the economy is bad now, but if we let all these companies go belly up, and all those folks get laid off, I’m afraid it would be much worse.

“Indiana has a huge stake in this debate. If the big auto companies go down and thousands of jobs are lost, it’s going to hit us a lot harder than almost any place else in the country."

Bailout Supporters and Detractors

No matter what side of yesterday’s great bailout debate you were on, you’d probably like to know how Indiana’s Congressmen voted, so here goes:

Voted Against:

Dan Burton (R)
Mike Pence (R)
Steve Buyer (R)
Pete Visclosky (D)
Andre Carson (D)
Baron Hill (D)

Voted For:

Joe Donnelly (D)
Brad Ellsworth (D)
Mark Souder (R)

(Hat tip to Hoosier Access.)

Ultimately, the $700 billion bailout was defeated 228-205. Indiana Congressman Mike Pence’s quote in a Bloomberg article was also highlighted in today’s Drudge Report:

"The American People rejected this bill and now Congress did likewise," Pence said.

Making the (Indiana) Call on Congress

Our panel of media/blogging experts previewed election topics far and wide in the current issue of BizVoice. The roundtable discussion included a Congressional look, which didn’t make the cut for the print edition.

While three seats went from Republicans to Democrats in 2006, most pundits see fewer opportunities for change this time around. A few of the insghts:

  • The fourth straight matchup between Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel in the 9th District will again be the one to watch. Matt Tully of the Indianapolis Star says the past negative races kept both sides quieter early in the process, but expect a strong final push. Joshua Gillespie of Hoosier Access adds that a wildcard is some high-ranking Democrats upset with Hill’s endorsement of Barack Obama during the primary.
  • Republican challengers will likely embrace the energy issue. WXNT Radio’s Abdul Hakim-Shabazz wouldn’t be surprised at a compromise from the Democrats to take that chip away from the GOP, with the knowledge that an agreement today won’t yield substantial impacts for a number of years.
  • In the Senate as a whole, Jeff Pruitt of Fort Wayne Politics puts the over/under at five on seats switching to the Democrat side.
  • Pruitt notes it’s a longshot bid, but he says Demcrat challenger Mike Montagano is running well early against incumbent Mark Souder, seeking his eighth term.

BizVoice has much, much more on Election ’08.