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Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Blue Dogs: The New Congressional Rainmakers

In much of Europe, Israel, Canada, Mexico and many other places their governments run in a parlimentary system. In such a system, there are always several parties that field candidates. One party almost never gets a majority but rather a plurality of the vote. As such, in order to govern, that party forms coalition with one or more of the smaller parties. In such a system, it is usually one of the smaller parties that plays rainmaker. Because both major parties are a known entity, and opponents of each other, it is one of the smaller parties that is needed to form. As such, while they may only make up about ten percent of the parliament, they ultimately hold much of the power.

Here in the United States, we don't have a parlimentary system. Yet, we may have a dynamic in place in which a small coalition will wind up holding all the power in Congress. That group is the Blue Dog Democrats. This is a group of about 40 Representatives and 10 Senators. This group is moderate. In fact, they are so moderate, that some, like me, consider most to be more conservative than many of their Republican counterparts. Furthermore, they are all from red states and districts. As such, they can't afford a liberal agenda or they will face a conservative Republican in their next re election running to their right.

The Blue Dogs have made their first demand for power.

Blue Dog Democrats Friday called on the Democratic Caucus to support “moderate voices” in the slew of leadership decisions the party will be making this month.

The release did not name any of the races or contenders, but Blue Dog sources say it can be seen as preliminary support for Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a brewing bid for vice chairman of the caucus and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) in his fight to stave off a committee chairmanship challenge from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

“As the moderate faction of our caucus has grown and contributed to our large majority, our leadership must have more moderate voices at the table if we want to continue to be successful, strong, and effective as a caucus,” said Blue Dog leader Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.).

It will be interesting to see just how much leadership power the Blue Dogs gain in terms of committee charimanship. Yet, their real power will be in crafting legislation. The Blue Dogs are just as likely to be voting with the Republicans (if not frankly more likely) as they are with the Democrats. They are certainly a lot more afraid of a radical Congress than are the Republicans. Republicans are hoping for a far left Congress so that they can use it as bludgeon against folks JUST LIKE the Blue Dogs in 2010. The Blue Dogs would of course be the recipients of just such an attack. Blue Dogs are so fiscally conservative that they favor the tool of PAYGO, offsetting spending increases with spending cuts elsewhere. They are also generally socially conservative. It was Blue Dog Rep, Heath Shuler, that introduced the very pro enforcement anti illegal immigration bill, the SAVE Act. Finally, it was the Blue Dogs that couldn't be gotten in order to pass the Iraq War funding bill with a timetable. On all these crucial issues, the Blue Dogs will be up for grab so to speak.

As such, the Blue Dogs are position to be the ultimate rainmakers on any legislation. It will be their vote that will be crucial for any legislation to pass. It was in fact Speaker Pelosi's failure to craft legislation that the Blue Dogs would favor that caused the last Congress to be so impotent. President Elect Obama may think that he has a mandate for a sharp move to the left, however I am of the opinion that in the districts of the Blue Dogs there is no such mandate. In order for any legislation to pass, it will have to get the Blue Dog's seal of approval. For the Blue Dogs crafting legislation with enough moderation to be acceptable in their own districts is a matter of survival. They will act as such, and thus, they are now the rainmakers of D.C.

1 comment:

The Lizard said...

Hope you are right. The blue dogs need to continue their moderation efforts. Without them acting as a counter balance to the Obama, Reid, Pelosi wing the country is in dire straights. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid believe they are moderates so it will be interesting to see how the Congressional leadership treats the real blue dog moderates.