With numbers rising, Blue Dogs aim for bigger bite

As Congress considers President Obama’s legislative agenda, a growing number of moderate and conservative Democrats working in the U.S. Capitol plan to drive policy discussions.

Nowhere is this power shift within the Democratic Party more apparent than in the Blue Dog Coalition, a collection of fiscally conservative Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Over the past four years, as Democrats gained ground in traditionally Republican districts, the fiscally conservative caucus has grown from 33 members in 2006 to its current strength of 51 members.

The caucus, formed in 1995, now represents roughly 20 percent of the Democrats’ 257-seat majority in the House.

“We do feel like we have a bigger seat at the table,” Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., told The Daily Sentinel.

Salazar said the Blue Dogs will demand fiscal accountability from Obama’s economic stimulus plan and other, smaller pieces of his agenda.

“We’re going to try and figure out how we can pay that back,” he said.

Norman Provizer, a political science professor at Metropolitan State College in Denver, said it is not uncommon for intraparty blocs to assert themselves as one party increases its majority in Congress.

“The more you expand your majority, the larger the number of differences you’re going to have in that group,” he said.

Democrats hold a 79-seat majority in the House.

The challenge, Provizer said, will be for Democratic leaders to keep the party united on the major issues facing the country.

David Sirota, a Denver-based author and former adviser to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, said even if the Blue Dogs manage to change parts of legislation moving through the House, more “progressive” Democrats still will be in control.

“House Blue Dogs’ roles as power players is overstated, especially when comparing their numbers to progressives,” Sirota said. “For every concession the Democratic leaders would make to the right, to the Blue Dogs, they risk losing a bigger slice of the progressives.”


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