Blue Dogs Add Four Members

The embattled House Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats has added four members, its co-chairmen announced Wednesday.

Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Ron Barber, both of Arizona, along with Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia joined the group, bringing its ranks to 19 members, according to a release from the group, up from its lowest-ever level of just 15 members.

The once-powerful group has seen its influence on Capitol Hill wane along with its ranks in recent years. Peaking at 54 members in the 111th Congress, its ranks of moderate and conservative Democrats were decimated by Republicans in 2010.

The group reached its peak in influence during the health care debate, moving the Democratic Caucus to the center, with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., regularly meeting with its members regularly to bargain for support.

The group was facing the possibility of dipping even lower in numbers next year. Since the start of 2014, two of its longtime members announced they will retire at the end of this session: Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina. A third Blue Dog, Rep. Michael H. Michaud, is running for Maine's governorship.

And in fact, the group still faces the prospect of heading into the 114th Congress with fewer members. Barber, Sinema and Rahall face some of the most difficult re-election prospects of any representatives, and other members of the coalition, such as Reps. John Barrow of Georgia and Pete Gallego of Texas, are among the GOP's top targets.

Still, the group's co-chairmen — Barrow, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Kurt Schrader of Oregon — cast their presence on the Hill as a necessary counterbalance to the gridlock and partisanship of the past few years. Barrow noted their regular meetings with a like-minded group of Republican moderates.

“As Blue Dogs, we continue to meet regularly with the Republican Tuesday Group to find commonsense solutions that both parties can agree on, and we welcome any Democrat who values this approach to policy-making,” he said in the statement.