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Blue Dogs on K Street Say Their Clout Stays

But Will Big Election Losses Cost Them?

File Photo
Charles Stenholm, left, of Olsson Frank Weeda and Bud Cramer of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates are interviewed by Roll Call in the C2 Group's Penn Quarter Office in April.

Even though Republicans swept dozens of centrist Democrats out of office last week, Blue Dog lobbyists argue that demand for their services will not diminish in the new Congress.

“I’m not worried,” said former Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.), a Blue Dog Coalition co-founder and chairman at Wexler & Walker.

The fiscally conservative coalition suffered extensive losses in the midterms. As of press time, defeat or retirement will force half of the group’s 54 members off Capitol Hill early next year, winnowing their rolls roughly to 1994 levels.

Fewer Blue Dog allies on the Hill might mean that firms, trade associations and corporate offices need fewer lobbyists with ties to the coalition. Even more, House Republicans are giving few indications that they want to work with the minority-to-be. On Friday, a House GOP leadership aide told Roll Call that “the remaining Blue Dogs will be fairly irrelevant in a much more liberal House Democratic Caucus.”

Depending on the outcome of a leadership fight between Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), a Blue Dog ally, and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), it’s uncertain how well-represented moderate House Democrats will be within their party’s leadership next year. Adding to the coming intrigue of the 112th Congress, House Republicans are expected to try to entice moderate Democrats to switch parties, as they famously did with Blue Dog co-founder Billy Tauzin (La.) 15 years ago.

But Cramer and a small circle of Blue Dog lobbyists said their clout on K Street will not ebb even in such an environment.

While fewer members means the coalition’s role on Capitol Hill and K Street will inevitably change, they argued that Republican leaders and the business community will increasingly turn to moderate Democrats to push through their legislation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “could afford to lose 30 votes and still get things passed,” one Blue Dog lobbyist said. Presumptive Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “can’t lose 30 votes and get anything passed, unless he comes to us to get it done.”

Strength in (Smaller) Numbers?

“We’re a smaller group, but in some ways a smaller group is more mobile and can more easily take positions on issues,” the source added.

Since launching in 1995 with 23 moderate Democratic members, the coalition ballooned to more than 50 after House Democratic pickups in conservative districts in recent cycles.

Two of the organization’s leaders, Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.) and Baron Hill (Ind.), were knocked off by their GOP opponents this cycle, leaving Reps. Health Shuler (N.C.) and Jim Matheson (Utah) at the helm.

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