From left: Reps. Heath Shuler, John Barrow, Mike Ross and Dan Boren, leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, say they are still frustrated with Nancy Pelosis leadership and are willing to work with Republicans on issues such as shrinking the deficit.
Blue Dog Democrats remain deeply frustrated with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership and are signaling they are ready to break ranks and cut deals with Republicans.
In an interview with Roll Call last week, the leadership team of the fiscally conservative group talked about its vision for the 112th Congress — and its frustration over how Pelosi ran the 111th.
The California Democrat has yet to reach out to the moderate bloc since Democrats lost the majority, nor has she acknowledged any mistakes, they argued. Blue Dogs remain flummoxed over her decision to stay on as the party’s leader after she presided over what they consider to be a series of political blunders that led to Democrats’ historic defeat at the polls on Nov. 2, and most of them refused to vote for Pelosi for Speaker on the floor last week.
Blue Dogs have already started having informal discussions with Republicans in the hope that they can help forge bipartisan deals like they did between President Bill Clinton and the GOP after the 1994 Republican takeover.
“We have an opportunity that’s the same opportunity the Blue Dogs did with welfare reform,” said Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), who co-chairs the Blue Dog Coalition’s political action committee and replaced retired Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.) as one of the Democratic Caucus’ chief deputy whips. “They were the bridge and they were the group that held that together in a bipartisan way to make it happen.”
Matheson said it is too early to say which issue will be this Congress’ equivalent of welfare reform, but he noted that creating jobs, helping small businesses and reining in the deficit are areas on which the Blue Dogs intend to focus.
Blue Dog Co-Chairman Mike Ross said the group can be the bridge between the parties in a grand deficit-cutting compromise.
“We would welcome an opportunity to work with this new majority and the White House on developing a responsible plan to put us on a path toward restoring fiscal discipline and accountability to our government,” the Arkansas Democrat said. “We think we’re the perfect group to do that.”
Ross also referenced the 1994 GOP takeover, which sparked the creation of the Blue Dog Coalition.
“You’ve got to remember that the Blue Dogs were founded in the minority, so whether we’re in the minority or majority really doesn’t matter to us,” he said. “What’s important to us is we believe — whether you talk about the debt or you talk about the economy — these are very difficult times. And it’s time for both political parties to put the talking points down and start finding ways to work together.”
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