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.
“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.”
Pelosi’s continued leadership, meanwhile, has the Blue Dogs looking to go their own way more than ever.
Pelosi’s aides point out that she has tapped Blue Dogs — including Matheson and Blue Dog Co-Chairmen Heath Shuler (N.C.) and John Barrow (Ga.) — to sit on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and that she regularly talks with members of the group on an individual basis.
In the minority Pelosi has “clear goals” that she will “work through all the Members of our Caucus to achieve,” spokesman Nadeam Elshami said.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, who represents the Blue Dogs in leadership meetings and also co-chairs the PAC, voted against Pelosi in last week’s Speaker tally on the House floor. He said his vote against his fellow Californian was for the “60 ghosts that are no longer here.” Democrats lost the majority Nov. 2, and many of the losses came from the moderate ranks.
“I sat for three and a half years in the Democratic leadership advocating for positions that were more moderate and didn’t get listened to, and then saw this happen to our party,” Cardoza said. “Frankly, I was depressed about losing those guys. And the fact that our party doesn’t get that that’s profoundly a problem indicated to me that I had to send a very strong message yesterday when I got on the floor.”
The Blue Dog complaints over the 111th Congress start at the beginning.
Ross said the $787 billion stimulus package in 2009 was poorly drafted, with too much spent on tax cuts that most people didn’t realize they received and spending programs that didn’t do much to help the economy, as well as not enough invested in road and sewer projects that would have put people to work.
He also said that the cap-and-trade energy bill never should have come to the House floor when it was never going to pass the Senate and that the health care overhaul was far too complicated and should have been broken up into smaller pieces. More targeted health care reforms would have garnered bipartisan support and would have been easier to explain to the public, Ross said.
And above everything, Blue Dogs leaders argued, Democrats should have kept their eyes on creating jobs and boosting the economy.
“The economy was in the worst recession since the Depression, and four weeks after Obama was inaugurated, he signs the stimulus bill,” Matheson said. “At that point jobs and the economy went out the window. ... This isn’t hindsight. A lot of us in the Blue Dog Coalition were talking about that then.”
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.