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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s allies are pushing back forcefully against criticism from leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition that she has not done enough to reach out to them.
The California Democrat has never had close ties to the moderate group, but the relationship went into a deep freeze following the November midterm elections, which thinned the Blue Dogs’ ranks by roughly half.
Top Blue Dogs criticized Pelosi’s decision to stay on as Democratic leader, saying her leadership contributed to their colleagues’ losses and the subsequent GOP takeover. One group member, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), challenged her for the Minority Leader post during Caucus elections in November, and most Blue Dogs refused to back Pelosi for Speaker on the floor last month.
Sources close to the group say there has been little, if any, ebb in Blue Dogs’ frustration with Pelosi.
Shuler on Monday said in an interview on MSNBC that there has “been really no communication whatsoever” between the Minority Leader and the Blue Dogs, who gathered in New York City this week for their annual issues conference.
“She’s supposed to be the leader of the Caucus,” said one Democratic lobbyist with ties to the group. “You’d think the leader would want to meet with all groups represented under the broad umbrella of the Caucus. That doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Pelosi’s fellow Californian Rep. Dennis Cardoza was among the Blue Dogs who opposed her for Speaker last month. During the 111th Congress, Cardoza served as an informal liaison between Democratic leadership and the Blue Dogs, giving him an entree to leadership meetings. But that position no longer exists in the 112th Congress.
Still, lawmakers and aides on Tuesday defended Pelosi, insisting she has been doing more to include moderate voices in her decision-making. She tapped a Blue Dog, Rep. Henry Cuellar, as a vice chairman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a role that gives the Texas Democrat a prominent stake in coordinating Democrats’ messaging strategy and internal communications. And a Democratic source pointed out that Pelosi added three Blue Dogs — Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah) and Shuler — to the Steering Committee this year.
Over the most recent 10-day recess, which ended Tuesday, Pelosi spoke in person or over the phone with 15 of the group’s 26 members, the source said, noting that Pelosi’s staff also meets weekly with staff from the Blue Dog offices.