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New Democrats Feel Their Time Is Coming

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Joe Crowley, chairman of the New Democrat Coalition and a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the coalition would play an influential role in tax reform next year.

With a tax reform debate looming and House seats to compete for in suburban districts throughout the country, members of the New Democrat Coalition say their stock is rising.

Like the once-mighty Blue Dog Coalition, the New Democrats have had a diminished role in the minority, with a smaller membership and few legislative opportunities to flex their influence on stock issues such as trade and innovation. But unlike the predominantly rural and Southern Blue Dog membership, New Democrats from urban and suburban districts contend that their numbers will only increase after the 2012 elections.

“Many of the seats that we’re going to be competitive in and we’re going to win back, I think, are seats that appeal to the New Dem Coalition’s message,” Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the group, said in a recent interview. “And I have no doubt many of those folks will seek to become New Dems.”

A senior Democratic aide conceded that “the fiscally moderate, pro-choice, pro-gay-rights voters, those are the districts we’re going to be winning back before we win back the rural Blue Dog districts.”

But, the aide cautioned, “If we do take back the House, I think it’s important to remember they need to work well together to be effective.”

There have been moments of coordination this year, most recently relating to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. Leaders from both camps rallied several dozen of their Democratic colleagues to sign on to a bipartisan letter challenging the panel to negotiate a sweeping agreement. Despite the super committee’s failure to agree on any plan last week, many observers took note of the diverse factions of House Members coming together to push for fiscal reform.

New Democrats have also forged ahead on their own, recently unveiling a sweeping tax proposal that Democratic lobbyists say was well-received downtown. Crowley, who sits on the Way and Means Committee, predicted the coalition would play an influential role in tax reform next year. While some Democratic aides wonder whether House Republicans will take on the issue in 2012, others note that the GOP is under pressure to extend the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush and extended under President Barack Obama. New Democrats don’t support extending cuts for the top tax brackets, but they could be wooed with a broader package that includes lowering marginal corporate rates.

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