In a direct challenge to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition voted Tuesday night to endorse a powerful bipartisan commission with fast-track authority to bring legislation to the House and Senate floor that would slash the federal deficit.If House Republicans join with the Blue Dogs, they would have the votes to roll Pelosi, who has long opposed the idea. Blue Dogs will also have leverage to push the idea when House leaders bring their jobs package to the floor next month.The SAFE Commission, sponsored by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), would set up an appointed group tasked with cutting the deficit and would have broad authority to propose tax hikes and spending reductions.I believe that the greatest threat to our nations economic security is our long-term fiscal imbalance, Cooper said in a statement. A fiscal reform commission will help Congress face these tough issues. Blue Dog support for this commission is crucial for its passage.The Blue Dog vote comes amid rising concern over the nations trillion-dollar deficits and debt that has soared past $12 trillion.Congress would have limited ability to amend the package, similar to the rules used for legislation authored by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.More than 100 lawmakers have co-sponsored the bill in the House, but Pelosi has repeatedly rejected the idea, arguing that the committees in Congress already have the ability to cut the deficit and deal with entitlements.But House leadership is deeply divided on the issue. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a fiscal hawk and an ally of the Blue Dogs, has repeatedly endorsed the commission concept. And a number of Senators led by Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) are trying to use an upcoming vote to increase the debt ceiling as leverage to get a fiscal commission passed.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.