Blue Dogs, CBC Seek Consensus

Posted July 23, 2003 at 5:06pm

In yet another attempt by House Democrats to forge unity within their Caucus, the conservative Blue Dogs and the progressive Congressional Black Caucus held a rare session this week and agreed to join forces in pressing for action on several topics where their interests intersect.

The Blue Dogs and CBC met Tuesday to exchange ideas and attempt to bridge the divide between the two groups. Members went in without expectations, sources in both caucuses said, but walked out deciding to form three task forces.

Members will in the coming weeks put together joint groups on the deficit, health care and education and the military. Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), a leader of the Blue Dogs, and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) initiated the idea to form the task forces.

Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), who leads the Blue Dog communications effort, said the task forces will work on policy initiatives and legislation. He said that so often people “look at the different wings of the Democratic Party,” rather than their commonalities.

“There are a lot of things we agree on,” Hill said of the Blue Dogs and CBC. “Sometimes we are so involved in our differences, we don’t consciously concentrate on what we agree upon.”

The CBC chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), said that by meeting together, the two groups realized “we had more in common than our differences.”

“This is a major moment, a defining moment for both caucuses,” Cummings said.

Scott Downes, spokesman for Hill, said the Blue Dogs wanted the meeting with the CBC because it was looking to “work with other groups we hadn’t thought of before or worked with before.”

“You wouldn’t think the Blue Dogs and the CBC would have a whole lot in common, but actually they do,” Downes said.

Many Blue Dog members represent significant minority populations, while many CBC members sit in rural districts similar in makeup to those of many of the Blue Dogs, aides to both groups said.

“There are areas of agreement where the two caucuses can work together and come up with some good ideas and good policies,” said Doug Thornell, spokesman for the CBC.

Thornell added that there’s strength in numbers and by working together the two groups can find more support for their ideas.