Blue Dogs Put Out No Vacancy’ Sign

Posted March 5, 2009 at 3:07pm

Aspiring fiscally conservative Democrats — and the National Republican Congressional Committee — take note: The Blue Dogs are once again at capacity.The tight-knit coalition of Democratic budget hawks two years ago capped its membership at 20 percent of the overall Democratic Caucus in order to guard against growing unwieldy.Democratic gains in November allowed the group to open its doors, briefly, to accommodate the four freshmen who as candidates had won the group’s endorsement — Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Parker Griffith (Ala.), Frank Kratovil (Md.) and Walt Minnick (Idaho) — and two incumbents who had been waiting in line: Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Harry Mitchell (Ariz.).The group recently decided to stretch its membership constraints, lifting the cap to 21 percent of the Caucus to admit two more, freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (Va.) and sophomore Rep. Jason Altmire (Pa.). The coalition now claims 51 members, up from 47 in the 110th Congress and 34 in the 109th, and has no plans to grow anytime soon.Nevertheless, the NRCC on Thursday launched an attack on Democratic freshmen not joining the group, sending out press releases asserting that the Blue Dogs rejected those lawmakers because they did not pass the group’s litmus test for fiscal conservatism.In a release directed at freshman Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.), for example, NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain said the Congressman’s “rejection from the conservative Blue Dog Coalition provides even more convincing evidence that Kissell’s calls for fiscal responsibility’ were nothing more than empty rhetoric.—Not true, said Blue Dog spokeswoman Kristen Hawn, who said lawmakers targeted by the release were not seeking admission to the group.“This is yet another fabricated press release sent out by the Republicans who are looking to attack fiscally responsible, commonsense Democrats in the House,— Hawn said. “It is shameless political ploy that has no basis in truth.—