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Blue Dog Democrat

Definition and Political Philosophy

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The term Blue Dog Democrat is used to describe members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are moderate or more conservative in their voting record and political philosophy than other, more liberal, congressmen in their party.

The ranks of the Blue Dog Democrat fell dramatically beginning in 2010 as the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats grew wider. Two members lost their primary races in Election 2012 to more liberal Democrats.

There are several explanations for how the name Blue Dog Democrat was devised. One is that founding members of the congressional caucus in the mid-1990s claim to have felt "choked blue by the extremes in both parties." Another explanation for the term Blue Dog Democrat is that the group initially held its meetings in an office that had a painting of a blue dog on the wall.

Blue Dog Democrat Philosophy

A Blue Dog Democrat is one who views himself as being in the middle of the partisan spectrum and as an advocate for fiscal restraint at the federal level.

The preamble to the Blue Dog Caucus in the House describes its members as being "dedicated to the financial stability and national security of the country, notwithstanding partisan political positions and personal fortune."

Members of the Blue Dog Democrat coalition listed among their legislative priorities a "Pay-As-You-Go Act," which require that any legislation that requires an outlay of taxpayer money cannot increase the federal deficit. They also supported balancing the federal budget, closing tax loopholes, and cutting spending through the elimination of programs they feel don't work.

History of the Blue Dog Democrat

The House Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1994 after Republicans who drafted a conservative Contract with American were swept into power in Congress during the midterm elections that year. It was the first Republican House majority since 1952. Democrat Bill Clinton was president at the time.

The first group of Blue Dog Democrats consisted of 23 House members who felt the 1994 midterm elections were a clear sign that their party had moved too far to the left and was therefore rejected by mainstream voters. By 2010 the coalition had grown to 54 members. But many of its members lost in the 2010 midterm elections during Democrat Barack Obama's presidency.

Members of the Blue Dog Caucus

There were only 25 members of the Blue Dog Caucus in the 112 Congress, which served in 2011 and 2012. They were:

  • Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania*
  • Rep. Joe Baca of California
  • Rep. John Barrow of Georgia
  • Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia
  • Rep. Dan Boren of Georgia
  • Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa
  • Rep. Dennis Cardoza of California
  • Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky
  • Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee
  • Rep. Jim Costa of California
  • Rep. Henry Cuellar or Taxes
  • Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana
  • Rep. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania*
  • Rep. Larry Kissell or North Carolina
  • Rep. Jim Matheson or Utah
  • Rep. Mike McIntyre or North Carolina
  • Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine
  • Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota
  • Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California
  • Rep. Adam Schiff or California
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader Oregon
  • Rep. David Scott of Georgia
  • Rep. Heath Shuler of North Caroline
  • Rep. Mike Thompson of California

*Both Altmire and Holden lost to more liberal candidates in Pennsylvania's April 24 Democratic primary.

The Leaders of the Blue Dog Democrat coalition were Shuler, who served as the co-chairman for administration; Barrow, who served as co-chairman for policy; Ross, who served as co-chairman for communications; and Boren, who servid as the Blue Dog whip.

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