The Spectacle Blog

The Blue Dog Days of Summer

By on 8.19.10 | 11:05AM

If nothing else, Barack Obama’s presidency has done one thing: expose so-called centrist Democrats for the ideological hacks they are. It happened most notably in March, when Michigan U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak and his allies laid aside their pro-life convictions and voted for Obama’s health-care overhaul, with nothing but a flimsy executive order as justification.

But health-care reform isn’t the only arena where supposedly moderate Democrats have demonstrated their true colors, as shown by new rankings for 2009 from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

The group tracked 120 votes in the House ranging from stimulus funds to bailouts to environmental projects. The scorecard ranks Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition — who claim to be “independent voices for fiscal responsibility and accountability” — as just a smudge better than liberal members of Congress. Almost half of House Democrats — 105 out of 253 total — scored zero percent.

Blue Dog Democrats, meanwhile, averaged just 11 percent. The coalition’s leadership came in well below that: Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (6 percent), Baron Hill (3 percent), Jim Matheson (11 percent), and Heath Shuler (8 percent).

To his credit, Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho scored the highest of any Blue Dog at 83 percent. He fared better than many Republicans. And that shows why some Blue Dogs deserve the moniker. They’re willing to stand up to party leaders on both big and small votes.

But in the Democratic Party, their examples are the exception rather than the rule. Blue Dogs might part company with leaders on a few major votes (but only, notice, when the legislation is guaranteed to pass without their support), but the vast majority of the time they line up nicely with Pelosi’s wishes.

There will be consequences this November. Thirteen Blue Dogs are in the “toss up” or “likely/leans GOP” category, according to the count on RealClearPolitics.com. That includes leaders Sandlin and Hill.

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