Remember those supposedly fiscally conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats. They are now being taken for a ride by their leadership and especially President-elect Barack Obama who, they believe, intends to transform entitlements and most everything else.
The costs of the stimulus will not abide by pay-as-you-go principle, one of the most important issues for Blue Dogs.
After years of waging a frustrating battle to get their congressional leaders to act on their fiscal reform plans, Blue Dog Democrats are buoyed by the hope that Obama will finish the job for them.
In fact, Blue Dogs believe the president-elect’s commitment to economic reform is so pronounced that a number of them who have bucked Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) past efforts to bypass pay-go are lining up in favor of a stimulus bill.
Blue Dogs, though, know they don’t have much leverage on this stimulus legislation because it is expected to sail through Congress – with or without their backing.
Pelosi spent much of her first term as Speaker fighting, cajoling and sometimes giving up on dozens of fiscally conservative Democrats who agreed with much of her economic agenda, but who could not stomach borrowing more money to pay it.
As she leads the House’s efforts to pass a new economic stimulus bill that could top $1 trillion, the Speaker is not only finding Blue Dogs in her corner, but seeing them publicly backing her and even standing alongside her leadership lieutenants at policy press conferences.
The irony is that the change has almost nothing to do with anything Pelosi has done.
The Blue Dog euphoria that swept through the House chamber on Wednesday had almost everything to do with Obama, and his consistent and amplified commitment to the Blue Dog caucus; long-term entitlement reform; and a return to balanced budgets over the long term.
Waiving pay-go rules could become a common occurrence this year, however. Democrats will have to move a Medicare payment fix and an Alternative Minimum Tax measure that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Moreover, Democrats have suggested major healthcare reform will not be fully offset, meaning the price tag of that measure could also be hundreds of billions of dollars.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who voted against the last two stimulus bills on the grounds that they were not paid for, joined a number of Democratic leaders at a Wednesday press conference to talk up the new stimulus plan.
“Government can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can stimulate the economy and address our long-term problems at the same time,” said Cooper, who later joked that he couldn’t remember the last time he was asked to attend a leadership press conference.
Maybe the Blue Dogs will be proved right. Alas, I have this sneaking suspicion that in four years we will have is a lot more debt for the present but only reform promises for the future.
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