There’s no such thing as a “Blue Dog Democrat” and there really never was. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Club for Growth, a conservative 527 group which advocates fiscally sound government policy.
The Blue Dog Coalition is a group of self-described independent Democrats that formed in response to the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. It was a way for some Democrats to distance themselves from the increasingly out-of-touch liberal wing of their party.
In the political media, “blue dog” is synonymous with “economically conservative Democrats.” But according to the Club for Growth’s report, “All Bark and No Bite: The Blue Dog Coalition and the Myth of the Fiscally Responsible Democrat,” the Blue Dogs’ voting records don’t live up to their reputation and the label is merely a means for Democrats to “deceive the media and their constituents.”
Club for Growth Communications Director Mike Connolly said this group of Democrats “sees a lot of value in being seen as moderate or conservative.” The coalition has “never had a position of influencing fiscal policy” as far as “shifting it to the right,” he said.
Since Democrats took back Congress in 2007, the Blue Dogs have voted “almost in lock step” with the rest of their party on high-profile spending issues, according to the report.
On the Fannie and Freddie bailouts, each and every Blue Dogs voted with their party. The “stimulus package” also nearly gained complete support from the group, with 91% supporting the legislation. The “Cash-for-Clunkers” bill passed with 85% support from the Blue Dogs.
Other Democrat spending bills that received a majority of support from Blue Dogs (54% or more): President Obama’s 2009 budget, the auto industry bailout, TARP funds, and Obamacare.
The “pay-as-you-go,” or PAYGO, procedures that House Democrats adopted in 2007 to establish fiscal responsibility was a key effort by Blue Dogs. It helped brand them as deficit-conscious conservatives. But in the time that Democrats have had control of Congress, they have voted to suspend PAYGO rules on spending bills 31 times. Blue Dogs backed their party 86% of those times, according to the report.
Where a congressman stands fiscally can often be defined by his record on earmarks, or projects a congressman attaches to a larger bill that direct money to his district or state.
The report says 52 of the 54 Blue Dogs are “enthusiastic earmarkers.”
While the coalition may have shown more restraint on fiscal issues when it formed in 1994, it has steadily moved to the left. The National Taxpayers Union (NTU), another government-spending watchdog, has given the Blue Dogs an increasingly negative rating on fiscal responsibility.
In 1994, NTU gave the Blue Dogs a score of 52%. Now, they have a score of 18%.
The coalition is treated by its members as if its “like a nightclub or fraternity,” Connolly said. “It’s just a way for vulnerable Democrats to market themselves” and “feel safe.”