Steven Goldstein sums it up in a Philadelphia Inquirer piece. The Blue Dog Coalition just may be the most powerful Democratic coalition in Congress. Growing to 44 members in the new House of Representatives, these conservative and moderate Democrats will be pivotal in what legislation is passed in the 110th Congress.
Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute said the Blue Dogs “hold the balance of power” for the Democratic agenda and political analyst Charlie Cook said a prominent Republican told him that if House Republicans want to remain relevant, “they would take their cues not from the White House” but from the Blue Dogs.
The group, known for being fiscal conservatives and strong on national defense while avoiding “bedroom,” or social issues, may have already had an impact.
Shortly after the election, the coalition wrote to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to object to her plans to award the chairmanship of the House intelligence committee to Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, bypassing Californian Jane Harman, the senior Democrat on the panel. Hastings is the only member of Congress ever to have been impeached and removed from office as a federal judge. He was acquitted by a jury of bribery charges in 1983, but an appeals court called for impeachment on different charges and referred the case to Congress, which removed him in 1989. Three years later, he was elected to the body that voted to end his judicial career.
On Tuesday, Pelosi told Hastings that he would not be chairman.
Goldstein writes, the Blue Dog Coalition was formed by 21 House members in 1995 in the wake of the GOP congressional sweep. The name is a reference to “yellow dog Democrat,” an old phrase describing Southerners so loyal to the party that they would sooner vote for a yellow dog than a Republican.
A Blue Dog Democrat is a yellow dog that has almost been choked to death – turned blue – by party extremists. Or one that’s been left standing out in the cold.