‘Blue Dogs’ now hold growing influence

During the House battle over cap and trade legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to settle for a narrow 219 to 212 vote margin to get that controversial legislation adopted in spite of a 256 – 178 Democratic House majority.

Why? The so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats – the political descendants of the “Boll Weevil” Democrats most recently of the Ronald Reagan era – now have the political math in their favor and have quickly become a force to be reckoned with if they actually stick to their stated principles.

Today, 4th District U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, and 1st District Rep. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, are Mississippi’s Blue Dog Democrats.

With 52 House members including Taylor and Childers, the Blue Dogs have gained power as the country debates future energy and health care policies by virtue of the fact that if they stick together and vote as a bloc against bills Republicans oppose, Democratic President Barack Obama’s party can’t claim a House majority.

That sobering political math hasn’t missed the minds and wallets of the lobbyists and special interest groups, either. The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity reported this week that the Blue Dogs’ political-action committee raised $1.1 million in the first six months of this year, more than it raised for the entire 2003-04 fundraising cycle.

Blue Dog Democrats claim to support fiscal responsibility. If Taylor and Childers actually vote for fiscal responsibility – something that Republicans forgot about over the last eight years on Capitol Hill – then they are in a position to have a powerful impact on health care reform and cap and trade legislation.