“Fiscally conservative” Blue Dog Democrats fail to protect taxpayers

Blue Dog Democrats

Much ink has been spilled in the last few years over the decline of the Blue Dog Coalition in the House of Representatives. Just this week, the Washington Post ran a story noting that this group of purportedly centrist Democrats will has seen its numbers fall from 50 members four years ago.

“[T]he Blue Dog Coalition is a shell of its former self, shrunken to just 15 members because of political defeat, retirements after redrawn districts left them in enemy territory and just plain exhaustion from the constant battle to stay in office,” wrote Paul Kane at the Washington Post. “Several are not running for reelection in November, and a few others are top targets of Republicans.”

There actually 19 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, though three members aren’t running for reelection in 2014. Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC), whose districts were targeted by Republicans, decided to retire. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) is running for governor in Maine. Other members of the Blue Dog Coalition face tough bids for reelection, which could further dwindle its numbers at the beginning of the next Congress.

Blue Dog Democrats claim to “represent the center of the House of Representatives” and purport to be “dedicated to the financial stability and national security of the United States.” In news stories, reporters will frequently refer to Blue Dogs as “fiscally conservative” or “deficit hawks.”

Those descriptions may be good for Blue Dog Democrats who running for reelection, but is it true? It depends on how one views it. Looking at these members’ scores from various groups dedicated to fiscally conservative ideas as well as their spending agendas says a lot about whether these Democrats are actually what the purport to be.

Here’s a look at the current roster of the Blue Dog Coalition and their lifetime ratings from three groups — FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity — which score legislation related to fiscal issues. Included below is each members’ net-spending agenda (proposed spending increases minus proposed cuts), per the National Taxpayers Union Foundation BillTally.

These ratings may not mean much to some, but buried in these scores are votes on some of the biggest issues that have come before Congress in the last several years — including the Wall Street bailout, reversal of modest spending cuts, Obamacare and subsequent repeal votes, the 2009 stimulus bill, and Dodd-Frank. Each of these bills represents a real threat to taxpayers, who are staring down a $17.2 trillion national debt.

Representative District FW CFG AFP Spending (in billions)
Ron Barber AZ-02 20% 21% 5% $1,684
John Barrow GA-12 29% 28% 33% $110,287
Sanford Bishop GA-02 18% 13% 16% $4,522,564
Cheri Bustos* IL-17 20% 10%
Jim Cooper TN-05 26% 26% 24% $1,072,174
Jim Costa CA-20 21% 19% 7% $146,281
Henry Cuellar TX-28 29% 27% 16% $142,797
Pete Gallego* TX-23 24% 10%
Dan Lipinski IL-03 13% 10% 10% $1,247,043
Jim Matheson UT-04 43% 42% 34% $318,818
Mike McIntyre NC-07 37% 33% 38% $443,324
Mike Michaud ME-02 14% 7% 6% $860,755
Collin Peterson MN-07 33% 30% 24% $460,498
Nick Rahall WV-03 14% 12% 9% $1,988,705
Loretta Sanchez CA-47 12% 8% 9% $1,917,676
Kurt Schrader OR-05 21% 18% 10% $18,029
David Scott GA-13 14% 9% 6% $1,802,827
Kyrsten Sinema* AZ-09 25% 10%
Mike Thompson CA-05 13% 9% 8% $363,471
Average 22.4% 19.5% 15% $963,558

Italitics = not running in 2014
* = freshman member

For a coalition supposedly concerned about the fiscal health of the United States, not a single Blue Dog Democrat proposed a net-spending cut. In fact, as you can see above, the average net-spending agenda for a Blue Dog Democrat over the course of their career is just under $1 trillion.

What’s more, all but five of these Blue Dog Democrats voted for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for Speaker of the House in January 2013. From 2007 to 2011, then-Speaker Pelosi oversaw $5 trillion added to the national debt, including $3.22 trillion in the 111th Congress alone.

If the Blue Dog Coalition is supposed to be centrist and fiscally conservative wing of the party’s caucus, it should give you an idea of how far left House Democrats have drifted in recent years.

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