THAT DOG SHOULDN’T HUNT…. In the House, the political calculus on major initiatives is a three-part dynamic: Republicans, Democrats, and a caucus of right-leaning Democrats in the “Blue Dog Coalition.” In the 110th Congress, Dems were more often hampered by GOP obstructionism and presidential vetoes, but the presence of nearly 50 “fiscally conservative” Democrats often limited the options of the party’s leadership.
The complication is apparently set to expand. Roll Call reported last night that Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) intends to form a group of “moderate” Democratic senators based “loosely on the House Blue Dog Coalition. ”
“I think we have a wonderful opportunity to break the gridlock that has existed in Washington for too long,” Bayh said in an interview. “We need to do that in practical ways that will solve problems. The place that will be most important in striking that right balance will be in the Senate.”
Bayh, who has spoken with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about his initiative, said he is trying to create a faction of moderate Senators who will gather on a weekly basis ahead of the usual Tuesday Democratic Caucus meetings.
Additionally, Bayh envisions inviting outside speakers to address the group, which would also work in concert with third parties that have similar viewpoints, like the Third Way, a nonpartisan progressive think tank.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office said Reid “welcomes Sen. Bayh’s decision to form this group,” as part of the broader effort in “restoring our nation’s fiscal and economic health.”
I’m not nearly as encouraged. In the House, the Blue Dogs are not only overly cozy with corporate lobbyists, this is a coalition reluctant to embrace a progressive vision on issues like climate change, and committed to a financial plan focused on spending reductions and balanced budgets — precisely when the federal government needs to be doing the opposite.
That Bayh wants a similar group working in the Senate is discouraging, to put it mildly.