Blue dogs have no bite on spending bills

Opinion Journal:

A high-stakes budget showdown is shaping up this fall between President Bush and Congressional Democrats. The debate will also be a moment of truth for the so-called "blue dog" Democrats: the 48 self-described fiscal conservatives in the House Democratic Caucus.

The bone of contention is the $22 billion in domestic spending that Democrats passed in their budget resolution above what Mr. Bush requested in his own budget. The Democratic spending plan would increase non-defense expenditures by 6.5% next year--more than double the inflation rate. The White House is threatening vetoes if Democrats pass spending bills above Mr. Bush's limit, which could possibly lead to a government shutdown. Republicans have already lined up the necessary House votes to sustain any spending veto.

The blue dog Web site boasts that its mission is to "refocus Congress on balancing the budget and ridding taxpayers of the burden of debt." If a balanced budget is what they want, the best fiscal option would be to enact what is called a "continuing resolution" budget that would fund all programs at last year's level plus 1% or 2%. Along with rising tax revenues, this could cut the budget deficit roughly in half next year, to well under $100 billion. But Republicans can't do that on their own: they need the votes of these moderate Democrats.

Here's the rub: So far this year the blue dogs have been almost all bark when it comes to fiscal restraint and debt reduction. Thirty of the 48 have voted for every one of the non-defense spending bills their committee chairman have sent them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is enforcing party discipline, and as a result 28 of the 48 blue dogs voted "no" on each of the 27 amendments that Republicans proposed to cut the costs of these bills. The 13 freshman Democrats who represent conservative districts--such as Heath Shuler (N.C.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Zack Space (Ohio), Nick Lampson (Texas)--have been a particular disappointment; back home these same blue dogs trumpet their "independent streak."

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What is being exposed is that their votes and their hearts don't match the rhetoric they sued to get elected. Lampson has never really been anything other than a liberal. He got elected in Tom DeLay's old district by keeping a real conservative Republican off the ballot and dissembling on spending. The chances of him being reelected in that district are remote so he has pretty much sold out to whatever Pelosi demands on both spending and the war.

The so called Blue Dogs have lost an opportunity to be real power players and have instead ceded power to the liberal leadership which is leading them over the cliff in the 2008 election. Their main hope is that they can secure the next election through the politics of fraud by trying to fool the voters one more time.

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