Blue Dogs Recap Accomplishments Of 116th Congress (So Far)

August 9, 2019 by TWN Staff

For 24 years, the Blue Dog Coalition has led the way bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats to develop common-sense solutions for serious problems Americans face in their daily lives.

Over the course of the coalition’s history, the members may have changed, but the organization goes on thanks to newcomers’ adherence to the same principles the coalition has always held fast to: fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, and pragmatic, bipartisan solutions.

As a result, perhaps the biggest Blue Dog story of the year, is the group’s resurgence as a force to be reckoned with.

The headlines speak for themselves. Washington Post noted it’s a different kind of Blue Dog Coalition today. Christian Science Monitor declared these aren’t your father’s Blue Dogs. POLITICO called it the resurgence of the Coalition under the leadership of Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration.

The Salt Lake Tribune declared the Blue Dogs to be a major force in Congress thanks to its freshman class, including Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah.

“The fact is that moderates delivered the House majority in 2018. More than three-quarters of the Democrats who flipped seats in November are now members of the Blue Dog Coalition, the New Democrat Coalition or both—the moderate wing of the party,” McAdams wrote in USA Today earlier this year.

McAdams also went on Fox News’ “Sunday Futures” with Maria Bartiromo to emphasize the point that the House Democratic Caucus has actually moved to the center in terms of its numbers.

The Blue Dogs continue to play a crucial role in the legislative process. Here is only a sample of what they’ve done since the start of the 116th Congress:

Protected PayGo

At the start of the new Congress, the Blue Dogs fought to protect a section of the House rules package which requires new spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. Speaker Pelosi told McClatchy the Blue Dogs were “vital” in that debate. The provision, called PAYGO — short for “pay as you go” — was opposed by a handful of progressives, who vowed to vote against the rules package if PAYGO was included. 

But the Blue Dogs were equally adamant that PAYGO remain intact and pressed its case to the Democratic leadership. 

“Just thinking a little bit about this Congress — it’s an 18-vote margin and we are a coalition of 24 right now,” said Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. “As it related to PAYGO, we gave leadership notice that if PAYGO were to be removed from the rules package they would probably lose the votes that would enable them to pass it.” The rules package passed 234-197, with the support of almost every Democrat and some Republicans.

Proposed the Plan to End The Government Shutdown

On January 23, the Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to the leadership of both parties in the House and Senate calling for reopening the government, followed by a substantive, bipartisan, bicameral discussion on border security that would produce legislation that could quickly pass both chambers of Congress—ideally with a veto-proof majority. 

Two days later, President Trump announced he would take up the same path the Blue Dog Coalition proposed. On February 14, Congress announced it had reached a bipartisan deal on legislation to strengthen border security and keep the government open. That border security deal was the result of the Blue Dog Coalition’s proposal for bipartisan, bicameral negotiations, which ended the longest government shutdown in United States history. The Blue Dogs have since taken steps to prevent future government shutdowns by endorsing legislation that requires daily reports on the economic consequences of future government shutdowns as well as the No Budget, No Pay Act.

Ensured House Passage of H.R. 1

As reported in POLITICO, under the leadership of Blue Dog Co-Chairs, Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., the Blue Dogs got their own bite at the apple of H.R. 1 by working with Democratic leadership to change the campaign public financing portion so that it was funded through fees generated by fines for corporate malfeasance rather than taxpayer dollars. 

The Well News got the inside scoop on the Coalition’s strategy to ensure the legislation could pass the House of Representatives. The passage of H.R. 1 marked the passage of several Blue Dog Coalition priorities, including the following: redistricting reform, securing our elections, increased transparency on Presidential Inaugural Committee funding, and enhanced oversight to prevent government leaders from misusing taxpayer dollars on lavish air travel.

Launched Effort to Improve Infrastructure Regulations

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy, as well as, Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J, co-chairs of the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure & Job Creation, sent a letter seeking input on potential regulatory improvement policy solutions from think tanks, labor organizations, environmental groups, small business groups and the business community. 

The goal of the effort is to find ways to streamline the infrastructure regulatory process while upholding important environmental standards. As a follow-up to the letter, the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure & Job Creation has met with several organizations seeking input in the policy process. The Coalition anticipates announcing its policy proposal in the coming weeks.

Urged Congress to Get Its Fiscal House in Order

The co-chairs of the Blue Dog Task Force on Fiscal Responsibility & Government Reform, Reps. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, and Ben McAdams, released the Blue Dog Blueprint for Fiscal Reform, a comprehensive plan to help restore fiscal discipline in Congress.

Reps. Case and McAdams led a Special Order discussing our nation’s current fiscal state and what we can do right now to reduce our debt and deficits. In a time when it seems like no one in Congress wants to discuss how we can get our nation out of its fiscal mess, the Blue Dog Coalition has continued to be the voice of fiscal responsibility by putting forward several concrete policy solutions, including the bipartisan Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) rule, the No Budget, No Pay Act, and a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Over the next several months, coalition members will bring forward other priorities included in the Blue Dog Blueprint for Fiscal Reform in the form of legislation. During a panel event with the Progressive Policy Institute, Rep. Murphy, Blue Dog co-chair for Administration, and Reps. Case and McAdams called on House leadership to bring the measures up for a vote in the fall.

Called for Bipartisan Action to Secure U.S. Elections

Additionally, the Blue Dog Coalition released a package of legislative proposals in response to the conclusions presented in Volume I of the Mueller Report regarding Russia’s attack against the U.S. political system and attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

The announcement brought down the value of the Russian ruble and it was widely praised by policy experts. Soon after its release, the House passed the SAFE Act, which requires voting systems to use individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots, expands risk-limiting audits, and authorizes necessary funding to states to assist in securing election infrastructure. 

Since that time, the Blue Dog proposal has served as a roadmap for the House to pressure Leader McConnell to act on securing our elections and deterring foreign adversaries from meddling in our elections in the future.

Backed Measure to Hold China Accountable for the Opioid Epidemic

Both the House and the Senate have now passed the Blue Dog-endorsed Fentanyl Sanctions Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation would apply pressure on the Chinese government to honor its commitment to make all forms of fentanyl illegal and provide the United States more tools and resources to go after illicit traffickers in China, Mexico, and other countries. It was introduced in the House by Democratic Representatives Max Rose, D-N.Y., and Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., and Republican Representatives French Hill, R-Ariz., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn. Leaders in both chambers of Congress are hopeful that the measure will be included in the final NDAA conference report.

Urged House Leadership to Pass Resolution Supporting Two-State Solution and opposing the global BDS movement

Last month, the House passed a bipartisan resolution opposing efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel. The resolution was introduced by Democratic Representatives Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Republican Representatives Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02). 

It was endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition earlier this year. As reported in The Hill and the Washington Post the Blue Dogs urged House leadership to bring the resolution to the House floor for a vote prior to the August district work period.

Called on Congress to Take Up Redistricting Reform

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in the cases of Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek, the Blue Dog Coalition called on Congress to take up redistricting reform and endorsed two pieces of legislation authored by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., to stop partisan gerrymandering and to expose the secret congressional redistricting process to all Americans.

Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., said it best in an op-ed in the Post & Courier: “Of all the cancerous and anti-democratic components of modern-day politics — dark and unlimited money, voter suppression, and outsize corporate influence — I believe gerrymandering to be the No. 1 cause of the dysfunction in government, both federally and on the state level. When people rightfully ask why there is such a divide in Washington, D.C., and why our elected officials can’t meet in the middle or simply work together, it is because the battle lines have already been drawn.”

Announced a Set of Priorities to Improve the Health Care System

In the midst of the larger health care debate, the Blue Dogs announced a set of priorities to improve our country’s health care system and increase access to care. The priorities focus on ways to protect the Affordable Care Act, improve it, and build on its success, rather than start from scratch. Additionally, they point out needs that are specific to rural and tribal communities, which do not typically have the same resources as urban areas. The priorities also focus on ways to lower the cost of prescription drugs and combat the opioid epidemic.

Urged Congress to Take Action to Combat Domestic Terrorism

In the wake of two mass shootings in less than 24 hours in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the Blue Dog Coalition endorsed Reps. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Vicente Gonzalez’s, D-Texas, Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019 to address the growing threat of white supremacists and other violent right-wing extremists. As reported in POLITICO, House Democrats are now moving ahead with broader efforts to combat the threat of racist or ideological-based violence.

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