Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Blue Dogs and the Stimulus Bill

From Ben Johnson:
Blue Dog Democrats have cut a figure as budget hawks, demanding "an adherence to pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budget discipline": all revenue changes must not add to the deficit. Former Blue Dog whip Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota described their position, warning, “We simply cannot continue to mortgage our nation’s future and pass on trillions in debt to our grandchildren."

But that's precisely what most of her caucus voted to do. Facing an astronomical $1.2 trillion deficit without the stimulus, 41 Blue Dogs voted to literally double-down on it by backing a bill that contained such non-emergency measures as $1 billion for Amtrak, $50 billion for the arts, and $400 million for NASA to "put more scientists to work doing climate change research."

Part of the explanation is the coalition's adoration of the new president. Barack Obama set the Blue Dogs' tails a-wagging by saying, "we will have more to say about how we’re going to approach entitlement spending." Obama's private assurances that he supported PAYGO led Rep. Jim Cooper to gush, "He is smarter than Bill Clinton and disciplined." (In non-Democratic circles, this would be known as "damning with faint praise.")

Love affair or no, the Blue Dogs were hesitant on the stimulus bill. Last Tuesday, 27 Democrats, and 24 members of the Blue Dog Caucus, voted against bringing the stimulus bill to the floor. Within one day, more than a dozen Blue Dogs had changed their minds. The Hill reports the Blue Dogs were in full uproar, until Obama Budget Director Peter Orszag wrote a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (a far-leftist), arguing this bill constituted an "extraordinary response to an extraordinary process" and the administration would "return to the fiscal responsibility and pay-as-you-go budgeting" as soon as this passed. Honest. It convinced some. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana deemed the letter a "direct signal that President Obama is willing to make the tough decisions necessary to put our country back on a path to fiscal responsibility.”

Had they voted as a body against it, the Coalition could have killed the bill, but they instead voted for the bill after a vague promise for future discipline. This is rather like allowing oneself a five-gallon tub of ice cream on the grounds that one will resume diet and exercise later.
Not that Blue Dogs are the first group, nor will they be the last, to cave in the face of the Messiah. Sacrificing one's principals has a long history in Washington.

But the interesting thing is what did it cost the Democratic leadership to get those "more than a dozen Blue Dogs" to change their minds? In other words, what was the quid pro quo?

Here is another question, if a lobbyist gets a member to flip their vote, it is considered selling the vote? What it is called when the Speaker or House Majority Leader or one of their minions gets a Member to flip their vote? Is that a better or is it just simply paying for a vote?

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