Blue Dog Coalition
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Blue Dog Coalition

The Blue Dog Coalition, commonly known as the Blue Dogs or Blue Dog Democrats, is a caucus of United States Congressional Representatives from the Democratic Party who identify as fiscally-responsible, centrist Democrats. The caucus is not an ideological group but rather a group of Democrats who share a pragmatic approach to governance, an independence from leadership of both parties, and unite on the mission of fiscal responsibility and enhancing national defense. Since its founding, the Coalition's membership has changed but the mission has remained the same. Today, the Coalition primarily consists of Democrats who are socially progressive and fiscally conservative.[5]

The co-chairs for the 116th Congress are U.S. Representatives Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Lou Correa (CA-46), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), and Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01).[6] The co-chair for the Blue Dog PAC, the Coalition's political organization, is Rep. Kurt Schrader.[7] Rep. Stephanie Murphy is the first woman of color to lead the Blue Dog Coalition in the organization's history.[8]


President Barack Obama meets with Blue Dog Democrats on February 10, 2009

The term "Blue Dog Democrat" is credited to Texas Democratic Rep. Pete Geren (who later joined the Bush Administration). Geren opined that the members had been "choked blue" by Democrats on the left.[9] It is related to the political term "Yellow Dog Democrat", a reference to Southern Democrats said to be so loyal they would even vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for any Republican. The term is also a reference to the "Blue Dog" paintings of Cajun artist George Rodrigue of Lafayette, Louisiana as the original members of the coalition would regularly meet in the offices of Louisiana representatives Billy Tauzin and Jimmy Hayes, both of whom later joined the Republican Party--both also had Rodrigue's paintings on their walls.[10][11] An additional explanation for the term cited by members is "when dogs are not let into the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue", a reference to the Blue Dogs' belief they had been left out of a party that they believed had shifted to the political left.[12]

Although its membership has not been exclusively Southern, some[13][14] view the Blue Dogs as the political successors to a now defunct-in-name Southern Democratic group known as the Boll Weevils, who played a critical role in the early 1980s by supporting President Ronald Reagan's tax cut plan. The Boll Weevils may in turn be considered the descendants of the Dixiecrats and the "states' rights" Democrats of the 1940s through the 1960s and even the Bourbon Democrats of the late 19th century.[15]

While the Blue Dog Coalition is officially made up of House members, the term "Blue Dog" is sometimes used informally for Democratic senators, governors, or state legislators who resemble the Blue Dog Coalition positions based on their politics.

Freshman Blue Dogs in the House used to be nicknamed "Blue Pups".[10]


The caucus was formed in 1995[16][17] during the 104th Congress to give members from the Democratic Party representing conservative-leaning districts a unified voice after the Democrats' loss of Congress in the U.S. Congressional election of 1994 Republican Revolution.[18] Blue Dog Coalition membership experienced a rapid decline in the 2010s, holding 14 seats in the 114th Congress.[19]

The coalition was notably successful in a special election of February 2004 in Kentucky to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives.[] They were also successful in the November 2004 elections, when three of the five races in which a Democrat won a formerly Republican House seat were won by Blue Dogs.

In 2006, Blue Dog candidates such as Jason Altmire, Heath Shuler and Brad Ellsworth were elected in conservative-leaning districts, ending years of Republican dominance in these areas.

In 2007, 15 Blue Dog Coalition Members in safe seats refused to contribute party dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. An additional 16 Blue Dogs have not paid any money to the DCCC, but were exempt from party-mandated contributions because they were top GOP targets for defeat in 2008. One reason for the party-dues boycott is contained in remarks made by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) encouraging leaders of anti-war groups to field primary challenges to any Democrat who does not vote to end the war in Iraq. Woolsey later stated that she was misunderstood, but the Blue Dogs have continued with the boycott. Donations to party Congressional Committees are an important source of funding for the party committees, permitting millions of dollars to be funneled back into close races.[20]

In the summer of 2009, The Economist newspaper said "[t]he debate over health care... may be the pinnacle of the group's power so far" and quoted Charlie Stenholm, a founding Blue Dog, as saying that "this is the first year for the new kennel in which their votes are really going to make a difference".[21]

The Blue Dog Coalition suffered serious losses in the 2010 midterm elections, losing over half of its seats to Republican challengers. Its members, who were roughly one quarter of the Democratic Party's caucus in the 111th Congress, accounted for half of the party's midterm election losses.[22] Including retirements, Blue Dog numbers in the House were reduced from 54 members in 2009 to 26 members in 2011 and two of the Coalition's four leaders (Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Baron Hill) failed to secure re-election.[23][24]

Opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and climate change legislation are believed to have contributed to the defeat of two conservative Democrats in the 2012 House elections in Pennsylvania by more liberal opponents.[25]

Following the 2012 House of Representatives elections, the Blue Dog Coalition went from 27 members to 14 members. Speculation ensued that the centrist New Democrat Coalition would fill the power vacuum created by the Blue Dog Coalition's decline.[26]

After the 2018 House of Representatives elections the caucus grew from 18 members to 27 members. All incumbents were re-elected and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the Senate in Arizona. [27] The Coalition has added seven new members who defeated Republicans incumbents in the 2018 election in districts that went to President Trump in 2016.[28]


The Blue Dog Coalition is often involved in searching for a compromise between liberal and conservative positions. The coalition currently has 24 members in the House of Representatives.[29] There is not any mention "in the official Blue Dog materials about social issues".[30] The coalition is fiscally conservative, but does not determine a platform for social issues. The members of the Blue Dog Coalition have changed over the years. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post wrote the following on the organization: "It now includes Northerners, young people and veterans. It is led by an Asian American woman who served in the Pentagon and just won her first reelection in a purple Florida district that supports both gun control and gay rights." [31]

The Blue Dogs claim they generally work to promote positions within the House of Representatives that bridge the gap between right-wing and left-wing politics. Blue Dogs are an important swing vote on spending bills and as a result have gained influence in Congress out of proportion to their numbers. They are frequently sought after to broker compromises between the Democratic and Republican leadership, generally being swing votes when it comes to voting.[32]


The biggest single source of finance for the Blue Dog Political Action Committee is the health care industry, which donated $1.2 million in the 2009-2010 election cycle.[33] In July 2009, Blue Dog members who were committee members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee successfully delayed the House vote on the Health Insurance Reform Bill (HR3200) until after the Summer Recess.[34][35] It was during this recess that the term "Obamacare" was first derisively adopted by Republicans on Capitol Hill[36] It is widely proposed that Blue Dog opposition to the "public option" and this recess, with that summer's contentious Town Hall meetings, provided the healthcare law's Republican opponents the opportunity to attack and subsequently get the public option dropped from the original, pre-recess, bill.[37][38]

Political relationships

New Democrat Coalition

Over the years the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition have experienced overlap in their membership. Both groups share an identify of pragmatic or centrist Democrats, but they differ on policy focus. The Blue Dog Coalition's primary policy focus is fiscal responsibility and national defense. The New Democrat Coalition's primary policy focus is pro-economic growth and pro-innovation policy.


Founding members were Glen Browder and Bud Cramer of Alabama; Blanche Lambert Lincoln of Arkansas; Gary Condit of California; Nathan Deal of Georgia; William Lipinski of Illinois; Scotty Baesler of Kentucky; Billy Tauzin and Jimmy Hayes of Louisiana; Collin Peterson and David Minge of Minnesota; Michael Parker and Gene Taylor of Mississippi; Pat Danner of Missouri; William K. Brewster of Oklahoma; John S. Tanner of Tennessee; Ralph Hall, Charles Stenholm, Pete Geren and Greg Laughlin of Texas, Bill Orton of Utah; and Lewis F. Payne, Jr. and Owen Pickett of Virginia. Condit (Administration), Peterson (Policy) and Tanner (Communications) were co-chairs (Deal was initially the chair for Policy before he switched parties shortly after the caucus's founding). Browder headed the group's budget task force.[39]

After the Blue Dog Coalition was founded in 1995, the organization saw steady growth in its membership until it reached its peak after the 2008 election. After the 2006 election, the first time the Democrats held the House majority since before the Blue Dogs were founded, the Coalition had 50 members. After the 2008 election, the organization grew to its peak membership at 54. After the 2010 election, the Coalition's roster decreased to 26 members. In the following years, as Democrats saw continued losses in the House, the Blue Dog membership continued to decline. In 2016, however, the Coalition's members made over half of the Democrats' gains in the House.[40] In 2018, for the first time since 2006, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee partnered with the Blue Dog PAC, the Blue Dog Coalition's political organization, to recruit candidates in competitive districts across the country.[41] The strategy worked. The Blue Dog Coalition grew to 27 members and the Democrats gained its largest House majority since Watergate.


Term start Term end Chair for Administration Chair for Communications Chair for Policy
February 1995 April 1995 Rep. Gary Condit (CA-18) Rep. John S. Tanner (TN-8) Rep. Nathan Deal (GA-9)
April 1995 January 1999 Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-7)
January 1999 January 2001 Rep. Robert E. Cramer (AL-5) Rep. Chris John (LA-7) Rep. Charles Stenholm (TX-17)
January 2001 January 2003 Rep. Chris John (LA-7) Rep. Jim Turner (TX-2) Rep. Allen Boyd (FL-2)
January 2003 January 2005 Rep. Jim Turner (TX-2) Rep. Baron Hill (IN-9) Rep. Charles Stenholm (TX-17)
January 2005 January 2007 Rep. Jim Matheson (UT-2) Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA-18) Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5)
January 2007 January 2009 Rep. Allen Boyd (FL-2) Rep. Mike Ross (AR-4) Rep. Dennis Moore (KS-3)
January 2009 October 2009 Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL) Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-3) Rep. Baron Hill (IN-9)
October 2009 January 2011 Rep. Jim Matheson (UT-2)
January 2011 January 2013 Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11) Rep. Mike Ross (AR-4) Rep. John Barrow (GA-12)
January 2013 January 2015 Rep. John Barrow (GA-12) Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5) Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5)
January 2015 January 2017 Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5) Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)
January 2017 January 2019 Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
January 2019 present Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-7) Rep. Lou Correa (CA-48) Rep. Tom O'Halleran (AZ-1)

See also


  1. ^ a b Kane, Paul (January 15, 2013). "Blue Dog Democrats, whittled down in number, are trying to regroup". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014.
  2. ^ a b Davis, Susan. "U.S. House has fewer moderate Democrats". USA Today. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ Wasserman, David (November 5, 2012). "Why 2012 Will Be a Watershed House Election". National Journal. Retrieved 2014.(subscription required)
  4. ^ "Elections A to Z". SAGE. 2012. Retrieved 2014.
  5. ^ "Analysis: Different kind of Blue Dog Coalition intent on being a force in House".
  7. ^ "Roll Call: Blue Dog Coalition Elects 3 New Co-Chairs to Lead Them in Next Congress". 2018.
  9. ^ "Wordcraft Archives, November 2004". Retrieved 2016.
  10. ^ a b Suddath, Claire (July 28, 2009). "A Brief History of Blue Dog Democrats". Time. Retrieved 2009.
  11. ^ Safire, William (April 23, 1995). "On Language; Blue Dog Demo". New York Times. Retrieved 2009.
  12. ^ "Blue Dog Democrats". November 4, 2008. Retrieved 2010.
  13. ^ Parties, Rules, and the Evolution of Congressional Budgeting, Lance T. LeLoup, 2005, pp. 185
  14. ^ Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections, William C. Binning et al, 1999, pp. 307.
  15. ^ Thomson, Alex (2007). A Glossary of U.S. Politics and Government. Stanford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8047-5730-0.
  16. ^ "History - Blue Dog Coalition". Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ "History, Blue Dog Coalition". Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  18. ^ Naftali Bendavid (July 28, 2009). "'Blue Dog' Democrats Hold Health-Care Overhaul at Bay". The Wall Street Journal.
  19. ^ "Members". Blue Dog Caucus. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ Bresnahan, John (October 24, 2007). "Blue Dogs refuse to pony up for DCCC". The Politico. Retrieved 2007.
  21. ^ "The Democratic Party's centrists: Blue Dog days". The Economist. July 30, 2009.
  22. ^ "Blue Dogs Shaved in Half - Blue Dog Democrats - Fox Nation". Fox News. November 3, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  23. ^ Allen, Jonathan. "Blue Dog wipeout: Half of caucus gone". Politico. Retrieved 2016.
  24. ^ "A vanishing breed: Blue Dogs". Los Angeles Times. November 3, 2010.
  25. ^ "Why the Blue Dogs' decline was inevitable". Washington Post. April 25, 2012.
  26. ^ "New Dems hope to be a force in 113th Congress". The Hill. November 17, 2012.
  27. ^ "House Democratic Factions All See Gains After Midterms". Roll Call. November 13, 2018.
  30. ^ Parton, Heather Digby. "Bye-bye, blue dog "Democrats": What the end of conservative Dems means for America". Salon. Retrieved 2016.
  31. ^ "Washington Post: Blue Dog Democrats are poised to play a crucial role in the next Congress". 2018.
  32. ^ Bendavid, Naftali (July 27, 2009). "'Blue-Dog' Democrats Hold Health-Care Overhaul at Bay". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016.
  33. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (August 3, 2009). "What's so great about private health insurance?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010.
  34. ^ "Are the Blue Dogs Really Working For You? « Silver Buzz Cafe". August 20, 2009. Retrieved 2010.
  35. ^ "Two House Committees Approve Health Reform Bill". Child Welfare League of America. July 27, 2009. Retrieved 2013.
  36. ^ Wallace, Gregory (June 25, 2012). "'Obamacare': The word that defined the health care debate". CNN. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  37. ^ Ball, Molly (November 16, 2012). "Blue Dogs Are Dwindling". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013.
  38. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (August 17, 2009). "'Public Option' in Health Plan May Be Dropped". New York Times. Retrieved 2013.
  39. ^ Certain, Geni (2012). Professor-Politician, The Biography of Alabama Congressman Glen Browder. NewSouth Books. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-58838-254-2.
  40. ^ "The Blue Dog map is changing. It may even help Democrats win Republican districts". 2017.
  41. ^ "POLITICO: Blue Dogs eye comeback in 2018". 2017.

External links

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