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The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition is a group of currently 53 moderate and conservative Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives, first formed in 1995. The Blue Dog Coalition describes itself as a group of moderate-to-conservative Democrats committed to financial and national security, favoring compromise and bipartisanship over ideology and party discipline. 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.


Although its membership is clearly not Southern, some 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, in turn, may be considered the descendants of the Dixiecrats and the "states' rights" Democrats of the 1940s through '60s

"Blue Dog Democrat" is derived from the term "Yellow Dog Democrat." Former Texasmarker Democrat Rep. Pete Geren is credited for coining the term, explaining that the members had been "choked blue" by "extreme" Democrats from the left. The term is also a reference to the "Blue Dog" paintings of Cajun artist George Rodrigue of Lafayette, Louisianamarker; the original members of the coalition would regularly meet in the offices of Louisiana representatives Billy Tauzin and Jimmy Hayes, both of whom had Rodrigue's paintings on their walls. Tauzin and Hayes later switched to the Republican Party. An additional explanation for the term: "A blue dog is our mascot because when dogs are not let into the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue," a reference to moderate and conservative Democrats feeling left out of the Party which they believed had shifted to the political left.

The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1994 during the 104th Congress to give more conservative members from the Democratic party a unified voice after the Democrats' loss of Congress in 1994.

The coalition was notably successful in a special election of February 2004 in Kentuckymarker 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. Freshman Blue Dogs in the House are sometimes nicknamed "Blue Pups".

In 2005, the members of the Blue Dog Coalition voted 32 to 4 in favor of the bill to limit access to bankruptcy protection (S 256).

In the summer of 2009, The Economist magazine said "[t]he debate over health care... may be the pinnacle of the group’s failure 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."

The biggest single source of finance for the Blue Dog Political Action Committee is the health care industry. They donated $1.2 million dollars in the 2009-10 election cycle. 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 (HR32)) until after the Summer Recess.

2007 DCCC boycott

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.marker) 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.


The Blue Dog Coalition is often involved in finding a compromise between liberal and conservative positions. The Blue Dogs are viewed by some as a continuation of the socially conservative wing of the Democratic party prominent during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. However, the only stated policy position of the Blue Dogs is fiscal conservatism.

Despite the Blue Dogs' differing degrees of economic and social conservatism, they generally work to promote positions within the House of Representatives that bridge the gap between center-right 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 lending a more centrist character to US politics.

Differences with the New Democrat Coalition

Members of the New Democrat Coalition, an affiliate of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), take moderate or liberal positions on social issues and moderate positions on economic issues and trade. The DLC aims to revitalize and strengthen the Democratic party, while the Blue Dogs emphasize bipartisanship.

Democrats who identify with the Blue Dogs tend to be conservatives, but have more divergent positions on social issues than "New Democrats." Reflecting the group's Southern roots, many Blue Dogs are strong supporters of gun rights and receive high ratings from the National Rifle Associationmarker, some have pro-life voting records, and some get high ratings from immigration reduction groups. As a caucus, however, the group has never agreed on or taken a position on these issues, and many members favor more socially liberal positions.

On economic issues, Blue Dogs tend to be pro-business and favor limiting public welfare spending. They have supported welfare reduction as well as the Republican-backed Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. They have differing positions on trade issues, and include both supporters and strong critics of labor unions, protectionism, and other populist measures. New Democrats tend to favor free trade.

Some moderate or conservative Democrats, such as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizonamarker, are members of both the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democratic Coalition.

Differences with the left wing of the Democratic Party

Some in the Democratic Party's liberal wing promote primary challenges against Blue Dog Coalition members in an effort to unseat Democratic Party members they view as unreliable or too conservative. The editors of the left-wing weblog OpenLeft refer to Blue Dog Democrats who voted for war funding in May 2007 and voted to grant the Executive branch warrantless wiretapping powers as "Bush Dogs". Others in the party view these individuals as "Republicans in Democrats Clothing".

Some progressive activists view the Blue Dogs as an important part of a Democratic Party big tent coalition. Prominent Blue Dogs have received strong support from liberal activists within the party, most notably Brad Carson of Oklahomamarker in his unsuccessful 2004 run for the U.S. Senate, John Tanner of Tennesseemarker, Jim Matheson of Utahmarker, and Loretta Sanchez of Californiamarker in her successful bid to unseat former Congressman Bob Dornan. Online fundraising efforts by liberal weblogs in 2004 named Carson's campaign a top national priority.


Map showing districts represented by members of the Blue Dog Coalition.

The membership list below does not match the highlighted districts on the map.

Former members

Prominent Blue Dog Coalition members who have left the House or the coalition include:

See also


  2. Blue Dog Coalition
  4. Parties, Rules, and the Evolution of Congressional Budgeting, Lance T. LeLoup, 2005, pp. 185
  5. Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections, William C. Binning et al, 1999, pp. 307
  6. WordCraft, November 11, 2004
  8. Naftali Bendavid (2009 July 28) 'Blue Dog' Democrats Hold Health-Care Overhaul at Bay The Wall Street Journal

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