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Posted by on Apr 3, 2009 in Politics | 4 comments

Budget Bill: The 22 Dissenting Dems

I value constructive compromise. I also value dissent, especially intra-party dissent.

After six troubling years of a compliant Republican majority handing a less-than-competent Republican administration virtually everything it wanted, I left (returned to and left again) the Republican party and joined the ranks of independent, unaffiliated voters. In the process, I (eventually) vowed to celebrate party dissent and resist party unity because I saw how unity can lead to less-than-ideal if not disastrous outcomes, especially when the same party controls both White House and Congress. Party unity is too often code for “Don’t think; trust those in charge.” Hence, resisting unity — i.e., fighting the concentration of power — is (if you believe Mickey Edwards) the root of conservatism.

Granted, my decision to vote for Obama while knowing full well that Democrats would control both chambers of Congress during at least the first two years of Obama’s first term — I confess that flies in the face of my anti-party principles. But I gave Obama the benefit of the doubt because I believed (and still do) that he was the more steady, level-headed of the two major candidates. And frankly, I expected more Democrats in the Senate and a least a few more in the House to break ranks with him.

The latter hasn’t happened to the degree I hoped it would — but in the cases where it has occured, it fascinates me. Accordingly, I took some time this morning to learn a little bit more about the 22 Dems (two in the Senate and 20 in the House) who voted against their respective chambers’ 2010 budget bills.

In the Senate, the dissenters were Bayh and Nelson. Nelson, as you may recall, was the lead Dem who worked with Republican Sens. Snowe, Collins, and Specter to whittle down the stimulus bill earlier this year. Thus, on the budget bill, according to The Hill:

Nelson’s defection was no surprise to Democrats; neither was Bayh’s. The Indiana senator had announced his opposition in The Wall Street Journal last month, and Nelson released a statement saying he was “disappointed that this budget was passed without the cuts in spending that I had hoped for.”

In the House, The Nation reports that “Most of the dissenting Democrats were southern and western members of the conservative ‘Blue Dog’ grouping.” That appears to be a correct statement, although barely.

    Of the 20 “Nay” votes in the House, I was able to confirm 10 of them as Blue Dogs per either their listing at the Blue Dogs’ official Web page (Reps. Barrow, Boren, Joe Donnelly, Marshall, Matheson, McIntyre, and Taylor) — or their self-ID as Blue Dogs at their own Web sites (Reps. Bright, Griffith, and Kratovil).

    One other, Rep. Childers, is not listed on the Blue Dog page and I couldn’t find an explicit statement at his site that he’s a member of the caucus, but he does display (at the bottom of his home page) the Blue Dog logo and “National Debt Clock.”

Net: If we count Childers, there are at least 11 of the 20 “Nay” votes that are easily identified as Blue Dogs, thus justifying the “most” claim made by The Nation. Of the remaining nine “Nay” votes:

    Rep. Kucinich‘s reason, as reported earlier, had nothing to do with fiscal sanity.

    Rep. Foster echoed the Blue Dogs in his worries about “long-term debt increase.”

    Rep. Mitchell was concerned with the “expiration of key tax cuts.”

    And the other six (Reps. Kosmas, Betsy Markey, Minnick, Nye, Perriello, and Teague) — well, I’m not really sure. When I checked their sites earlier today, there were some hints — e.g., Teague professes a commitment to “tax relief” and “fiscal sanity” — but nothing specific to this vote. (Such explanations may have been posted since I first checked.)

Closing Note: I find it interesting that, while 11 or so Blue Dogs voted “Nay,” they are in the minority of their caucus. In fact, it appears that around 80 percent of the “fiscally conservative” Blue Dogs voted for the budget bill, including all of the caucus leaders.

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