Blue Dog Coalition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blue Dog Coalition
Co-ChairsEd Case (HI)
FoundedFebruary 14, 1995
Political positionCenter[4][5][6][a]
National affiliationDemocratic Party
Colors  Blue
Seats in the House
8 / 435
Seats in the House Democratic Caucus
8 / 212

The Blue Dog Coalition (commonly known as the Blue Dogs or Blue Dog Democrats) is a caucus in the United States House of Representatives comprising centrist members from the Democratic Party.[4][5][6] The caucus was founded as a group of conservative Democrats in 1995 in response to defeats in the 1994 elections. Historically, Blue Dog Coalition has been fiscally and socially conservative, representing the center-right in the Democratic Party. The modern Blue Dog Coalition remains the most conservative grouping of Democrats in the House, broadly adopting socially liberal and fiscally conservative policies and promoting fiscal restraint. Blue Dogs are mostly elected in Republican-leaning districts.[1][5]

The caucus currently has 7 members, with freshman representative Wiley Nickel undecided about joining the caucus.[7] The co-chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition for the 117th Congress were U.S. representatives Ed Case, Stephanie Murphy, and Tom O'Halleran. The chair of the Blue Dog PAC, the Coalition's political organization, was U.S. representative Kurt Schrader, who lost renomination in 2022.

Electoral results[edit]

House of Representatives[edit]

Congress Seats Democratic seats ±
104th (1994)
29 / 435
29 / 204
105th (1996)
28 / 435
28 / 207
Decrease 1
106th (1998)
34 / 435
34 / 211
Increase 6
107th (2000)
35 / 435
35 / 212
Increase 1
108th (2002)
38 / 435
38 / 205
Increase 3
109th (2004)
38 / 435
38 / 202
110th (2006)
56 / 435
56 / 233
Increase 18
111th (2008)
64 / 435
64 / 257
Increase 8
112th (2010)
28 / 435
28 / 193
Decrease 36
113th (2012)
19 / 435
19 / 201
Decrease 9
114th (2014)
15 / 435
15 / 188
Decrease 4
115th (2016)
18 / 435
18 / 193
Increase 3
116th (2018)
27 / 435
27 / 235
Increase 9
117th (2020)
19 / 435
19 / 222
Decrease 8
118th (2022)
7 / 435
7 / 213
Decrease 12

Overview and history[edit]

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

The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1995[8][9][10] 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 1994 Republican Revolution.[11]

The term "Blue Dog Democrat" is credited to Texas Democratic Representative Pete Geren (who later joined the George W. Bush administration). Geren opined that the members had been "choked blue" by Democrats on the left.[12] 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 also refers 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.[13][14] 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.[15] At one time, first-term Blue Dogs were nicknamed 'Blue Pups'.[13] Starting in the twenty-first century, the caucus began shifting its ideology and began adopting more socially liberal stances in order align more closely with mainstream Democratic Party political values.[2]

Disputes within the Democratic Party[edit]

In 2007, 15 Blue Dogs in safe seats rebelled, and refused to contribute party dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. An additional 16 Blue Dogs did not pay 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 was contained in remarks made by Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, encouraging leaders of anti-war groups to field primary challenges to any Democrat who did not vote to end the war in Iraq. Woolsey later stated that she was misunderstood, but the Blue Dogs continued 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.[16]

Role in the passage of the ACA[edit]

In the summer of 2009, The Economist newspaper said the following regarding the Blue Dog Coalition: "The debate over health care ... may be the pinnacle of the group's power so far." The Economist quoted Charlie Stenholm, a founding Blue Dog, as stating that "This is the first year for the new kennel in which their votes are really going to make a difference."[17] 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.[18][19] It was during this recess that the term 'Obamacare' was first derisively adopted by Republicans on Capitol Hill[20] 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.[21][22][23]

The Washington Post noted the most influential U.S. House of Representatives voting bloc was the conservative Democrat Blue Dog Coalition, having over 50 members.[24]

Post 2010 decline[edit]

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.[25] Including retirements, Blue Dog numbers in the House were reduced from 59 members in 2009 to 26 members in 2011.[26] Two of the Coalition's four leaders (Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Baron Hill) failed to secure re-election.[27][28]

The caucus shrank even more in the 2012 House of Representatives elections, decreasing in size from 27 to 14 members. Speculation ensued that the centrist New Democrat Coalition would fill the power vacuum created by the Blue Dog Coalition's decline.[29] 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.[30]

In the 2016 elections, future Blue Dogs accounted for over half of the Democrats' gains in the House.[31] 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.[32] After the 2018 House of Representatives elections, the caucus grew from 18 members to 24.[26] All incumbents were re-elected and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona.[33] The caucus also added 11 new members who defeated Republican incumbents in the 2018 election in districts that had voted for Donald Trump in 2016.[34] Congressional Democrats gained more seats than in any single election since the post-Watergate congressional elections.[35]

Common Sense Coalition[edit]

In January 2023, at the start of the 118th congress, six of the expected 15 members of the caucus left after a failed attempt to rename the group to the Common Sense Coalition. Freshman representative Don Davis of North Carolina, who was expected to join the Blue Dogs, chose not to do so, while fellow freshman representative of North Carolina Wiley Nickel has yet to declare his intentions.[7] The six members were:





New Jersey



The Blue Dog Coalition is the most conservative grouping of Democrats in the house.[1] It "advocates for fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense and bipartisan consensus rather than conflict with Republicans". It acts as a check on legislation that its members perceive to be too far to the right or to the left on the political spectrum.[36] It broadly supports socially liberal and fiscally conservative policies and promoting fiscal restraint.[1] The caucus has shifted left in recent years, adopting more liberal stances on social issues and aligning more closely with Democratic Party policies.[2]

The Blue Dog Coalition is nonetheless often involved in searching for a compromise between liberal and conservative positions. Though its members have evolved on social issues over time,[26] the group has never taken a position on social issues as a caucus.[37] There is no mention of social issues in the official Blue Dog materials.[38]


Blue Dog Coalition in the 117th United States Congress

In the early years of the caucus, the Blue Dogs were viewed by some as the political successors to a Southern Democratic group known as the Boll Weevils.[39][40] 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.[41]

The founding members of the Blue Dog Coalition were: Glen Browder and Bud Cramer of Alabama; Blanche 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.[42]

In January 2019, McClatchy reported that the Blue Dogs had changed from a coalition of "southern white men" to "a multi-regional, multicultural group"; at that time, two Blue Dogs were African-American, one was Vietnamese-American, one was Mexican-American, and only five came from Southern states.[26]

As of the start of the 118th Congress, the caucus included 7 members.[7]


The co-chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition for the 117th Congress are U.S. Representatives Ed Case, Stephanie Murphy, and Tom O'Halleran. The chair of the Blue Dog PAC, the Coalition's political organization, is U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader.[43] Rep. Murphy, a Vietnamese American, is the first woman of color to lead the Blue Dog Coalition in its history.[44]

Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition
Term start Term end Chair for Administration Chair for Communications Chair for Policy
February 1995 April 1995 Gary Condit John S. Tanner Nathan Deal
April 1995 January 1999 Collin Peterson
January 1999 January 2001 Robert E. Cramer Chris John Charles Stenholm
January 2001 January 2003 Chris John Jim Turner Allen Boyd
January 2003 January 2005 Jim Turner Baron Hill Charles Stenholm
January 2005 January 2007 Jim Matheson Dennis Cardoza Jim Cooper
January 2007 January 2009 Allen Boyd Mike Ross Dennis Moore
January 2009 October 2009 Stephanie Herseth Sandlin Charlie Melancon Baron Hill
October 2009 January 2011 Jim Matheson
January 2011 January 2013 Heath Shuler Mike Ross John Barrow
January 2013 January 2015 John Barrow Kurt Schrader Jim Cooper
January 2015 January 2017 Kurt Schrader Jim Costa
January 2017 January 2019 Jim Costa Henry Cuellar Dan Lipinski
January 2019 January 2021 Stephanie Murphy Lou Correa Tom O'Halleran
January 2021 January 2023 Tom O'Halleran Ed Case
January 2023 present

Members of the Blue Dog Coalition[edit]




New Jersey

North Carolina


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Currently, Blue Dog in the 2020s is mainly socially liberal and fiscally moderate-to-conservative, but in the 1990s and 2000s, Blue Dog has often shown center-right to right-wing socially and fiscally views.
  2. ^ Nickel was endorsed by the Blue Dog Caucus, but has yet to decide whether or not he would decline to join after the naming controversy.[45]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kane, Paul (February 19, 2020). "Blue Dog Democrats celebrate a milestone but stand alone on a core issue — fiscal restraint". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mendoza, Jessica (June 4, 2019). "Centrist Democrats are back. But these are not your father's Blue Dogs". Christian Science Monitor.
  3. ^ Blake, Aaron (April 25, 2012). "Why the Blue Dogs' decline was inevitable". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Davis, Susan. "U.S. House has fewer moderate Democrats". USA Today. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Ruth Bloch Rubin, ed. (2017). Building the Bloc: Intraparty Organization in the US Congress. Cambridge University Press. p. 188. ISBN 9781316510421. In contrast to the halting mobilization of Insurgent Republicans and southern Democrats, the Blue Dogs' adoption of ... ideological bonafides, the Coalition worked to establish a Blue Dog brand and associate it with support for centrist policies.
  6. ^ a b "Lobbying from the center". The Hill. January 26, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Mutnick, Ally; Ferris, Sarah (January 24, 2023). "Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks". POLITICO. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  8. ^ Dumain, Emma (May 12, 2015). "20 years in, Blue Dogs not ready to roll over".
  9. ^ "History". Blue Dog Coalition. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  10. ^ "History". Blue Dog Coalition. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  11. ^ Bendavid, Naftali (July 28, 2009). "'Blue Dog' Democrats hold health care overhaul at bay". The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ "Wordcraft Archives, November 2004". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Suddath, Claire (July 28, 2009). "A Brief History of Blue Dog Democrats". Time. Archived from the original on July 31, 2009. Retrieved September 7, 2009.
  14. ^ Safire, William (April 23, 1995). "On Language; Blue Dog Demo". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2009.
  15. ^ "Blue Dog Democrats". November 4, 2008. Archived from the original on July 14, 2009. Retrieved March 17, 2010.
  16. ^ Bresnahan, John (October 24, 2007). "Blue Dogs refuse to pony up for DCCC". The Politico. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
  17. ^ "The Democratic Party's centrists: Blue Dog days". The Economist. July 30, 2009.
  18. ^ "Are the Blue Dogs really working for you?". Silver Buzz Cafe. August 20, 2009. Retrieved March 17, 2010.
  19. ^ "Two House Committees Approve Health Reform Bill". Child Welfare League of America. July 27, 2009. Archived from the original on June 16, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  20. ^ Wallace, Gregory (June 25, 2012). "'Obamacare': The word that defined the health care debate". CNN. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  21. ^ Ball, Molly (November 16, 2012). "Blue Dogs are dwindling". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  22. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (August 17, 2009). "'Public Option' in Health Plan may be dropped". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  23. ^ "Blue Dogs And The Health Care Debate" NPR: Talk of the Nation, August 4, 2009.
  24. ^ Kane, Paul (January 15, 2014). "Blue Dog Democrats, whittled down in number, are trying to regroup". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014. Four years ago, they were the most influential voting bloc on Capitol Hill, more than 50 House Democrats pulling their liberal colleagues to a more centrist, fiscally conservative vision on issues such as health care and Wall Street reforms.
  25. ^ "Blue Dogs shaved in half – Blue Dog Democrats". Fox Nation. Fox News. November 3, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  26. ^ a b c d "Shutdown, health care, budget: How moderate House Democrats will influence the party". mcclatchydc.
  27. ^ Allen, Jonathan. "Blue Dog wipeout: Half of caucus gone". Politico. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  28. ^ "A vanishing breed: Blue Dogs". Los Angeles Times. November 3, 2010.
  29. ^ "New Dems hope to be a force in 113th Congress". The Hill. November 17, 2012.
  30. ^ "Why the Blue Dogs' decline was inevitable". The Washington Post. April 25, 2012.
  31. ^ "The Blue Dog map is changing. It may even help Democrats win Republican districts". The Politico. 2017.
  32. ^ "Blue Dogs eye comeback in 2018". The Politico. 2017.
  33. ^ "House Democratic Factions All See Gains After Midterms". Roll Call. November 13, 2018.
  34. ^ Rogin, Josh (December 13, 2018). "Blue Dog Democrats are poised to play a crucial role in the next Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  35. ^ "It was a big, blue wave: Democrats pick up most House seats in a generation". National Public Radio News.
  36. ^ Weiner, Mark (February 1, 2019). "Anthony Brindisi to co-chair Blue Dogs, caucus of moderate House Democrats".
  37. ^ "Centrist Democrats are back. But these are not your father's Blue Dogs". The Christian Science Monitor. June 4, 2019. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  38. ^ Parton, Heather Digby (November 12, 2014). "Bye-bye, blue dog "Democrats": What the end of conservative Dems means for America". Salon. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  39. ^ Parties, Rules, and the Evolution of Congressional Budgeting, Lance T. LeLoup, 2005, pp. 185
  40. ^ Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections, William C. Binning et al, 1999, pp. 307.
  41. ^ Thomson, Alex (2007). A Glossary of U.S. Politics and Government. Stanford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8047-5730-0.
  42. ^ Certain, Geni (2012). Professor-Politician, The Biography of Alabama Congressman Glen Browder. NewSouth Books. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-58838-254-2.
  43. ^ McPherson, Lindsey (November 28, 2018). "Blue Dog Coalition Elects 3 New Co-Chairs to Lead Them in Next Congress" – via
  45. ^ Mutnik, Ally (January 24, 2023). "Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks". Politico.

External links[edit]