“… fiscal irresponsibility and deficit spending is a matter of national security, because it undermines the viability of our economy.”
Roanoke - Sam Rasoul (D), candidate for Virginia’s seat in the 6th Congressional District, has confirmed that, if elected, he will align himself with the so-called Blue Dog Coalition of Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives. In a move that may surprise some local Democrats, Rasoul confirmed his intentions to track with this fiscally conservative group of representatives, on Monday; re-iterating statements made in a prior interview, conducted during a campaign event in Fishersville on July 22nd.
During this campaign stop, he emphasized that his experiences as a small business entrepreneur and his graduate degree in business; have shaped his beliefs on our national fiscal policy. Rasoul stated that his own internal polling data confirms the current state of the economy and the energy costs are on the forefront of voter’s minds. He says that voters are seeking strong fiscal leadership, to reign in the steep build up in public debt and re-prioritize the careful investment of scarce tax dollars, to strengthen our domestic economy and develop a comprehensive portfolio of new energy resources.
He is trying to break through the traditional Republican tag lines about “tax and spend liberals”. He is following the lead of Senator Jim Webb, a decidedly conservative Virginia Democrat, who won a Senate seat in 2006. Rasoul often mentions Webb in his stump speeches. The focus of his campaign will be on how the middle-class is effected by energy and pocket-book issues.
"[Let's say] you're somebody who's a working person in this country, trying to make a living, trying to put your kids through school," he said. "And you look at the people from both parties, and on the key issue--you really don't see a difference... This is where the Karl Rove era moved in. ... they go after their fears. They go after the abortion issues. And what happens is because people don't see the difference on the issues that are really going to take care of them, then they decide alright, I'm going to vote on who's burning my flag and who's going to let gay people get married. We know all the issues: God, guns, guts, gays, abortion, flag." Jim Webb (D-VA)
Rasoul sees the Blue Dog Coalition, and building a moderate consensus; as a path forward, doing the hard work of bridging across the political divide. He appears to be sharpening his appeal to voters that expect solutions, not stalemates. Moderates on both the left and right of the center of the political spectrum are showing a low tolerance for the “blame game”.
Blue Dog Democrats are a group of 47 moderate and conservative Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives. The Blue Dogs fundamentally promote fiscal conservatism and accountability. Many members come from conservative districts, where more liberal Democrats comprise a minority of the general population. In 2006, Blue Dog candidates such as Heath Shuler (NC-11th) and Brad Ellsworth (IN-8th) were elected in traditionally conservative districts, ending years of Republican control in these districts.
Official group membership is capped at 20 percent of the Democratic House caucus, (233 x 20% = 47), a rule that has placed several conservative House Democrats on provisional status as Blue Dogs. The success of this caucus is bringing about a shift in the power curve in Congress. While the right-wing blogosphere rails against Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, as Speaker of the House, the Blue Dogs are involved in finding behind-the-scenes compromise between liberal and conservative positions.
The Blue Dogs reflect a diversity of views, on economic and social issues. They promote positions within the House of Representatives, which bridge the gap between Democratic Party and Republican Party extremes. 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. This group often serves as broker between the Democratic and Republican leadership, building compromises that get legislation passed, rather than blocked or vetoed.
Critics contend that Blue Dogs are merely Bush Dogs - Democrats who enabled President Bush's agenda to advance in the House. However some progressives view the Blue Dogs as an important part of a Democratic Party big tent coalition, which gives the party important credibility with rural voters and social conservatives.
"There are certainly a lot of them who are voting with the White House, certainly more than Speaker Pelosi would like," said Thomas F. Schaller, associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.
But House leaders are reluctant to disregard the newly powerful Blue Dogs, because they "would certainly rather have a (Blue Dog) in Congress than lose that seat to Republicans," Schaller said. Since 1996, 24 Blue Dogs won their seats by defeating a Republican incumbent.
In 2007, the Blue Dogs convinced House leaders to reinstate a federal budgeting practice known as PAYGO, or pay-as-you-go, which requires new federal spending to be budget-neutral or offset by savings. The practice, abandoned in 2002, is a key tenet of Blue Dog philosophy since their formation in 1995.
"Our common battle cry is balance the budget and pay down the deficit," said Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina.
The House has ignored PAYGO twice since it was reinstated in early 2007, including the recent economic stimulus package, but the way the House spends tax payers money is noticeably different, so say the Blue Dogs. "We have to debate it on every single issue, … debating certainly cuts down on wasteful spending," Shuler said.
“This Congress has an opportunity to change the fiscal direction of our country,” said Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS). “There’s no doubt there will be tough choices to make as we live within this budget, but Americans are not afforded the luxury of living beyond their means and our government should stop doing so at the expense of our children and grandchildren.” Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), Blue Dog Whip, said, “We simply cannot continue to mortgage our nation’s future and pass on trillions in debt to our grandchildren.”
When Rasoul’s opponent, incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte , first took office in 1993, the Public Debt was $4.4 Trillion. In 2008, the U.S. Public Debt now stands at about $9.5 Trillion. Spanning the Clinton and GW Bush administrations, this is a 215% increase in our national debt, over the last 15 years.
Goodlatte is considered to be a Rank-and-File Republican. He is well-regarded by conservative tax policy groups, but has drawn some criticism from groups focusing on the national debt for his lack of independence from the party line or favoring powerful Ag PACs . While he regularly talks about tax reform, after almost 16 years in office, he is still not known as a courageous leader for bi-partisan actions that reduce the budget deficit and national debt.
Rasoul summarized his sense of this critical situation, for this post, “… fiscal irresponsibility and deficit spending is a matter of national security (emphasis by author), because it undermines the viability of our economy.”
As previously discussed, and also here, the Bush Administration and an acquiescent Congress (and voters who elect them) were the major culprits in the massive build-up in debt. PAYGO was clearly not adhered to in providing tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, even John McCain originally thought they were unwise. Deficit funding for a major war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan has only exacerbated the problem.
Voters have some tough choices to make in November. The Blue Dog Democrats and Sam Rasoul, say they will play be a big part in taking the necessary steps needed, to improve our national financial predicament.
By Riley Murray
Cross-posted Star City Harbinger