The Blue Dog Coalition is an official caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives that formed following the 1994 mid-term congressional elections. In that election, the Republican Party netted a gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives and eight seats in the Senate, which resulted in the Republicans gaining control of both the House and Senate the following January. The Republican Party had not held majority status in the House of Representatives since the 83rd Congress (elected in 1952).
The Coalition’s founding members viewed the 1994 election results as an indication that the Democratic Party had gone too far left and was rejected by the American people. So, there was an effort by fiscally-responsible and moderate Democrats to form a voting bloc representing what they viewed as the middle of the partisan spectrum and one that would serve as fierce advocates for fiscal responsibility. Their goals were to hold both parties accountable to promises of fiscal restraint and, by working with both parties, to stop legislation from going too far right or too far left.
Inspired by the canine paintings of Cajun artist George Rodrique, who often painted a blue dog with yellow eyes, the founding members coined the term Blue Dogs after the old adage that many southerners, from the post-Reconstruction era to the late 1900s, would have “sooner voted for a yellow dog than for a Republican.” Many members had also said they felt “choked blue” by the extremes of both parties and therefore the group adopted the term Blue Dog Democrats.
The Blue Dog Coalition formally announced their formation on February 14, 1995, in the 104th Congress with 23 members. Soon thereafter, its leaders met with members of the Tuesday Lunch Bunch, an informal group of moderate Republicans in the House, to discuss upcoming issues, especially welfare reform legislation and the budget, and to explore possible cooperation on votes. President Bill Clinton and House Democratic leaders also met with the Blue Dog Coalition early in the 104th Congress to discuss various issues, once again focusing on welfare reform legislation and the budget.
Since that time, the Blue Dog Coalition has built a reputation as a serious player in the policy arena, promoting positions which bridge the gap between ideological extremes. Many of the group’s proposals have been praised as fair, responsible, and positive additions to a Congressional environment too often marked as partisan and antagonistic. As pragmatic Democrats and fiscal hawks, the Blue Dogs will continue to reach across the aisle to engage in a real debate on fiscal responsibility.
The founding principles of the Blue Dog Coalition, that continue to guide the caucus today, are forever enshrined in its preamble: “Members of the Blue Dog Coalition are dedicated to the financial stability and national security of the country, notwithstanding partisan political positions and personal fortune and do hereby agree to organize a Coalition to serve the interests of our country.”