House’s Blue Dog Democrats call for Joe Biden to help rein in debt

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The House’s moderate Blue Dog Democrats urged President-elect Joseph R. Biden on Wednesday to help rein in debt, pass spending bills on time and avoid pursuing “partisan” legislation.

The 15 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, pushing precisely the middle-of-the-road politics that the party’s emboldened far left wants Mr. Biden to reject, called on him to prioritize COVID-19 relief and new investments in areas such as health care and climate change.

The members also pointed to the $27 trillion national debt and called for fiscal restraint once the public health crisis subsides.

“Although much of the spending enacted during the 116th Congress has been justified by the need to swiftly address the COVID-19 crisis, we must recognize that our fiscal path is unsustainable,” the members said in a letter to Mr. Biden released Wednesday.

The signatories included the caucus leadership — Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, Lou Correa of California, Anthony Brindisi of New York and Kurt Schrader of Oregon — plus 10 others.

They said lawmakers should take up legislation that “incentivizes Congress to pass a budget and all appropriations bills on time, reforms the redistricting process, strengthens Inspectors General, and increases transparency to show how Federal taxpayer dollars are spent.”

Once a major force in Congress, the Blue Dogs’ ranks have been diminished in recent years to about two dozen members.

They’re also losing more than a half-dozen members who didn’t win re-election this year: Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Ben McAdams of Utah, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Max Rose of New York, and Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico.
Mr. Brindisi’s tight race against Republican Claudia Tenney has yet to be decided.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, a Blue Dog who also co-chairs the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said Wednesday that the most immediate priority is to get the GOP-led Senate to pass legislation providing for $2,000 direct stimulus payments for millions of Americans.

“Let’s just focus on voting up and down on the $2,000 — let’s get it done. Let’s get these dollars out the door and start helping people before the end of the year,” he said on MSNBC.

The Blue Dogs also told Mr. Biden they want to hold China and Russia to account for exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and interfering in U.S. elections.

“Additionally, we request that your Administration provide a classified, bipartisan briefing for Members of Congress regarding the recently-revealed cyberattack on the networks of the federal government and much of corporate America,” the letter said.

If he were still in Congress, Mr. Biden would likely fit in more with the Blue Dogs than he would with “The Squad” — a quartet of far-left female House Democrats first elected in 2018.

The left wing of the Democratic Party is set to get reinforcements heading into next year with members like Reps.-elect Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Mondaire Jones of New York.

Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — two Squad members — introduced a resolution this month intended to outline a path for Mr. Biden to unilaterally cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower on his first day in office.

Mr. Biden, whose economic plan called for at least $10,000 of student loan forgiveness per borrower, said recently he’s not sure he has the authority to push the envelope.

“It’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Mr. Biden told a group of newspaper columnists this month. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”

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