Any attempt — real or imagined — by House Republican leaders to court enough Blue Dog Democrats to their side on the budget talks to avoid a government shutdown, may have backfired.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), a founding member of the Blue Dogs, told TPM he didn’t think the talks were “all that effective” because House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had “talked down to them” during a recent meeting.
Peterson was short on specifics but said McCarthy had definitely rubbed members of the fiscally conservative Democratic coalition the wrong way.
Still, a significant number of Democrats carried an earlier stopgap spending bill across the finish line two weeks ago when 54 conservative Republicans voted against it. After that vote, McCarthy visited the Blue Dogs to discuss potentially common ground on broad budget and other pressing fiscal issues, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
In that story, McCarthy and Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), a leader of the centrist group, had different accounts of just whom had reached out to whom. Schuler suggested McCarthy had requested the meeting, while McCarthy said the Blue Dogs had requested a meeting with him after Republicans won the majority and he became whip.
McCarthy is particularly sensitive about the focus of the meeting as he walks a fine line between appealing to Tea Party freshmen and negotiating with Democrats to avoid a shutdown.
Both sides said most of the conversation was far broader than the current funding negotiations and focused mainly on where the Blue Dogs stood on the longer-term budget issues like entitlement reform. But Shuler claimed McCarthy was “feeling them out” on votes to avoid a government shutdown even though the third-ranking Republican didn’t specifically ask whether he could count on their support.
Peterson also made it clear that fiscal conservative Democrats wouldn’t tolerate any controversial riders on social issues such as defunding Planned Parenthood or NPR.