Voters want their representatives to work together. But even more important than bipartisanship, voters demand legislation that helps working families. Overly complex bills that aren't effective create more problems, as many congressional candidates will find out in the coming election.
Claiming "bipartisanship" as her reason, 17th District Congresswomen Cheri Bustos recently joined the Blue Dog Coalition, which has a long history of being disruptive, demanding and wrongheaded about economic issues. These so-called "conservative Democrats" have used other names over the years — "Boll Weevils," "Dixiecrats" — but in short, they're obstructionists.
The Blue Dogs were co-founded by former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin, who later abandoned the pack and joined Republicans. Tauzin then left Congress altogether and became a pharmaceutical association lobbyist making $2 million annually. Phony bipartisanship has its benefits, as Tauzin understood. The Blue Dogs' funding comes mostly from drug and insurance companies.
If being conservative means spending less, resulting in less payback for your money, then the Blue Dogs are conservative. Think of filling your car up with a half tank of gas when you need a full tank to get where you're going.
Their "bipartisanship" has created a mess in Washington. Democrats held majorities in both houses from 2006 to 2010. However, they really didn't control the legislative agenda because the Blue Dogs and a few Senate Democrats joined Republicans to kill a more effective stimulus bill and a Medicare-like option in the health care reform legislation. Many Obama advisors and respected economists such as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman believed the stimulus legislation was about a third too small. Passing an inadequate stimulus has resulted in the slowest job recovery since the Great Depression. Can't find a good-paying job or any job at all? Blame the Blue Dogs and their misguided "bipartisanship."
Frustrated by complicated health care insurance? Blame the Blue Dogs. Democratic House leaders proposed a simple, cost-effective Medicare-like option for ObamaCare, but the Blue Dogs joined Republicans again and killed it. Medicare, unlike for-profit insurance, returns 92 to 98 cents of useable health services for each $1 spent. Instead we only have for-profit insurance options to choose from, and these options return 80 to 85 cents on each $1 spent. That's better than we received before ObamaCare, when private insurance returned as low as 40 cents. So is this "bipartisan" legislation conservative or a sellout?
Finally, the Blue Dog political strategy hasn't worked. In 2010, only 23 of 54 Blue Dogs won re-election. Half of those who voted against ObamaCare lost. Their membership was down to 14 before Bustos joined. She should reconsider, especially since labeling herself a Blue Dog is a flip-flop from her position of last spring, when she promoted "No Labels."
Bill Edley is a former state legislator who recently earned a Master's degree from the London School of Economics. Previously a resident of Canton, Macomb and Peoria, he now lives in Springfield.