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Us Rep. Boswell A Blue Dog?: His Record Says Not Even Close

[1]In a wildly under-reported story, last Monday the Des Moines Register uncovered a shocking fact—Leonard Boswell is a blue dog Democrat.

To anyone paying attention to politics, and familiar with Mr. Boswell’s votes during his last term, this certainly comes as quite the revelation.  The front page headline was written by Jennifer Jacobs and titled “Opinions vary on effectiveness of Blue Dog democrat Boswell [2]”.

I am far less interested in the article itself than I am in the fact-like pronouncement that Leonard Boswell, especially recently, fits in the “blue dog” pack.  Though he is officially a member of a group of U.S House members called the “Blue Dog Coalition”, his voting record puts him so clearly opposite of nearly every one of this coalition’s mission statements [3] that it’s truly laughable.

We will look at the record in a second, but let me first say that this is not the only time the Des Moines Register has been called out here [4]—and technically it could happen almost daily.  The reason this headline catches the eye is that with election season underway, characterizations and even subtle hints can go a long way in influence uninformed voters in November.  Especially if advertising Boswell as someone who has been tight with the purse strings becomes a campaign strategy, which would be smart politics, this is a notion that has to be quickly and forcefully refuted.

The bottom line is that Leonard Boswell can call himself whatever he wants, and the Register can shrug off critical thinking and follow suit— but that doesn’t make it true.  The fact is that if he is a blue dog, then Steve King is socially moderate and Kim Pearson and Tom Shaw “go along to get along”.  Let’s dig in…

Blue Dogs

For those unaware, a blue dog Democrat is a legislator in the House who is fiscally conservative and philosophically breaks with their party on the level of government spending and taxation that is appropriate, and by their own definition even moral.  Though they recently are trying to branch out into other issues like energy and economic growth, by and large their purpose is to oppose overspending and battle fellow Democrats when need be.  This being the case you would expect to see some sort of opposition from “blue dog” Leonard Boswell to the direction the Country has swerved in following President Obama’s election.  Instead, in the last three and a half years the national debt has increased $5 trillion dollars—and Mr. Boswell has cast “yea” votes all along the way.  Here is the record.

The Record

The following are key votes the Congressman has taken on major tax and spend issues since 2009.

Voted in favor:

• Economic Stimulus Bill—over $800 billion added to the national debt, more than a trillion dollars with interest included (passed the House 246-183 on Feb. 13, 2009).

• Obamacare—price tag of $900 billion over 10 years at passage, most recent CBO scoring nearly doubled this amount to $1.76 trillion (passed the House 219-212 on March 21, 2010).

• Cash For Clunkers –cost of nearly $3 billion (passed the House 316-109 on July 31, 2009).

• Extending Unemployment Benefits—April 15, 2010 (passed 289-112), May 28, 2010 (passed 215-204), and July 22, 2010 (passed 272-152).

• Raising the debt ceiling—passed the House 218-214 on December 16, 2009.

• Cap and Trade—according to the Obama administration itself [5], would have cost Americans up to $200 billion a year (passed the House 219-212 on June 26, 2009).

Voted against:

• Cut, Cap, and Balance—passed the House 234-190 on July 19th, 2011

• Debt ceiling bill – This is the John Boehner version that would have raised the debt ceiling in exchange for limits on discretionary spending (passed the House 218-210 on July 29, 2011).

• Reducing spending to F.Y 2008 levels—passed the House 256-165 on July 25, 2011.

One can make many claims about Boswell’s last term in Congress, but given this record it is hard to imagine how any fair-minded person could call him fiscally conservative.  Besides the unbelievable amount of money he voted to add to our national debt, the other thing to note is how close many of these votes were.  In particular, the Obamacare and Cap and Trade votes authorized borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars per year—and passed by a combined 14 votes. If there ever was a time a blue dog would stand up for their principles of responsible spending it would have been then.

Why It Matters

To bolster the claim that he is a centrist, the Register story uses a National Journal analysis of his votes in 2011 (right before an election year) which places him more liberal than 61.8% and more conservative than 38.2% of his fellow House members.  While this point is highly arguable, any description of him as concerned with deficits and high taxes cannot be made with a straight face.  In our current political climate of outrage over debt, the failure of the Stimulus Bill, and the GSO and Solyndra scandals, any distancing of himself from these issues would be a huge re-election asset—and one he clearly has not earned.

What is really ironic here is the fact that this story follows a weekend in which the Des Moines Register published a piece telling their readers that they would soon be charging for online access to much of their content.  This transition has many affiliated with the paper very nervous, as there is a high probability of it being a disaster.  As long as they continue doing things like allowing Democratic politicians to self-identify themselves without publicly asking questions like “is Leonard Boswell truly a blue dog?”—not only will their bottom line struggle…they will struggle to remain in operation.