Case leaves Blue Dogs behind, but still sticks to his moderate values

Internal disagreements within the centrist coalition prompted a number of Democrats, including the Hawaii Congressman, to move on.

WASHINGTON — For the past two years, Rep. Ed Case has co-chaired the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, a group of centrist Democrats uniting on issues aimed at curbing government spending, strengthening national security and the nation to curb debt.

But now, after an internal rift, Case is leaving the caucus.

That doesn’t mean he’s no longer a fiscal conservative. Indeed far from it.

Case remains committed to his decision during last Congress to join with other moderates in a Democrat-controlled House to support President Joe Biden’s original $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” plan in exchange for curb a more modest proposal. This led to an election lawsuit against him in 2022.

“I believed in the goals of the Blue Dogs and I still do, but it takes a lot of time,” Case said. “And as I watched this next convention, I felt a greater urge to devote much more of my time and resources to the role of the broader Indo-Pacific and Hawaii in it.”

Lt.  Governor Josh Green and Congressman Ed speak at the Hawaii Democratic Party Unity Breakfast Sunday, August 14, 2022. CivilBeat photos Ronen Zilberman.
US Rep. Ed Case says he’s not giving up his centrist ideology just because he’s leaving the Blue Dogs. (Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022)

Politico first reported internal divisions within the Blue Dog Coalition that resulted in seven of its 15 members, including Case, leaving the group.

According to the news organization, there was a debate over whether the Blue Dogs should rename themselves the “Common Sense Coalition” to distance themselves from their reputation as a southern boys’ club with socially conservative leanings.

After a secret ballot in which the Blue Dogs rejected the name, Case and several others, including MPs Abigail Spanberger, Mikie Sherrill and David Scott, decided against replenishing their membership, leaving an even smaller coalition.

Whether that will tarnish the Blue Dogs’ standing remains to be seen, especially given the razor-thin Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which stands at 222 to 212 with one vacancy.

As Andy LaVigne, the coalition’s executive director, told Politico, he still expects the Blue Dogs to have some influence in the new Congress.

“The Blue Dogs have never prioritized a grand coalition — our members are looking for a focused, effective group that can influence Congress no matter the number,” LaVigne said in a statement. “With a slim majority ruling the House of Representatives, even a smaller group of members focused on getting things done for the American people on these issues can and will play a critical role.”

Now that he’s retiring from the Blue Dogs, Case plans to focus his energies on his committee duties, which include appropriations and natural resources. He also intends to work closely with the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is made up of a bipartisan group of lawmakers trying to break the political deadlock in Washington.

Case said he’s running for a seat on the new House selection committee focused on US-China competition, although he acknowledges it’s a long way to go as he already holds a coveted spot at Appropriations, where he is will serve on the Defense and Homeland Security subcommittees.

The House voted overwhelmingly to form the committee in early January. Only 65 members, all Democrats, opposed it, including new US Rep. Jill Tokuda.

Tokuda told Civil Beat that she voted against the committee because she feared it would only fuel anti-Asian hostility, which has been growing in recent years.

“Exactly what I thought was, ‘Here we go with the xenophobia; Let’s start with the racism,'” Tokuda said.

Case said he shares Tokuda’s concerns, noting efforts in 2019 to put safeguards in place to ensure US intelligence agencies do not profile Chinese Americans while conducting espionage investigations related to the People’s Republic of China. But, he added, he still sees China as “the challenge of our time.”

“If our relationship with China continues through the next generation or so, that will largely determine how the world develops,” Case said.

Whether he still believes he can achieve what he wants in a divided Congress, Case says he’s sticking to the approach he’s always had, whether he’s a blue dog or not.

“I will still go out and take financial responsibility, I will still advocate for a strong and responsible national defense, I still believe that the rural parts of our country are being left out – especially by the Democrats – and I certainly believe in it Getting things done, as opposed to endlessly yelling and yelling at them, none of that is going to change,” Case said.

“But I will find other ways to track all of this, including through the Problem Solvers Caucus, my Appropriations Committee, and my constant interaction with the Blue Dogs themselves, including those who are still Blue Dogs and those who aren’t.” more Blue are dogs because they are all still my friends and colleagues.”