By Russell Berman - 11/17/11 01:30 AM EST
The conservative-Democrat Blue Dog Coalition officially endorsed the House Republican balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, breaking with Democratic Party leaders and the White House.
Another Blue Dog leader, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), said he expected “a significant majority” of members to support the amendment, and sent a blunt warning to Blue Dogs who might oppose it.
“If any Blue Dog does not vote for it, I’d have to question how much they’re a Blue Dog,” Matheson said.
The decision to endorse the measure puts the Blue Dogs directly at odds with the Democratic leadership and with a longtime ally of the coalition, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.). Hoyer supported a similar amendment when it gained 300 House votes in 1995, but he is opposing it now because he said he cannot trust the Republican Party to make responsible fiscal decisions and waive the requirement in an emergency.
Hoyer is whipping members against the measure. More liberal Democrats like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) have long opposed it, and the White House issued a statement of opposition though a constitutional amendment requires no presidential action.
Responding to the Blue Dog announcement, Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said: “Mr. Hoyer shares the Blue Dogs’ commitment to balancing our budget and restoring fiscal discipline, and appreciates their leadership on fiscal issues.”
The Blue Dog leaders called opposition from the Democratic leadership “unfortunate” and noted that there is broad public support for a balanced-budget amendment.
Most Republicans are expected to back the measure, despite concerns among some conservatives that the GOP leadership chose to bring up a version of the amendment that does not include a provision requiring a two-thirds congressional majority to raise taxes.
If all current House members vote, 290 would be needed to pass the amendment, meaning at least 48 Democrats would have to vote yes.
Matheson said there was support from some Democrats who were not Blue Dogs but would not predict the outcome of Friday’s vote. “We don’t have a specific whip count for the Democratic Caucus,” he said.
Under the debt-limit deal signed in August, both the House and Senate must hold votes on a balanced-budget amendment by the end of the year.
This story was originally posted at 2:20 p.m. and has been updated.