The Blue Dogs have a different strategy: Instead of casting their lot with Republicans, they came up with their own seven-year budget plan. But the Blue Dogs included none of the $245 billion in tax cuts that are in the GOP plan, and they called for less severe reductions in projected spending for social programs. When the Blue Dog budget came to a vote this fall, only 68 House Democrats voted for it. But now their budget is gaining attention as a possible blueprint for compromise.
The White House objects to the Blue Dogs' budget on many points--such as its deeper cuts in domestic programs--but Clinton wants their votes for any deal that he might strike with the GOP. Clinton has said that he does not want to sign on to a budget deal unless it has the support of a substantial bloc of Democrats--as many as 100 of the House's 197-member Democratic caucus.
"The administration can't afford to make a deal that would have only 10 or 15 Democratic votes," said an aide to the House Democratic leadership. "It would look like they sold out to Republicans."
Top Clinton aides have been courting the Blue Dogs: saying kind things about their budget, asking their advice on negotiating with the GOP, pushing to get Stenholm a place on the budget negotiating team.