By now you're probably at least somewhat familiar with the cast of characters in the Senate Democratic caucus--Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, etc.--who pop up every time a major Obama agenda item is making its way through the legislative process to say, "not so fast!"
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But right now, in the House, a group of Blue Dog Democrats is stifling its own party's health care reform proposal, and, for the most part, Americans don't really know who they are. They might know what a "Blue Dog" is, generally speaking--a conservative Democrat from a Republican district, primarily concerned with shrinking the federal deficit (unless the deficit is created by defense and war spending, or tax cuts for the wealthy) and the well-being of big business.
For their pro-corporate positions, and willingness to throw their weight around Congress, the Blue Dogs are richly rewarded. And this year--with energy, financial, and, yes, health industry interests trying desperately to weaken reform legislation--they're on a record pace. But within the Blue Dog caucus there are a range of personalities and animating forces, and it's worth taking a moment to review who the key players are.