Udall, Bennet join Blue Dog group of ‘moderate’ Democratic senators

Colorado’s two freshman senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, are part of a self-described centrist group of 15 Democrats meeting regularly “seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill,” according to an account in Roll Call (subscription required).

The group has a “shared commitment to pursue moderate, mainstream and fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, and energy policy,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the group.

Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, announced the group’s formation on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Wednesday morning but declined to name all its members, saying “there are three or four who we are putting in the witness protection program, who attend our meetings but don’t want to be publicly identified yet.”

Think Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias mocked the reluctance of the group’s members to go public: “After all, Barack Obama is popular! And his agenda is popular! So if you choose to oppose it, you might face political problems. So better to keep the sabotage secret.”

MSNBC’s First Read tracked down the complete list of the group’s members:

“Leading the new group are Democratic Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas… [O]thers joining the group are Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Udall of Colorado, and Mark Warner of Virginia.”

Udall and Bennet had this to say about the group in statements released Wednesday afternoon:

Udall said: “The challenges facing our country are deep and serious. More than ever, we need to get beyond ideological or partisan labels and find solutions. So I plan to be a pragmatic and independent voice in the Senate and in this new working group, for the good of all Coloradans.”

Bennet said: “I want to work with President Obama to address the many difficult challenges facing our nation and Colorado. I look forward to meeting with a group that will set aside old habits and take new approaches to strengthening our economy, our schools and our health care system.”

The group plans to continue meeting on alternate Tuesdays, a release from Udall’s office said, and met this week “to focus on the upcoming budget negotiations and the importance of passing a fiscally responsible spending plan in the Senate.”

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Ernest Luning

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