As I've written, I think it's reasonable to give Walt Minnick quite a bit of room to be the conservative Blue Dog he ran as. And that is how he's been voting.
I was hoping that we could count on his vote for the big items, but so far I've been disappointed. He voted against the economic stimulus package and he voted against the energy/jobs bill. The next big vote is on health care. Here's to hoping that Minnick will support the plan favored by the majority of his party, even if it ends up including a "public option." I'm hoping, but certainly not expecting.
I guess Minnick is okay with House leadership to vote with the Party of No so often, so long as his vote is not a crucial tie breaker. If his vote really doesn't matter to the outcome of the bill, I suppose he's allowed to vote against it.
But I see two problems with this. One, by not supporting his fellows in the majority party, he is not racking up any chits and favors, and thus has little to call in should he ever decide to try to get something passed (instead of just voting no all the time).
The other, bigger, problem is that Minnick gives Republicans cover when he votes with them. S.C. Senator Lindsey Graham last week on one of the Sunday yak shows said that the true bi-partisan position on the energy bill was the Republican position, because so many Democrats voted with Republicans against it. So Minnick's vote, though not needed to pass the bill, was not harmless. It provided comfort to the Republicans and allowed them to argue it was an extreme position.