Breaking Down the Politics of the Budget Bill

A majority of Republican Senate candidates broke with Paul Ryan in voting against the compromise.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 18: Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) (2nd L) and members of the GOP Doctors Caucus hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol March 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. All the members of the caucus said they oppose the health care reform legislation, calling it dishonest and bad for doctors.
National Journal
Alex Roarty and Josh Kraushaar
Dec. 13, 2013, 10:22 a.m.

The House over­whelm­ingly passed the com­prom­ise budget au­thored by Paul Ry­an and Patty Mur­ray, 332-94, on Thursday. But while a clear ma­jor­ity of House Re­pub­lic­ans backed the le­gis­la­tion, the op­pos­ite was true among GOP Sen­ate can­did­ates.

Mean­while, Demo­crats fa­cing tough 2014 cam­paigns were over­whelm­ingly sup­port­ive of the com­prom­ise, with only a couple at-risk can­did­ates vot­ing against.

Here’s a full break­down of the polit­ic­al im­plic­a­tions of the vote:

1) Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate can­did­ates mostly op­posed the Ry­an-Mur­ray budget.

Des­pite the budget com­prom­ise passing over­whelm­ingly in the House, more Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate can­did­ates voted against the le­gis­la­tion than sup­por­ted it. Sev­er­al of the op­pon­ents had primary polit­ics in mind. The three Geor­gia con­gress­men run­ning for the Sen­ate have all tried to po­s­i­tion them­selves to the right, try­ing to ap­peal to con­ser­vat­ive voters. And Rep. Steve Stock­man of Texas just kicked off his long-shot Sen­ate cam­paign against Sen. John Cornyn.

But oth­ers thought the con­ser­vat­ive vote was smart gen­er­al-elec­tion polit­ics, too. Rep. Tom Cot­ton of Arkan­sas, run­ning in a solidly Re­pub­lic­an state, cast a no vote — con­sist­ent with his re­cord of tak­ing a con­ser­vat­ive line, even when it opens him up for Demo­crat­ic cri­ti­cism (such as his op­pos­i­tion to the farm bill). And in Montana, Rep. Steve Daines faces no ser­i­ous primary op­pos­i­tion but joined the con­ser­vat­ive wing of the party on the vote re­gard­less.

The two Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate can­did­ates sup­port­ing the com­prom­ise: Reps. Shel­ley Moore Capito of West Vir­gin­ia and Bill Cas­sidy of Louisi­ana, who has taken heat from his right for be­ing too close to the es­tab­lish­ment. Cas­sidy is run­ning com­pet­it­ively with Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mary Landrieu, but he also faces con­ser­vat­ive op­pon­ent Rob Maness in the all-party primary. Vot­ing for the budget nudges Cas­sidy’s im­age to­ward that of a com­prom­iser, as he tries to win middle-of-the-road voters.

2) Most House Re­pub­lic­ans fa­cing tough races sup­por­ted the com­prom­ise, with two not­able ex­cep­tions.

The smart polit­ic­al play for vul­ner­able House Re­pub­lic­ans, based on their votes, was back­ing the com­prom­ise. Of the 14 GOP mem­bers on The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port‘s most vul­ner­able list, only two broke with lead­er­ship in op­pos­ing the com­prom­ise — a sharp con­trast from their Sen­ate coun­ter­parts.

And the two vul­ner­able Re­pub­lic­ans who broke with lead­er­ship were not­able: Reps. Mike Coff­man of Col­or­ado and Joe Heck of Nevada, two GOP in­cum­bents fa­cing ser­i­ous Demo­crat­ic chal­lengers and run­ning in sub­urb­an, di­verse dis­tricts around Den­ver and Las Ve­gas. These mem­bers of­ten take the more “mod­er­ate” votes on oth­er is­sues, but they took the con­ser­vat­ive tack with this vote.

3) The smart Demo­crat­ic polit­ic­al play? Sup­port­ing the budget. 

A great­er per­cent­age of House Demo­crats backed the com­prom­ise, and that in­cluded their high-pro­file Sen­ate can­did­ates, Reps. Bruce Bra­ley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan. Their re­spect­ive cam­paigns will dwell on de­scrib­ing their Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent as the kind of can­did­ate who re­ject com­prom­ise.

In­deed, of the 25 most vul­ner­able House Demo­crats, only one (Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Car­o­lina) op­posed the le­gis­la­tion. Even Demo­crats in deep-red dis­tricts, such as Reps. Jim Math­eson of Utah and John Bar­row of Geor­gia, voted for it.

One oth­er not­able no vote: Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, who is chal­len­ging ap­poin­ted Sen. Bri­an Schatz from the left in a Demo­crat­ic primary in Hawaii.

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