Vulnerable lawmakers embrace budget pact

Most of the House lawmakers who are vulnerable in the 2014 election voted for the budget deal on Thursday night.

In a departure from earlier budget votes, the majority of Democratic and Republican lawmakers facing tough reelection races joined with their colleagues to support the deal, which passed 332-94.

The enthusiastic support of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the conservative credibility provided by one of the deal's authors, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), made it easier for vulnerable Republicans to back the measure this time.

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Of the 94 defections, 62 were Republicans and 32 were Democrats. Most of the "no" votes came from the most liberal and conservative members of the parties.

The lone vulnerable Democrat to oppose the bill was Rep. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), a perennial Republican target who's likely to face former state Sen. David Rouzer in a rematch of last year's close election fight.

On the Republican side, vulnerable Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.) and Joe Heck (Nev.), both members of the National Republican Congressional Committee's program for its most endangered incumbents, opposed the deal. Rep. Dan Webster (Fla.), another vulnerable Republican, did as well.

Many centrist Republicans and Democrats who did vote for the budget issued similar statements, arguing that while it wasn't perfect, it was better than nothing.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a top Democratic target, called it a "commonsense solution."

“The Bipartisan Budget Act shouldn’t be considered a ‘great’ or even a ‘good’ deal,” he said in a statement. “This bill doesn’t do enough to address our debt and deficit spending and offers little in long-term reforms to the way Washington spends money. But, in a divided government, neither side will get everything they want, and that’s the commonsense solution that we approved today."

Their willingness to support an imperfect budget deal reflects the steep political price Republicans paid in October when the government shut down after the two parties failed to reach an agreement on a government funding measure — and it could be an indication that the power of conservative forces in the GOP is waning.

But other Republicans facing primary challengers, including Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), voted "no."

A half-dozen conservative groups, and many more conservative lawmakers, had bashed the deal before the vote, calling it more "reckless spending" because it alleviated some sequester cuts and raised the government's spending level for the next two years.

Conservatives argued the deal would undo the steps Congress had taken toward debt reduction with sequestration.

A number of Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose the deal when it hits the upper chamber next week.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — all named as potantial presidential contenders in 2016 — are all opposed to the deal, as is, sources say, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who faces a conservative primary challenger in his reelection fight.

Progressive Democrats also opposed it because it didn't include an extension of unemployment benefits, which are due to run out at the end of this month.

Liberals like Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), who had earlier slammed the deal, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) broke with their party to vote against it.