Redistricting forces lawmakers to look over shoulder on budget

Some House Republicans faced a difficult choice this week on two high-profile budget votes: Side with their leaders, or buck them and possibly use the issue against one of their GOP colleagues in next year’s election.

The redistricting process, as it does every 10 years, has pitted incumbent lawmakers of the same party against one another.

This has created a headache for party leaders, especially Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is in charge of vote counting.  

The redistricting process isn’t complete in every state, but there are already early indications of who will be facing whom.

In one matchup, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) stuck with the leadership and supported both stopgap measures – Wednesday’ vote, which failed, and the Friday morning vote on a slightly altered bill that cut $100 million rescission from the loan guarantee program that funded the bankrupt energy company Solyndra.

His expected competition, freshman Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), opposed the Wednesday measure but voted for Friday’s. Landry is considered a Tea Party favorite while Boustany is known as more of a traditional conservative.

Conservatives who opposed the initial stopgap spending measure voted said it didn’t go far enough to cut government spending.

Following Wednesday’s embarrassing defeat, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) added the Solyndra sweetener and the House subsequently passed that version.

California Republican Reps. Gary Miller and Ed Royce split on the Wednesday vote, with Miller voting for the bill and Royce voting against it. But Royce came back to the leadership fold for Friday’s vote.

The two lawmakers have to strike a tough balancing act in their likely race. California has moved to a primary system in which the top two vote-getters face off in a general election. That means Royce and Miller need to appeal to the Republican base in a newly drawn conservative district in Orange County in order to try to win enough of the vote to move into the second round.

But the two could face off again in the general election, where independents and Democrats could decide the final winner. Miller has a more centrist record than Royce, and the two followed that pattern on these votes.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) both voted no during Wednesday and Friday’s votes.

Walsh, a Tea Party favorite, announced this week he will challenge Hultgren after Democrats who redrew Illinois’s map made it very hard for him to win in his old district.

Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio) also voted no in Wednesday and Friday’s votes. His old district has been divided up and it is unclear whether he will run against Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) or against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio). Turner opposed the bill in Wednesday’s vote but supported the bill in Friday’s vote while Schmidt supported it both times.

On the Democratic side, centrist Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) was one of only six Democrats to back the legislation. He is likely to face Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.), another centrist member who voted against the legislation both times, in a primary. But that is contingent on how Republicans in the state end up drawing their final map and where Critz decides to run once his district is axed. The state is losing one seat in the redistricting process.

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