Durbin: GOP presidential ambitions and Tea Party challengers imperil budget deal

Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), the second-ranking Senate Democratic leader, said Sunday that Republicans jockeying for the White House in 2016 and Tea Party challengers in 2014 have imperiled the budget deal.

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Durbin estimated that Democrats would lose three members of their caucus on the vote, which means they would need at least eight Republicans to cross the aisle and vote with them.

The challenge Democratic leaders face in trying to round up the vote has been compounded by the outspoken opposition to the deal from Republicans weighing presidential bids and a slew of Republican primary races in 2014.

“A handful of members of the Senate are vying for the presidency in years to come and are thinking about this vote in that context and others are, frankly, afraid of this new force, the Tea Party force, the Heritage Foundation force, that is threatening seven out of the 12 senators running for reelection,” Durbin said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who are weighing presidential bids in 2016, have all blasted the deal.

No Senate Democrat has yet publicly voiced their opposition to the deal negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and her counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but Durbin expects three defections.

“We will need about eight Republicans to come our way. I feel we’ll have a good strong showing from the Democratic side,” he said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (Texas), who both face Republican primary challengers, have signaled they would vote against the bill.

Other Republicans who face Tea Party challengers include Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).

The Club for Growth, a group that has spent millions of dollars in the past Republican primaries, opposes the deal and has pledged to score it on its annual legislative scorecard.

A vote for the budget agreement could spur the group to get involved in one of next year’s races.

Durbin said he hoped Senate Republicans would be persuaded by Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) pushback against conservative groups last week.

“Boehner faced them down before this vote in the House and finally said we’ve got to do something here; we can’t let a handful of members really dictate what happens in the House and what happens to our future,” he said. “I hope the Republican senators heard the same message.”

Boehner told reporters after a private meeting with his conference last week that groups are “using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals.”

“This is ridiculous!” he said.

Durbin said Boehner’s statement should have an influence on GOP senators.

He added, “There are members of House Republican leadership reaching out to some senators to persuade them.”