By Russell Berman - 03/27/13 09:00 AM EDT
The razor-thin margin of passage for the Senate Democratic budget highlights the challenge Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid: 'I have set the Senate' for nuclear option Obama in Nevada: 'Heck no' to Trump, Joe Heck Dems double down on Nevada Latino vote MORE will have in steering President Obama’s legislative agenda through the Senate.
The four Democrats who broke with their party on the nonbinding fiscal blueprint are all facing difficult 2014 reelection races in Republican-leaning states, including Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusChina moves to lift ban on US beef Overnight Healthcare: Zika fight stalls government funding talks | Census finds big drop in uninsured | Mental health bill faces wait Glover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft MORE (D-Mont.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The 50-49 vote on the budget could spell the most trouble for gun control legislation, which is next on the Senate docket.
Democrats have struggled to unify behind gun legislation, and budget defectors Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), Kay HaganKay HaganPhoto finish predicted for Trump, Clinton in North Carolina Are Senate Republicans facing an election wipeout? Clinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark BegichTrump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide Ryan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority MORE (Alaska) and Baucus all hail from states where restrictions on firearms are unpopular.
Already, Democrats from conservative states are pushing back on television ads financed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) that urge them to support a universal background check system for gun purchases.
“I don’t take gun advice from the Mayor of NYC. I listen to Arkansans,” Pryor wrote in a Twitter post Monday.
Freshman Sen. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampMoney for nothing: Rethinking CO2 Liberal groups urge Schumer to reject Bayh for Banking gavel Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada MORE (D-N.D.) criticized Bloomberg for ads “attacking a way of life he does not understand.”
Red-state Democrats who are digging in for tough races in 2014 could balk at casting “yes” votes on gun control that could be used against them in campaign ads, and they might welcome the opportunity to show their independence from Obama.
“The timing doesn’t help [Reid], but there really is no time that’s going to be easy” on guns, said Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
On the budget vote, a senior Democratic aide downplayed the close margin, saying party leaders were aware of the possible defections in advance and were surprised only that Baucus ultimately voted no.
“The goal was never to get every Democrat,” the aide said. “The goal was to pass the resolution.”
The four Democrats who voted against the budget resolution cited varying reasons for their opposition. Pryor was a likely “no” from the beginning.
“He was pretty clear throughout that he was having significant problems with the bill,” the aide said.
Hagan said she could not support the budget because of its proposed cuts to defense. Early on in the process, she told Reid and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty MurrayPatty MurrayWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military A fight for new rights MORE (D-Wash.) that the defense numbers would be a problem.
Begich did not make a final decision until shortly before the early morning vote but told Reid and Murray in advance, the aide said.
“The only one that was a little bit surprising was Baucus,” the aide said. “We assumed he would be there at the end.”
Hagan, Begich, Pryor and Baucus could vote no without jeopardizing final passage of the budget in large part because Reid and Murray won the support of red-state Democrats who just won reelection in 2012 and won’t face voters again for six years.
Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTrump questions hound endangered Republican Dems to McConnell: Pass 'clean' extension of Iran sanctions Convicted ex-coal boss says he’s a ‘political prisoner’ MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJon TesterGOP plan: Link Dems to an email scandal Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables MORE (Mont.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Liberal groups urge Schumer to reject Bayh for Banking gavel A dozen senators call for crackdown on Chinese steel MORE (Ind.) and Heitkamp all backed the budget, giving Reid the 50-vote majority he needed.
A Reid spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.