Reid faces dilemma over Dem defections after close budget vote

The razor-thin margin of passage for the Senate Democratic budget highlights the challenge Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief Dems slam Trump over taco bowl tweet Reid: GOP is the party of Trump 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 BaucusWyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny The chaotic fight for ObamaCare MORE (D-Mont.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

ADVERTISEMENT
While Reid (D-Nev.) will need Republican votes to achieve the 60-vote threshold that has become the standard for major legislation, the vote on the budget, which required only a simple majority, shows that keeping his own party in line is not a foregone conclusion.

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 PryorEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood Ex-Sen. Landrieu joins law and lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Kay HaganKay Hagan10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' Washington's lobby firms riding high MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark BegichEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Dem ex-lawmakers defend Schumer on Iran 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 HeitkampReid: Judiciary a 'rubber stamp' for Trump-McConnell oil is changing the world and Washington GOP blocks Obama sanctions czar 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 MurrayRyan goes all-in on Puerto Rico Overnight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Baucus, the party’s top tax-writer, kept mum on the budget even as he chafed at its $1 trillion in new tax revenues. His “no” vote came as something of a surprise.

“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 ManchinOvernight Healthcare: Public support mounts for action on opioids Clinton slams convicted ex-coal chief West Virginia Dem defends Clinton support despite coal remarks MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJon TesterElizabeth Warren stumps, raises funds for Duckworth Senators subpoena EPA officials over mine waste spill The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Mont.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyDemocrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment GOP blocks Obama sanctions czar Indiana GOP divided over Senate primary 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.