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 ReidGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? 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 BaucusLawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda White House tax-reform push is ‘game changer,’ says ex-chairman MORE (D-Mont.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

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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 PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map 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 HeitkampSanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill GOP senators distance themselves from House ObamaCare repeal bill Separating fact from fiction in the Regulatory Accountability Act 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 MurraySenate Dems urge White House not to roll back free birth control rule Overnight Finance: Dems introduce minimum wage bill | Sanders clashes with Trump budget chief | Border tax proposal at death's door Sanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill 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.

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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 ManchinConvicted ex-coal exec appeals case to Supreme Court Sanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJon TesterSanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill Montana senator on Gianforte: Dealing with media ‘part of the job’ Senators pan WH proposal to cut airport security programs, hike ticket fees MORE (Mont.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellySanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill Updated fuel regulations would modernize options at gas pumps Mnuchin mum as Dems press for answers on tax reform, Dodd-Frank 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.