Defectors rise on Ryan budget

Greg Nash

More than 10 Republicans are expected to reject Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget blueprint, and many others remain undecided.

House GOP leaders have expressed confidence they will pass the budget measure, but the scheduled vote on Thursday could go down to the wire. If every member votes and all Democrats — as expected — reject the Ryan plan, Republican leaders can only afford 16 defections to pass the controversial resolution.

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[At press time, The Hill learned that Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) will miss the budget vote. Bass is on an official trip to Africa and Perlmutter is dealing with a family emergency.]

In 2013, 10 Republicans balked at Ryan’s budget resolution.

But primary politics have made this vote tougher. The legislation, which calls for major Medicare reforms and $5.1 trillion in cuts, has attracted criticism from both the right and the left.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has called Ryan’s proposal “a joke,” saying it doesn’t cut enough. 

Democrats say they plan to use the Ryan plan to mobilize their base voters in key races this fall.

As of Tuesday, 13 GOP members appear to be “no” votes, with another nine still in play.

The following is a breakdown of the members leaders have lost or may lose.

 

Four rebels set to vote ‘no’ 

Republican Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) have become reliable dissenting votes on high-profile fiscal bills favored by Republican leaders. They are firmly expected to vote against the new budget because it does not cut spending as deeply as they want.

Huelskamp and Jones were removed from committee assignments at the end of the last Congress for their rebellious record. Jones, who faces a significant primary challenge this year, says he will never vote for a budget that spends money on foreign aid, and he also opposes the partial privatization of Medicare in the Ryan plan.

Huelskamp was enraged when House leaders used a surprise voice vote to pass a Medicare “doc fix” bill late last month and is leaning against the Ryan plan even though he voted for the GOP budget last year. Amash said he is undecided, but that has become a stock answer before he votes “no.”

 

Three Georgia Senate primary candidates set to oppose Ryan plan 

Three GOP members of the Georgia House delegation are vying to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), and each is trying to burnish his conservative credentials ahead of the primary. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey voted “no” on the Ryan plan last year and are set to do so once again. Rep. Jack Kingston, a long-time appropriator, said he is a “definitely lean no” because the budget does not cut discretionary spending to sequester levels or below in fiscal 2015.

 

Six other conservatives are ‘no’ or on fence

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) is set to vote against the budget once again. His office said Crawford “will not vote for non-binding budget resolutions until Congress enacts permanent spending controls that give non-binding budgets a modicum of hope.” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) appears to be against the measure, too. His office said he “would prefer to see a more aggressive budget similar to last year’s Republican Study Committee budget, which would balance the federal budget in four years.”

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) is “undecided” on the budget, but was livid over the doc-fix voice vote and opposes the fiscal 2015 spending level. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was in a deep conversation with Labrador on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday told The Hill he is undecided. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla) voted for the last Ryan plan and is likely to do so again. Bridenstine, whose office was mum on his decision, declined to run for Oklahoma’s open Senate seat despite being prodded by conservatives. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) said he is still undecided on the plan.

 

Two Democratic targets are likely ‘no’ votes 

Reps. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) and Joe Heck (R-Nev.) both voted against the Ryan plan last year. Heck said the budget would disproportionately affect his state, and Gibson is one of the most centrist members in the conference. Both are being targeted by Democrats.

 

Two members worried about cuts

For each of the last three years, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) has voted against Ryan’s budget, citing language on changing Medicare to an optional premium support system. This year, Ryan softened the plan by removing a hard cap on federal subsidies given to seniors to buy insurance. In theory, this could cut costs for seniors as well as the federal government.

McKinley told The Hill last week he was a “no.” His office initially said he was undecided this week, but on Wednesday said it had provided incorrect information and that McKinley was a firm no.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) voted against the last Ryan budget over cuts to defense spending. Forbes said he is “undecided” on the new plan, but Ryan’s plan reverses all the cuts to the defense sequester, so there is reason for him to vote “yes” this time. Steve Stombres, chief of staff to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), was spotted having a discussion with Forbes on the House floor on Tuesday.

 

Three members facing GOP primaries could flip to ‘no’ 

Reps. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), Ralph Hall (R-Texas) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn) are all facing tough primary challenges. While they are expected to vote for the plan, any one of them could flip. Tea Party-backed Bentivolio could try to burnish his conservative credentials by voting against the budget, but that could cost him the backing of House leaders he already enjoys. Hall faces his toughest race at age 90 against U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, who is running to his right. He said he is undecided. DesJarlais’s 2014 electoral prospects are in doubt because of a sex scandal. His office did not respond to queries this week.

 

Two retiring members are wild cards

Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve Stockman (R-Texas) voted for the last Ryan budget but have frequently bucked party leaders. Stockman defied the GOP establishment by running unsuccessfully against Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). Both offices avoided questions this week.

 

Victories for GOP leaders 

A number of possible defectors are expected to vote “yes,” including Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Randy Weber (R-Texas). The conservative South Carolina delegation is also on board, including Reps. Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Duncan and Mark Sanford.

 

This story was updated at 9:56 a.m.

Molly K. Hooper, Pete Kasperowicz and Quin LaCapra contributed.