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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 Mason ReidNevada governor signs law making state first presidential primary Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Lobbying world 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 Sieben BaucusCryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Bottom line Bottom line 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 Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (Ark.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary 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 HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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 MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate GOP blocks bill to combat gender pay gap OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps program: exclusive 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 ManchinPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking The Memo: Democratic tensions will only get worse as left loses patience MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (Mont.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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.