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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 ReidBottom line Bottom line Senate roadblocks threaten to box in Biden 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 BaucusBottom line 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 PryorCotton glides to reelection in Arkansas Live updates: Democrats fight to take control of the Senate Lobbying world MORE (Ark.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan10 under-the-radar races to watch in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate 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 HeitkampFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight 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 MurrayDemocratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition DOJ investigation into Epstein deal ends without recommended action The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to know about the Pfizer vaccine announcement 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 ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinVoters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPresident is wild card as shutdown fears grow Repealing the Affordable Care Act: Too big a price to pay for veterans Democrats vent to Schumer over Senate majority failure MORE (Mont.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty 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.