A Democratic trick on the House floor today forced exactly three Republicans to bow to pressure from their leadership and switch their vote in a last-ditch attempt to save the preordained, less conservative GOP budget plan.
In a stroke of parliamentary genius, Democrats decided to jam a more conservative budget plan through the House in order to hang it around Republicans’ necks.
The vote, if successful, would have forced Republicans to formally endorse the more conservative option– a GOP plan on steroids — providing deeper cuts for the wealthy and more severe entitlement rollbacks. Democratic campaign ads slamming Republicans for voting for extreme, draconian cuts would have inevitably followed.Democrats, in an effort to reveal the fractures in the GOP conference, changed their no votes to present at the last minute so that the vote, which was considered largely symbolic and headed for a pro forma defeat, actually had the chance of passing as the Republican plan.
Afterward, a senior Democratic aide gave Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) credit for the Democratic bait-and-switch approach that caused so much chaos for Republicans on a Friday just as they were planning to head out of town early for a two-week recess.
After a few minutes of panic and pandemonium, GOP leaders convinced Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), as well as Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), to switch and save the day. Dreier and McMorris are part of the leadership team and need to tow the party line more than other members, and Bono Mack is from a relatively moderate districts with a pretty safe seat. Republicans went on to pass the less conservative but still highly controversial GOP budget plan, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-CA), and the crisis was averted.
Senior GOP aides told TPM after the vote that two powerful forces in GOP Tea Party circles had preferred the conservative Republican Study Committee’s more austere budget blueprint and were leaning on Republicans to support it.
Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth, which is known for cutting big checks to more conservative primary challengers against GOP incumbents, informed members they would be watching the vote on the RSC budget closely. Norquist’s group grades members in an ongoing basis on how conservative they are, and Republicans use that score to decide who to endorse and financially back in elections.
Afterward, GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) laughed off the Democratic trick.
“I guess they learned that from Obama in the Senate,” he told The Hill’s Russell Berman.
But prominent conservative Republicans were celebrating their near victory.
“I think it’s really good for our leaders to see where our conference is,” Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), chairman of the RSC Budget and Spending Taskforce, told TPM. “It got a lot of support because it does what the American public wants us to do — balance the books soon. Ryan’s budget doesn’t — at least not in our lifetimes.”
Correction: TPM originally incorrectly reported that Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) also had switched his vote. We regret the error.