Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Meanwhile, On the Democratic Side of the Stimulus Vote...

Last week I wrote about the Republican caucus' universal opposition to the Stimulus Bill. Today, lets take a quick look at the 11 Democrats who broke ranks to vote against the legislation. Politico has a story about these 11, noting that 9 of them came from districts carried by John McCain last year. The 11 nays are (with those from McCain winning districts in bold):

Allen Boyd (FL-2)
Bobby Bright (AL-2)
Jim Cooper (TN-5)
Brad Ellsworth (IN-8)
Parker Griffith (AL-5)
Paul Kanjorski (PA-11)
Frank Kratovil (MD-1)
Walt Minnick (ID-1)
Collin Peterson (MN-7)
Heath Shuler (NC-11)
Gene Taylor (MS-4)

In this list, 4 members are freshmen--Bright, Griffith, Kratovil, and Minnick--so one might hypothesize about an effect similar to the one I described happening during the 1993 Budget Resolution vote (see Mezvinsky, Marjorie Margolies). Coming from normally strong Republican constituencies, these new members decided (unlike Mezvinsky) to stick with the district. To get a further sense of how red these districts are, in 2004 each gave George W. Bush at least 60% of the vote: AL-2--66%; AL-5--60%; MD-1--62%; ID-1--68%.

Perhaps the best explanations for the bulk of these defections, as the Politico story notes, is 1) the bill's cost and 2) the role afforded to Democratic skeptics in the drafting process. Of the non-freshmen no votes, all but Kanjorski are members of the Blue Dog Coalition. Led in this fight by Jim Cooper,a veteran of the budget battles of the early and mid 90's, these fiscally conservative Dems seem to have been shut out of the drafting and strategizing stages by the Pelosi leadership team. With the bill destined to pass handily, these Blue Dogs felt comfortable making a stand in favor of fiscal prudence and against the strong arm tactics of the party leadership. Indeed, this appears to be a recurring dynamic within the Democratic caucus. A more progressively minded leadership, buoyed by a large majority, seems unfazed by the defection of a small cadre of members. If the final bill is less "watered down" as a result of this more hard-line stance, then Speaker Pelosi seems quite content to live with a disgruntled--yet seemingly impotent--right flank. When the Stimulus Bill returns for final passage we'll get to see whether this dynamic repeats itself, albeit with an interesting twist--will more moderate (or threatened) Republicans vote in favor of the package at the same time that these Blue Dogs vote no??? If this indeed were to happen, is that what Obama-era bi-partisanship will come to look like??

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