What was supposed to be a routine vote in the House — to knock down an amendment authored by conservative Republicans — turned into pandemonium on the House floor Friday, as Democrats tried to jam the plan through, and hang it around the GOP’s necks.
The vote was on the Republican Study Committee’s alternative budget — a radical plan that annihilates the social contract in America by putting the GOP budget on steroids. Deeper tax cuts for the wealthy, more severe entitlement rollbacks.
Normally something like that would fail by a large bipartisan margin in either the House or the Senate. Conservative Republicans would vote for it, but it would be defeated by a coalition of Democrats and more moderate Republicans. But today that formula didn’t hold. In an attempt to highlight deep divides in the Republican caucus. Dems switched their votes — from “no” to “present.”
Panic ensued. In the House, legislation passes by a simple majority of members voting. The Dems took themselves out of the equation, leaving Republicans to decide whether the House should adopt the more-conservative RSC budget instead of the one authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. As Dems flipped to present, Republicans realized that a majority of their members had indeed gone on the record in support of the RSC plan — and if the vote closed, it would pass. That would be a slap in the face to Ryan, and a politically toxic outcome for the Republican party.
So they started flipping their votes from “yes” to “no.”
In the end, the plan went down by a small margin, 119-136. A full 172 Democrats voted “present.”
Moments after it failed, RSC Chairman Jim Jordan took to Facebook.
“Our Republican Study Committee (RSC) balanced budget came within 18 votes of passing on the House Floor today,” he wrote. “I am disappointed we did not win, but this is the closest we have ever been to passing our balanced budget. I am motivated to keep fighting to balance the budget and begin paying down our national debt.”
We’ll have video of the chaos soon.
Late update: Here’s the video.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.