Dems, several from Calif., were ‘Party of No’ in House budget battle
WASHINGTON – As a parade of budget proposals whizzed through Congress this year, Rep. Ami Bera and 30 other lawmakers voted, at the very least, consistently.
No on the four Republican budget plans. No on the Democratic alternative. No on the Black Caucus budget. No on the Progressive Caucus budget.
The Elk Grove Democrat’s rejections came just a few months after he campaigned aggressively on a platform of improving the way Congress functions, including running at least four ads highlighting his support for a bill that would strip pay from lawmakers if they failed to pass a budget on time.
He argues that the early votes don’t quite matter, and suggests that his own party’s spending plans are just as partisan — and thus unacceptable — as the opposition’s.
“If you look at each of the budgets, they really are political budgets,” said Bera, who faced one of the toughest elections in the country last year. “They’re not a compromise.”
Republicans are usually cast as the “Party of No” in today’s Congress. But it was Democrats like Bera in competitive electoral environments who formed the largest bloc of “no” voters during last month’s budget debate, the first opportunity lawmakers had this year to weigh in on the crucial taxing and spending battles ahead.
A Republican proposal — cutting social safety-net programs, lowering tax rates and raising spending on defense — eventually passed along mostly party lines, 228 to 199, setting the stage for negotiations with the Senate.
Among those voting against seven budgets were 20 Democrats and 11 Republicans. They included Republicans such as Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, one of the House’s most conservative members, and Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, a strongly antiwar lawmaker who often opposes his party on military matters. Other “no” voters on both sides of the aisle tended to hold more centrist views, come from competitive voting districts, or both.
California, home to the largest delegation, also had the most members who voted no on everything.
Bera is one of an endangered species in the House, coming from a district that is closely fought between Democrats and Republicans. His plight shows the difficulty such members face in an increasingly partisan Congress, where most lawmakers come from districts with little mandate to compromise.
Three other California Democrats in hotly contested districts — Jim Costa of Fresno, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Scott Peters of San Diego — also cast “no” votes across the board on the budget proposals. A fifth member from California, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, missed the votes because his wife gave birth to twins. But Ruiz, who like Bera and Peters ran ads touting “No budget, no pay,” said on his congressional website that he would have voted against all of the budget proposals.
Their move did make political sense: Even though the members risk scrutiny for voting against all the budgets, voting yes on any one of them could invite even greater criticism, analysts say.