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Swing-seat Republicans more likely to support debt deal

WASHINGTON -- John A. Boehner has found his options limited during his three years as House speaker by an informal rule for Republicans that dictates he move only legislation that has the approval of a majority of support among his own membership.

Wednesday marked another rare moment in which the Ohio Republican was forced by political pressure to allow an up-or-down vote on a bill that most Republicans opposed -- in this case, a short-term funding bill to reopen the government after a 16-day shutdown and avert the threat of a historic default by raising the nation’s debt limit.

Just 87 of 232 Republicans -- including Boehner, casting a rare vote -- voted for the bill. The other three highest-ranking Republicans also supported it, though it was the unanimous block of Democrats that provided the necessary votes to ensure passage.

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A closer look at how other Republicans voted offers some evidence of the possible political ramifications of the budget standoff. Notably, just one Republican in the 20-most competitive districts -- those where President Obama won, or only narrowly lost to Mitt Romney in the 2012 election -- voted to support it.

The exception was Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), who represents a district that Obama won with 51% of the vote last fall.

In a statement, Denham said his priority was “finding a long-term plan to end our out-of-control spending, which has left each man, woman and child in our country on the hook for over $50,000 of debt as we reach our $17-trillion debt limit.

“The American people deserve long-term solutions to stop the spending, stop running up the debt and give real certainty to families across the country and the financial markets so we can get back on a path to economic success and job growth,” he said.

By comparison, just three Republicans in the 20 most pro-Romney districts voted for the funding bill, including Hal Rogers of Kentucky, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Spencer Bachus of Alabama, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, who is retiring at the end of this term.

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After the vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued statements targeting lawmakers in more competitive seats who voted no, such as Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy.

“Even as others broke ranks and chose the middle ground, Congressman Duffy clung to bitter, reckless partisanship until the very end,” said spokeswoman Emily Bittner.

Influential conservative advocacy groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action had told members that they would be including Wednesday’s vote in their “scorecards,” which are used to determine what Republicans they might seek to challenge in Republican primaries.

Members’ concern about how the vote would affect primary elections could be seen in the votes of Republicans running for U.S. Senate seats in 2014. Three Georgia Republicans seeking that state’s open Senate seat all voted no. So did Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who seeks to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Those with clearer paths in Senate primaries, even in red states, voted yes, including Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a more centrist Republican running to replace the retiring Jay Rockefeller, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a conservative lawmaker challenging Democrat Mark Pryor. Steve Daines of Montana, a possible Senate hopeful, also voted yes.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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