House and Senate Votes to Raise the Debt Ceiling

Below we use Optimal Classification (OC) in R to plot the House and Senate votes on an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The measure (The Budget Control Act of 2011) passed the House by a 269-161 margin and the Senate in a 74-26 vote.

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In the following plots, we also break down the House’s vote by the memberships of four major groups: Tea Party Caucus members, Freshmen members, Progressive Caucus members, and Black Caucus members.

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Note that many of the members of the Tea Party Caucus (on the right) and the Progressive and Black Caucuses (on the left) share negative scores on the second dimension, even though they are quite distant from one another on the liberal-conservative scale (we isolate the membership of each of these Caucuses in separate plots below to highlight this trend). These groups were also more opposed to the deal than the rest of the chamber: the Progressive Caucus voted 14-57 against the deal, the Black Caucus opposed it 17-23, and the Tea Party split 32-27 on the bill. We have suggested that the second dimension may be picking up intra-party differences within the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the 112th Congress based on an establishment/outsider divide. Though still too early in the 112th Congress to more deeply assess this trend, this particular vote does support it: Republicans and Democrats with high second dimension scores (and perhaps more “establishment” figures) are classified as supporting the bill.

Indeed, “Yea” voters include party leadership in the House like Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), on the left, as well as Reps. John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), on the right. Even though these House members are hardly centrist, they are apparently more willing to “fall in line” to move legislation. Conversely, “Nay” votes joined unlikely bedfellows Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA), on the left, and Reps. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Ron Paul (R-TX), and Joe Wilson (R-SC), on the right. Of course, these groups opposed the deal for opposite reasons (it cuts too much or too little), but if the second dimension is picking up establishment vs. outsider divides in the House, both groups place greater priority on principle and purity rather than compromise and legislative deal-making.

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