Wrapping up the Congressional Session: Omnibus Spending Package for FY 2012

Below we use Optimal Classification (OC) in R to plot the House and Senate votes to pass a $1 trillion omnibus package to set spending levels for FY 2012. The House vote was 296-121; the Senate vote was 67-32.

The bill can be fairly described as a compromise agreement. Overall, it cuts discretionary non-defense spending to pre-Obama (2008) levels. Republicans were able to attach a number of riders to the package: cutting appropriations for Obama’s healthcare reform, prohibiting the use of taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia (which lead to arrests on Friday), and blocking new rules on incandescent light bulbs. Democrats were able to prevent or mitigate several other provisions, limiting spending cuts to the EPA, Pell Grants, and Planned Parenthood.

As can be seen in the plots, opposition to the omnibus spending bill was greatest among Republicans, but not necessarily the most ideologically conservative Republicans. The cutting lines, which divide predicted “Yea” from predicted “Nay” votes, run horizontally. This means that they separate members not along the first (x-axis) dimension (representing liberal-conservative ideology), but on the second (y-axis) dimension. We isolate members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus in the third plot the emphasize this trend. (Text continues below)

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The voting configurations on the omnibus spending package are quite similar to those of the the August debt ceiling deal (included below), with most “Nay” votes clustered in the lower half of the second dimension and “Yea” votes located in the upper half of the second dimension. This pattern again leads us to suggest that the second dimension is picking up divides between establishment and outsider (or perhaps instead classified as a compromise vs. purity) impulses in the 112th Congress. While the former group is more inclined to accept “imperfect” deals, the latter is more insistent on ideological purity.

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