Below we use Optimal Classification (OC) in R to plot the House’s 215-209 vote on the first part of Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” on the fiscal cliff: The Spending Reduction Act of 2012. The bill would stop the sequester (automatic spending cuts) scheduled for January 2013 and replace them with separate spending cuts.
The vote found 21 House Republicans joining ranks with all 188 House Democrats to oppose the measure. Given the closeness of this vote and whip counts that showed the Republicans losing, Speaker Boehner withdrew the second component of “Plan B” — the tax bill that would extend the Bush rates for the first $1 million of annual incomes — late Thursday night.
As shown below, the vote reveals the fissures present in the House Republican caucus. The spatial model correctly predicts 8 of the 21 Republican defections. Interestingly, most of the Republican “Nay” votes are concentrated neither among the most conservative members nor members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. Indeed, House Tea Party members voted 51-6 in support of the bill. Instead, Republican defections were scattered, but concentrated among members with low second dimension scores. Though the contemporary substantive meaning of the second dimension is not entirely clear, we have previously conjectured that the second dimension may represent an “establishment vs. outsider” divide. For example, those MCs voting “Nay” on the August 2011 deal to raise the debt ceiling were also likely to have low second dimension scores.
On this vote, for example, the three main House Republicans who were recemtly deposed from their committee assignments by Speaker Boehner: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), and David Schweikert (R-AZ), all voted against the bill and have negative scores.
Frequent mavericks Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Walter Jones (R-NC) also voted “Nay.” However, several defectors did not have second dimension scores (or, first dimension (liberal-conservative) scores) out of the mainstream. Some of these choices may reflect idiosyncrasies; for instance, Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) (a “Nay” vote) lost his intra-party runoff with Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) earlier this month, and so party discipline would have little effect on him. Based on this vote, the House Republican caucus appears fragile, especially on the tax and spending issues surround the fiscal cliff debate.