Senate: Vote on the Fiscal Cliff Deal

Below we use Optimal Classification (OC) in R to plot the Senate’s 89-8 vote on a fiscal cliff deal reached late Monday. The agreement permanently extends the current income tax rates for individuals/families with annual incomes below $400k/$450k. It also increases the estate tax rate at 40 percent for inheritances greater than $5 million and extends unemployment benefits for a year. Finally, it delays the automatic spending cuts (scheduled to hit today) for two months.

The eight Nay votes included 5 Republican Senators and 3 Democratic Senators. The Republican Senators were: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Richard Shelby (R-AL). The Democratic Senators were: Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Tom Harkin (D-IA). As seen in the plot below, this is an ideologically dispersed group. OC correctly classifies only two of the eight Nay votes: Sens. Lee and Paul in the bottom right corner of the space. This is the quadrant where Tea Party-affiliated legislators have tended to cluster in the 112th Congress, and we expect a similar dynamic in this afternoon’s House vote.

Finally, it is interesting to note that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was one of the eight Nay votes. We label Rubio’s token in the second panel of the plot below. Quite reasonably, many emphasize the role of the 2016 presidential race in Rubio’s decision-making calculus. However, it is important to emphasize that his vote choice is not terribly inconsistent with his ideological position. That is, he is the closest of the three other Republican Senators to the cutting line (as he is among the most conservative members of the 112th Senate (according to OC) and has a negative second dimension score).

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