Bailout Vote: Safety in Numbers

In the wake of yesterday’s failed vote on the colossal Wall Street rescue plan, let’s take a look at how the members actually voted. This is one of the most confusing votes in recent memory, as there aren’t clear ideological fissures in the voting blocs. There’s something more fundamental going on here: self-preservation… and the question of whether each representative is more in fear of the constituents who keep him or her in office, or the financiers who keep him or her in office. (As often happens, Nate Silver already got there first, but I’m adding some additional details.)

As you’ve probably already seen, the bill failed 205-228, with Dems splitting 140-65, and the GOP splitting 95-133 (with one GOP non-voter and one vacancy). The votes, however, were pretty evenly distributed throughout the ideological spectrum.

Follow over the flip for much more:

For instance, the 10 most liberal Democrats according to Progressive Punch split 6-4. Aye: Baldwin, McGovern, Olver, Schakowsky, Danny Davis, and Markey. Nay: Donna Edwards, Linda Sanchez, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Payne.

The 10 least liberal Democrats according to Progressive Punch split 3-7. Aye: Marshall, Donnelly, and Ellsworth. Nay: Lampson, Childers, Barrow, Shuler, Hill, Taylor, and Altmire.

The 10 least conservative Republicans according to Progressive Punch split 5-5. Aye: Gilchrest, Shays, Kirk, Castle, and Ferguson. Nay: Chris Smith, Lo Biondo, Tim Johnson, Walter Jones, and Reichert.

Only the 10 most conservative Republicans showed much uniformity, splitting 1-9, with Boehner himself providing the only aye.

The same inconsistency applies if you break results down by caucus: for instance, the Progressive Caucus was split 35-32. The New Dems were split 38-21. The Blue Dogs were split 31-22. Unaffiliated Dems split 42-24. The Congressional Black Caucus was split 18-19; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was split 8-13 (these were the only Democratic caucuses to give a majority of nays). The centrist Main Street Republicans split 21 ayes and 15 nays. Unaffiliated Republicans split 17-39. The greatest cohesion was in the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee, which split 26-81 (and this becomes even more stark when you account for retiring members, and wannabe leadership like Putnam, Cantor, and Ryan).

So, there’s very little correlation between bailout vote and ideology (except at the right end of the spectrum). Where are the correlations? The most important factor is: safety. The Retiree Caucus, as a whole, voted 24 ayes and 10 nays. Among the Dem retirees, the vote was 4 ayes and 2 nays. Among the GOP retirees, the vote was 20 ayes and 7 nays.

This becomes even more pronounced when you discount retirees who are currently running for higher office. If you eliminate both Udalls, Hulshof, and Pearce, that’s four more ‘nays’ off the table. (Tom Allen voted aye, but at this point he unfortunately seems pretty much free to vote his conscience.) If you also pick off Ramstad, who’s supposedly a likely candidate for Minnesota governor in two years, that leaves only five retirees who apparently bucked leadership and voted ‘nay’ for ideological reasons: the corrupt John Doolittle, the corrupter Rick Renzi, the insane wannabe-prez Duncan Hunter, the primaried-out wingnut David Davis, and lone sane person Ray LaHood.

Contrast this with the Tossup Caucus (incumbents defined as Tossup by Swing State Project). These profiles in courage contributed 3 ayes and 7 nays. Of the Dems, Kanjorski voted aye, while Cazayoux and Lampson voted nay. (In doing so, Kanjorski may have dug his electoral hole even deeper. As a key member of the Financial Services committee, he couldn’t bail on this, but voting aye plays right into the hands of Barletta’s demagogic right-populist campaign, and his blue-collar district probably doesn’t contain a lot of six-digit 401(k)s.) On the GOP side, Shays (who lives in the one district where the constituents were probably 100 to 1 in favor of the bailout) and fellow affluent suburbanite Porter voted aye, while Feeney, Musgrave, Reichert, Walberg, and Young voted nay.

The Lean Democratic Caucus (all Dems) split 4 aye and 11 nay. Foster, Mahoney, Marshall, and McNerney voted ‘aye’ (note that all other than Marshall are from affluent suburban districts, and Marshall, a former bankruptcy law professor, has been unusually aggressive in explaining his position). With the exception of Mitchell and, to an extent, Shea-Porter, the ‘nay’ votes came from more downscale digs.

The Likely Democratic Caucus (also all Dems), on more comfortable terrain, split 5 ayes and 2 nays. Rodriguez and Walz were the nays, while rural Blue Dogs Arcuri and Space perhaps surprisingly joined the more suburban Dennis Moore and both Murphys.

The Lean Republican Caucus (all GOP) had probably the greatest uniformity of all, giving us only 1 aye and 12 nays. The one holdout: Mark Kirk, again voting his district (one of the nation’s wealthiest).

The Likely Republican Caucus (also all GOP) also huddled together in fear, voting 3 ayes and 14 nays. The three ayes were Frank Wolf (voting his wealthy district), Alabama’s Mike Rogers, and Mark Souder, who as usual seems to be either indifferent to his reelection or out to lunch.

One other interesting way to break this problem down is by region. Basically, the greater physical proximity you have to Wall Street (or to a lesser extent, another major metropolitan area), the likelier you were to vote for the bailout.

For example, representatives from the Northeast voted 60-32 in favor of the bill. This broke down to 49-19 for Democrats, and 11-13 for Republicans. For the most part, the Dems voting nay weren’t the most progressive northeasterners, but the ones furthest from the urban fast lane, ranging from the progressive (Welch, Hodes) to the conservative (Altmire, Carney).

In the Midwest, the overall breakdown was 41-57. Democrats broke 28-21, while Republicans broke 13-36. (And if you remove leadership, retirees, and affluent suburban districts from the equation, the GOP share of ayes drops down to almost zero.)

In the West, the overall breakdown was 44-54. Dems broke narrowly against it, 27-30, while the GOP broke 17-24. The near unanimity of western CHC members against it (only Blue Dogs Cardoza and Costa were ayes) provided the margin for nays among the Dems, while a number of ayes from rich-guy Republicans in California (Campbell, Dreier, Lungren, etc.) keep it closer among the GOP.

In the South, the overall breakdown was 59-86. Democrats broke in favor 36-25, and the GOP went against it 23-61. Interestingly, the majority of white southern Democrats were ayes (although some of the more vocally-populist Blue Dogs, like Childers and McIntyre, were nays); the Democratic nays in the south came mostly from the CBC (which contrasts sharply with the CBC members in the northeast, who were mostly ayes). The GOP ayes were again largely dependent on retirees, but also members from affluent suburbs (Bachus, Sessions).

So, while the simplest explanation is that voting ‘nay’ has the strongest correlation with being the most endangered and ‘aye’ has the strongest correlation with counting days to retirement, there’s something else going on, too. And it would tend to give some credence to the ‘populist uprising’ theory popular in some quarters of the blogosphere, that instead of a clear left/right fissure, we’re seeing something we haven’t seen much of before: a fissure that’s more rural plus urban core vs. suburban, blue-collar vs. knowledge economy, even, dare I say, proletarian vs. bourgeois. Representatives from rural areas from both parties, in concert with urban CBC and CHC representatives, somehow converged in great enough numbers to overcome united leadership plus suburban representatives of both parties.

13 thoughts on “Bailout Vote: Safety in Numbers”

  1. Aorry, a bit off topic here.  Anyone see this clip yet from Palin’s interview with Katie Couric?  This has to be her most idiotic soundbyte yet.  Oh please don’t drop out Gov. Palin!  You are the gift that keeps on giving.

    COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this – to stay informed and to understand the world?

      PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media –

      COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

      PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

      COURIC: Can you name any of them?

      PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.

  2. and told his staffer that I thanked him for voting no on the bailout, and that as long as he continued to vote against it he had my vote in November.

    He seemed happy.

  3. That would be in the Almanac of American Politics, I’m sure, but I don’t have that.  Is it online anywhere else?

    Because I am convinced that on the Democratic side at least, you’d find an extremely strong correlation between GDP per capita for the district, and voting yea or nay on this bailout.  That’s the best way to organize and prove the instinct that it was the rurals plus the poor urbans who voted this bailout down, while the wealthy suburban and urban reps voted for it.

    The correlation won’t hold on the GOP side due to the insane ideological predilictions of the Republican Study Committee, which includes some very wealthy districts.  But I think it would be shockingly strong on our side, and it would help congeal a narrative that the bailout has to include more for downscale America before it can pass.

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