March 19, 2013

Rep. Paul Broun (Gregory Smith/ Associated Press)

With Georgia member of the House (and Senate candidate) Paul Broun bashing Paul Ryan’s budget in the New York Times today, it’s not clear whether the Republican budget is actually in trouble or not.

Last time around, Broun supported the Ryan budget, while 10 Republicans (and every Democrat) opposed it.. Eight of those 10 are here this time, and with the smaller Republican majority there’s a lot less room for fringe defections now. If all eight of the 2012 “no” votes oppose Ryan this time, and with Broun a ninth GOP opponent, another six or so defectors would sink the whole thing. And quite a few fringe Republicans (Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, Steve King) were not with the defectors for the last budget.

Which means it’s time for a reminder that the Republican leadership and Budget Chair Ryan have one additional weapon on their side: Because Republicans passed a provision linking congressional pay to passing a budget resolution, individual members of the House have a personal financial stake in voting with Ryan. No budget, no pay.

And also remember that there’s no similar incentive for reaching a deal with the Senate. Member pay is pegged to passing a budget resolution in their own chamber; after that, nothing. Which of course means that as bad as a provision that pays members to vote for what the House leadership might decide, it doesn’t even have the benefit of trying to implement a budget resolution. Instead, the only incentive here is to back GOP talking point, not to help the government run properly.

I have no idea how effective salary blackmail will be to securing the last few votes Republicans will need to pass their budget will be. I certainly don’t expect it will be strong enough to draw Democrats to support it; it clearly isn’t strong enough to overcome Broun’s electoral incentives — he presumably sees a chance to differentiate himself from other members of the House in a potentially crowded primary field for an open Senate seat. But could it make a difference to some Republicans whose votes are a close call? It certainly might — and it’s looking as if the Republican leadership and Ryan are going to need every vote they can get.