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A risky vote for House Republicans

By Ezra Klein,

Joshua Roberts Bloomberg News Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget has passed the House of Representatives, 235 to 193. No Democrats voted for it. Only four Republicans voted against it. It’ll now join cap-and-trade, the public option and about a trillion in further stimulus spending in the unhappy limbo between the House and the Senate.

But that was predictable: The Ryan budget is a very conservative document at a moment when Democrats control the White House and the Senate. Which makes its passage actually kind of interesting.

Nancy Pelosi forced her members to take some tough votes over the past two years when she was House speaker, but the argument was always that the vote was worth it because the bill had a good chance of passing the Senate and becoming law — and what was the point of having the majority if you weren’t going to try to pass good laws? When the leadership couldn’t persuasively argue that the bill might be signed into law, however, it rarely came to the floor. House Democrats repeatedly told their leadership that they didn’t want to take tough votes on a bill that the Senate would simply ignore.

House Republicans, conversely, have just taken a very difficult vote — remember that Ryan’s bill includes all the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts, plus further cuts and privatization, plus tax cuts for rich Americans — on a bill the Senate will certainly ignore, and that Democrats are aching to campaign against. Rep. Steve Israel, the head of the Democrats’ House campaign strategy, is probably being optimistic when he says that “people will look back at this vote as a defining one that secured the majority for Democrats,” but it’s not that hard to imagine a chastened Republican Party wondering in 2013 whether it should’ve been a bit more strategic.

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