For the two House Democrats from Maryland who are running for the U.S. Senate, the tax overhaul bill seemed an unwelcome political gamble.
Only hours before the vote Tuesday night, Rep. Barbara Mikulski said she was still "running the numbers," trying to decide how to vote; Rep. Michael Barnes said he knew how he was going to vote, but did not want to announce it.
Mikulski and Barnes faced this problem: Maryland's steel industry and public employes were dead set against a bill they consider unfair, but Maryland constituents in general favor tax reform, several members of the state's delegation said.
Mikulski said she had recently been contacted by several families who had tried to calculate their taxes under the tax reform proposal. About half would do better under the tax changes, while half would pay more taxes, she said.
In the end, no recorded vote was required for final passage of the bill. But a Mikulski aide said yesterday that the Baltimore representative voted for the tax bill, while a Barnes aide said the Montgomery County representative voted against it. Earlier in the day, both voted against bringing the bill up for consideration.
According to Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.), who was opposed to the legislation, other members of the House complained of similar political discomfort.
"All day long, people were saying: I wish I could have a heart attack or something. Get me out of this trap," Parris said.
He said Republicans were furious that a recorded vote was not required, because many Democrats were going to vote for the bill, despite the fact that it might not play well back home. Now it will be harder to pin them down on the positions they took, Parris said.
"The loss of that recorded vote was a real heartburn exercise for us," he added. "A lot of the members on our side believe that we lost a serious political benefit."