For eight years now, congressional Democrats have been (rightfully) criticizing President Bush for abusing and expanding his exective powers. So how ironic is it that they now call upon him to violate the expressed will of Congress and use TARP funds (i.e. the first $700 billion) to bail out the automobile industry?
I would like to take credit for exactly predicting that there would be only 52 votes for cloture. Unfortunately, it is not the same 52 votes that I predicted. More Republicans voted in favor and more Democrats voted against than my quick-and-dirty projection based on the House vote. But ideology still seems to have been a major factor. Democratic moderates Baucus, Lincoln, and Tester voted against (Reid did also to preserve the right to bring a motion to reconsider). Republican moderates like Collins, Snow, and Specter voted in favor.
The factor I didn’t consider in the House vote was the behavior of lame ducks (too much work), but defeated and retiring Senators tended to vote in favor (e.g. Domenici, Dole, and Warner).
Regardless of how one feels about the bailout, it is really disturbing that 12 senators didn’t even bother to show up to vote.
Although it passed the House easily, the status of the bailout bill negotiated between President Bush appears to be in jeopardy of death by Republican filibuster. The patterns of support and opposition on the House vote make clear how difficult it will be to get enough votes for cloture and passage.
The same principle that purges atheism from foxholes might be thought to drive ideology from an economic crisis. But that appears not to be the case with the auto bailout as ideological differences were the main determinants of voting on the House bill (the maxim may not be true for foxholes either).
Using the DW-NOMINATE measures of conservatism, I can compute the average conservatism of supporters and opponents of the bill from each party.
Within each party, the opponents are considerably more conservative than the supporters and these differences are statistically significant. This pattern, at least among Democrats, is considerably different from the financial sector bailout this fall. That bill faced significant opposition among liberals. But on the auto bailout bill every member more liberal than the median Democrat voted yes. The strong union backing of the auto bill and provisions appealing to environmental groups probably account for these conversions.
Also unlike the financial services bailout, campaign contributions do not seem to have mattered much. According to data from opensecrets.org, Democratic opponents of the bill got more auto cash than supporters. Republicans who supported the bill did get more cash. But eight of the Republican supporters were from big auto states Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Ignore them and there is no systematic difference in campaign contributions.
So what will the Senate vote look like if ideology dominates the way it did in the House? Assuming the same statistical patterns, I predict that the bill will get only about 52 votes in the Senate. I suspect enough arms will be twisted to get a few more, but it’s a long way to 60.