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Democrats Tweak GOP on RSC Budget in High-Drama Move

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Correction Appended

House Democrats engaged in a little guerrilla warfare on the floor Friday, forcing Republicans to switch their votes at the last minute to avoid passing the Republican Study Committee’s budget.

During the vote on the RSC’s alternative to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan, Democrats originally voted against the amendment, as expected. With a number of Republicans voting “present” to avoid voting either for or against the plan, it appeared all but certain the conservative budget would fail.

The RSC plan is far more conservative than Ryan’s, balancing the budget in 10 years and imposing significantly deeper reductions in spending.

But Democrats suddenly began switching their votes en masse from “no” to “present.” With each switched vote, the threshold for passage of the amendment — which would have replaced Ryan’s plan altogether — was lowered.

The gambit, which Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) called “great theater,” put Republicans who voted “present” in a difficult position. If they didn’t switch their votes to “no,” the RSC budget would pass, which both the party’s leadership and much of the Conference would be loath to have happen. Dreier switched his vote from “yes” to “no.”

But voting against the RSC plan is also politically risky, since conservative activists have backed the plan over Ryan’s proposal.

In the end, enough Republicans switched their votes to kill the amendment 199-136. Of note, at least 57 of the RSC’s 176 members either voted against the conservative group’s budget or voted “present.”

Following the vote, Dreier tipped his hat to Democrats. “It was never going to happen, but it was fun,” he said.

Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.

Correction: April 15, 2011

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how Rep. David Dreier initially voted on the Republican Study Committee budget.

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