Maine’s biennial budget, which Gov. LePage has promised to veto, has passed both the House and Senate. Hooray for a first step towards no shut-down!
We haven’t seen the veto yet, which the governor has announced he will delay in order to make things even more exciting and/or awful (depending on whether it’s your paycheck/service on the line) in the days leading up to the threatened government shutdown. (Remember what I said about the disco ball and Souza marches?)
The fact that everyone knows that the governor is going to veto the budget makes this a very different situation than the governor’s previous vetoes of bills with bipartisan support, and make it somewhat more likely that the votes made today are going to hold. We can assume that every legislator who voted to support the budget today did so understanding that the governor didn’t like it.
In my previous post I used Krehbiel’s theory to consider that legislators could be arrayed along an ideological line on any issue, including preference for supporting/opposing the governor. If the governor vetoes a bill, what is its ideological “pivot point” at which the veto can be overridden?
The budget presents a different situation because this is clearly not a simple, easy to pass bill like those which passed unanimously. Nonetheless, because this bill, even though a more conceptually difficult one, also represented a vote where legislators needed to be ready to defy the governor, we can still apply the insights gleaned from those originally unanimous votes.
I identified the Senate as the location of the veto-override pivot in my previous post. The House passed the budget with a 68% majority and the Senate passed the budget with a 71% majority, so that might make it appear that this was a closer vote in the House and that the Senate was a safer bet under the veto. However, in the House a number of Democrats voted against the budget. They weren’t really needed in order to pass it so the leadership did not have to strongly work their caucus into supporting it. Nonetheless, it provides a measure of insurance in case some Republican representatives unexpectedly get cold feet after the veto – there are still some Democrats for majority leaders to persuade.
In the Senate, not only did all Democrats support the bill but five Republicans supported it as well. Three of those five Senate Republicans – Saviello, Langley and Flood – were those who we observed were least likely to switch their original votes to support the governor in the previous vetoes. Additionally, Sen. Katz voted in support of the budget, fueling my great hopes that he’s managed to work out some kind of deal with Sen. Flood on the MaineCare bill. (Not necessarily, however – in the House, Central Maine Republicans were mainly willing to support the budget, so this simply could be his preference.) Finally, Sen. Sherman – who has until now supported the governor’s position on vetoed bills – made a surprise break in favor of the budget.
The pivot I described a few days ago moved mainly in the predicted direction, with the exception of Sen. Burns voting against. We now have some excellent new information to add to our understanding of veto override dynamics in this legislature.
Plus, hopefully, a new biennial budget!