After cloture passed 67/33 on Monday, final passage of the budget bill was a fait accompli. The only mystery was whether any Republicans who voted with Reid two days ago would switch now, knowing that Democrats could pass this thing on a party-line vote, so that they can pretend later on the campaign trail that they were “against” the bill.
Senate approves budget bill 64-36. No Dem noes. 9 GOP yeas: Collins Chambliss Hatch Hoeven Isakson McCain Portman Johnson (WI) Murkowski.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 18, 2013
The three Republicans who switched were Lamar Alexander, Roy Blunt, and Jeff Flake, who’s become a fairly reliable centrist vote in his short time in the Senate. The only semi-surprise is Ron Johnson, but he comes from a blue state and was also skeptical of the “defund” effort back in October. He’s not one for shutdowns, and the whole point here was to avoid a shutdown.
Don’t be too mad at McCain, though. You’ll be pleased to learn that he’s pledged his endorsement to the Republican nominee in 2016:
To pass the time on the drive back, I engage McCain in a game of hypothetical-question roulette: If he were a young man living in Arizona today, not a politician, would he register to vote as an Independent? “I would think about it,” he says, but then catches himself and reasserts his faith in “the party of Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.” Would he consider supporting an Independent presidential candidate if Ted Cruz were the Republican nominee? “No, because I have to respect the process.” Would he support his friend Hillary Clinton in a head to head against Cruz? “I will support the Republican ticket,” he says, then adds: “With all due respect, that is a foolish question, my friend.”
If you think that’s a foolish question — and I don’t know why anyone would given that McCain himself has said he’d have trouble choosing between Hillary and Rand Paul — just read this. The only wrinkle here is that he might be slightly more likely to support Cruz over Hillary than he would Paul because Paul’s a committed dove and Hillary might end up being dragged towards dovishness by liberals in the primary. Cruz, however, as the tea-party champion, will retain a certain hawkish baseline no matter what. Depending upon what happens abroad and how safe it becomes for Cruz to embrace hawkishness in the primaries, he could win Maverick’s very grudging endorsement. Never happen with Paul, though. At a minimum, McCain would sit the election out.
Can’t wait to watch something like this at the 2016 convention right before McCain walks out onstage for his speech. Oof.