I (mercifully) got to spend the past few days trekking around the awesome and actual cliffs in Arizona with friends and completely ignoring the ongoing vagaries of the last-minute fiscal cliff drama (sigh, if only for a little while). MKH already touched on this, but catching up on what I’ve missed, this particular vote’s effect on certain members of the 2016 bench may (or, may not?) be a clutch side-narrative.

Over in the Senate, Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio took the opportunity to keep their noses clean, and Rubio played it diplomatically, abstaining from criticisms but reemphasizing his pro-growth message:

But two names might stick out, among the five Republicans who opposed it. Sen. Marco Rubio is widely considered to have a decent shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and, as Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong aptly tweeted, his “no” vote could put some pressure on another potential White House aspirant, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who will likely have to vote on this deal in the next couple days. Big votes like this one are the kind that come up in presidential primary debates; last time around, the 2011 debt-limit vote was a topic. Rubio explained in a news  release after the vote that he appreciated the hard work that went into the deal, but “rapid economic growth and spending reforms are the only way out of the real fiscal cliff our nation is facing,” and those “will be made more difficult” by this bill. …

Perhaps an unsurprising name on the list was Sen. Rand Paul, never shy about bucking the policies of his fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Of course, Rep. Paul Ryan did indeed have to pick a side late last night; the former VP nominee, now potentially poised to hold even more influence over his House Republicans after his VP bid and more than Rubio or Paul in the Senate, stuck by Speaker Boehner and contended that he voted deliberately and pragmatically:

Today, I joined my colleagues in the House to protect as many Americans as possible from a tax increase. We also provided certainty by making the lower tax rates permanent. The House has already passed legislation to prevent tax increases for every American family, and it is unfortunate that President Obama insisted on taking more from hardworking taxpayers. Despite my concerns with other provisions in the bill, I commend my colleagues for limiting the damage as much as possible.

“The American people chose divided government. As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing. And we must exercise prudence. We must weigh the benefits and the costs of action—and of inaction. In H.R. 8, there are clearly provisions that I oppose. But the question remains: Will the American people be better off if this law passes relative to the alternative? In the final analysis, the answer is undoubtedly yes. I came to Congress to make tough decisions—not to run away from them.

So, sincere question: Is this such a 2016-consequential vote? The time between now and 2016 potentially amounts to political centuries, and we’re certain to have even more realistically piddling but politically overwrought drama over our divided government in the next couple of years — or, will even these tax hikes have such a deep-seated economic impact that this is one of the big votes that some Americans won’t be so easy to forgive and forget? Hmmmm.