In their razor-thin victory on climate change legislation Friday, House Democrats prevailed by holding just enough votes from members in coal states to offset substantial defections from colleagues in Republican-leaning districts, a National Journal analysis of the vote shows.
The historic 219-212 vote for the climate change legislation, which seeks to impose the nation’s first mandatory reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming, divided Democrats much more sharply than the vote on President Obama‘s stimulus plan. With 44 Democrats voting against the climate change legislation and 211 voting yes, the measure cleared the House only with support from eight Republicans who broke from their party leadership to support it.
The interactive table below allows readers to analyze the vote from a variety of angles, including the members’ margin of victory, whether Obama or John McCain carried their district, and whether their state is one of the 30 that rely on coal to generate at least 40 percent of its electrical power, according to federal Energy Information Administration figures. (Those states are designated in the chart as coal states.)
Viewing the results through those prisms reveals several clear patterns. In all, the findings suggest that calculations about the underlying political and ideological inclinations of the districts may have shaped the Democratic vote somewhat more powerfully than assessments of the districts’ vulnerability to energy price increases if the legislation passed.
In both parties, nothing appeared to drive the outcome more than the presidential result in last November’s election.
Of the 49 House Democrats who represent districts that McCain carried last year, fully 29 voted against the measure. By contrast, just 15 of the 207 Democrats from districts that Obama carried last year voted against the bill. (Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district backed Obama, did not vote, meaning “Obama Democrats” ended up splitting 191-15.) Put another way, while 59 percent of the Democrats from districts that McCain carried voted no, just 7 percent of Democrats in Obama-majority districts opposed the White House on the vote.
It is particularly important to continue targeting the 20 Democrats who voted yes while hailing from districts carried by John McCain. They still could be won over to oppose any compromise coming out of a conference committee with the Senate, if similar legislation passes that both.
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