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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Congress actually, like, voted on something today. In fact, it was a fairly high-profile measure, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program or SCHIP, which may be familiar to you as the measure that Hillary Clinton often claimed credit for during the Presidential primaries.

SCHIP passed the House by a vote of 289-139 today, getting the support of all but two Democrats and just under a quarter of Republicans. This compares with a margin of 273-156 in October 2007 when the House tried and failed to override a presidential veto on same initiative.

Does the bill’s improved performance this time around simply reflect the additional seats that the Democrats have gained in the Congress? Or have minds actually been changed by Obama or the broader political environment?

The answer is a little bit of both. There are seven Congressmen, six Republicans and one Democrat, who voted for the bill today but hadn’t voted to override the veto in 2007 even though they were in Congress at that time. Thy are:

- Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a moderately conservative Republican from South Florida;
- Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln’s brother, to whom the same description applies;
- IIleana Ros-Lehtinen, another compound-named Cuban-American Republican from South Florida;
- Rodney Frelinghuysen, a fairly moderate Republican from the New Jersey suburbs;
- Mike D. Rogers, a conservative but somewhat idiosyncratic Congressman from AL-3, a racially mixed district in Eastern Alabama;
- Long Island Republican Peter King, who did not record a vote in 2007, and who is reportedly now interested in running for Senate;
- and Democrat Gene Taylor, who represents a very conservative district in the Southeast corner of Mississippi.

Conversely, there are two Representatives, both of them Republicans, who voted to override the President’s veto in 2007 but voted against the bill now:

- Tom Latham from IA-4, which is a proverbial swing district in the northern portion of Iowa;
- and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers from eastern Washington state, an up-and-comer who just became vice chair of the House Republican Conference.

I’m not sure you can detect any particular pattern among the people who switched sides; there are a combination of Republican, Democratic and swing districts represented here, and several different regions of the country. There may be idiosyncratic factors in play in certain instances — McMorris-Rodgers, for instance, voting against the bill because she just assumed a leadership position and needs to show her cojones.

Still, there was a net gain of 5 votes for the Democrats among about ~390 incumbent Congressmen. That’s hardly paradigm-altering, obviously, but it makes some difference at the margins. Conceived of a bit differently, the Democrats gained the votes of about 1 in every 20 legislators who voted against the bill in 2007, while losing the votes of about 1 in every 100 who voted against it. If the same percentages carry over to the Senate, that could mean an extra 1-2 votes for them on key pieces of legislation.

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