Conservative Group’s Financial Influence Gets Balanced Budget Amendment Over the Finish Line

Jeffrey ErnstFriedman | August 02, 2011

August 2, 2011 - With only hours to spare before the federal government was expected to default on its debt obligations, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted (74-26) to clear a bill (S 365) that would raise the debt ceiling and cut spending without raising taxes. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Monday (269-161) with stronger bipartisan support than its previous attempt (S 627), which passed with just one extra vote (218-210) on July 29, 2011.  

Throughout the deliberations, business-centered groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, which called for a quick raise of the debt ceiling, were drowned out by conservative policy groups such as FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, which pushed for debt ceiling numbers to be contingent on the addition of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

The House passed the so-called Cut, Cap and Balance bill (HR 2560) by a vote of 234-190 on July 19, which was tabled by the Senate shortly thereafter in a party-line vote (51-46). This stalemate set up competing bills, one spearheaded by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the other by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

With the clock ticking towards default, Boehner was unable to capture the votes necessary to pass his debt ceiling compromise (S 627), delaying the vote for an entire day while attempting to round up support. With Democrats unified against the language, Boehner was having a difficult time getting the 217 votes necessary for passage. Needing the support of the more conservative House members, some refusing to vote for anything but Cut, Cap and Balance, language supporting the balanced budget amendment was added to the bill. Subsequently, the Club for Growth announced they would not count a 'YES' vote against lawmakers in their annual rankings. The balanced budget concession freed enough Republicans to side with Boehner, garnering the votes necessary for passage. However, the bill met a quick and expected defeat in the Democratic-controlled Senate, sending everyone back to the table to begin the process again.

In the end, the balanced budget amendment was decoupled from raising the debt ceiling, however Congress will be required to vote on it later in the year.

Below is an analysis conducted by MapLight on campaign contributions from the Club for Growth to House members voting on Boehner's plan.

Freshmen Republican House Members Voting on Final Passage of S 627

VoteLawmaker  Total Contributions from the Club for Growth
AYETimothy Walberg$401,195
 Andy Harris$351,351
 Steven Pearce$347,867
 Todd Young$65,400
 Stephen Fincher$62,979
 Tim Griffin$36,927
 Nan Hayworth$23,528
 Steven Chabot$20,150
 David Schweikert$4,369
 Michael Fitzpatrick$4,000
 Jaime Herrera Beutler        $250
 Joe Heck$250
AYE Total        $1,318,266
NOEJeff Duncan$130,100
 Mick Mulvaney$85,580
 Tim Scott$65,550
 Justin Amash$48,250
 Joe Walsh$2,400
NOE Total  $331,880

Contributions from Club for Growth to House Members that Voted on S 627

All House Members       $2,718,313    $6,278
Yes (R)$1,912,598$8,773
No (R)$678,164$30,826
No (D)$127,551$678
Freshmen - R$1,650,146$19,413
Yes (Fresh. - R)$1,318,266$17,577
No (Fresh. - R)$331,880$33,188

Methodology: MapLight analysis of campaign contributions from the Club for Growth from Jan 1, 2001- Dec. 31, 2010 to House members voting on final passage of S 627. Campaign contributions provided by