presidential elections it cast its votes for Clinton, Gore, Kerry and
Obama. Nonetheless, in 2008, the Junior Senator from Maine, Susan Collins, ran a successful race against the Democratic challanger, Tom Allen.
Tom Allen is a solid Democrat, from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, if you will. One can only wonder how the health care reform effort would have proceeded had Maine elected him to the Senate in the place of Susan Collins. But that didn't happen, no doubt because of Susan Collins' reputation as a moderate; Collins won by a 23% landslide.
Both of Maine's Senators are quite aware that they represent a state that generally rejects the Republican Party and so these two Senators cherish their reputation as moderates. They speak in restrained and ambiguous tones, and when there is no danger that their vote will be critical on some issue they may even cast it with the Democrats. However, it is not easy to an instance where either cast her vote with Democrats when that vote was actually critical to a Democratic victory.
In the recent health care debate, you never heard much about Susan Collins; she apparently has been firmly locked into the Republican obstruction effort and so did not generate much news. Olympia Snowe, however, has played quite a prominent role. She did cast her vote for cloture to allow debate to proceed on the Senate health-care bill and that may be one of those rare cases of a vote cast with Democrats being decisive. In the end, however, she cast her vote against the health-care reform bill, right in line with all of her Republican colleagues.
Leading up to the vote, Snowe's comments left open the possibility of voting either way. Her concern, in some statements, were that she wanted more debate, to slow down the progress of the bill. In other statements, she promised to block any bill that contained the public option if that bill would increase costs (apparently even if excluding the public option would increase costs even more). It seems fairly clear that her positions do not reflect those of Maine voters, so it serves her well to muddy the issue in preparation for her re-election efforts in 2012.
I have learned to be cautious about putting much faith in any politician's words. It seems to me that they are often designed to be slippery and even when clear they do not represent any real promise. When a politician has a history it is better to look at accomplishments more than at promises.
In this context, we can ask what Olympia Snowe's positions on health-care reform have accomplished. Clearly her vote on cloture did allow debate to continue, and without that vote we would have no Senate bill other than through reconciliation. However, it does seem that her opposition was critical to the removal of the public option and she did not step in to keep Joe Lieberman from blocking the extension of Medicare. And perhaps most importantly, her refusal to vote for the Senate bill enabled Ben Nelson to force his odious amendments to block women's right to a safe abortion.
If you live in Maine, you should consider writing your Senators to congratulate them on their proud accomplishments.