Monday, February 16, 2009

Hail the moderates

The Washington Post does some hard-hitting journalism in a profile of the two Republican Senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins:
Just before Christmas, Susan Collins, a moderate Republican senator, was driving alone on that road, headed to her parents' home near the Canadian border in the tiny town of Caribou, when her cellphone rang. It was Joseph R. Biden Jr., the soon-to-be vice president, calling to talk up the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan.

The call kept getting cut off. Once. Twice. Three times. But Biden kept calling back.

"I was very impressed with his persistence," Collins recalled in an interview.
I really hope that this is simply Collins being polite and not a justification for her vote for the stimulus package. I mean, if Rush Limbaugh had sent her a bouquet of roses could that have swayed her in the other direction?

The article goes on to discuss the apparently not especially close relationship between the two:
But their politics usually align, hewing to a time-tested formula that appeals to Maine voters, who tend toward "liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal matters," [former Secretary of Defense William] Cohen said.
Wait, really? Conservative on fiscal issues eh? Like voting for a stimulus package that costs nearly $800 billion? I guess that's simply their "moderation" kicking in.

Actually I am being mean, according to the article she actually played some real hardball with Obama:
The stimulus was Obama's biggest early policy initiative, and it quickly became clear that it wasn't going to happen without the senators from Maine. When Obama was still pushing for a package well over $800 billion, he invited Collins to the White House for an Oval Office chat. Collins had been there many times before, but she was surprised to see the door closed and find herself alone "in the oval" with the president -- no staffers, no one taking notes, just the two of them, talking for half an hour. This was a first for her. Collins, who had been collaborating with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), gave Obama a two-page proposal. But she and the president were about $200 billion apart.

Once the plan started working its way through Congress, Collins felt the bill was getting larded with projects that had nothing to do with stimulating the economy, such as pandemic flu research, as well as money to re-sod the National Mall in Washington and for preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

But Democrats knew they needed Maine. Last week, Collins said, she was called to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and presented with a proposal that sliced just $60 billion off the original plan.

"It was clearly not an offer that was made in good faith," she said.

She'd had enough. She wanted out, she said. But Specter pulled her into his Capitol hideaway office and talked her into giving it one more try, even as other Republicans -- including some who had once seemed inclined to approve a compromise plan -- were now digging in for a fight.

Wow, way to stick it to them Sen. Collins. Talk about a demonstration of fiscal conservatism. You were confronted with a stimulus bill of over $800 billion and manage to get them down to a mere $787 billion. I'm sure you strike fear in the hearts of used car dealers everywhere.

Incidentally this also makes Specter to be even worse than I originally thought. He plainly wanted this stimulus package pretty bad and was upset that if Collins bailed that it would give him even less cover. With friends like these...

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