Olympia Snowe

"Parks and Recreation" went to Washington, changing the show for the worse.

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Now we know what the doomsayers feel like when the decreed day of judgment passes by without thunderbolts or second comings. Americans Elect, which was going to save our benighted political system with the ultimate deus ex machina—a bipartisan, third-choice presidential ticket borne from an online nominating process funded by leveraged-buyout tycoon Peter Ackerman and other deep-pocketed centrists—announced at midnight that the savior has not yet made his or her appearance.

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The Republican Party’s alleged “war” against women is fast emerging as a major trope of the 2012 elections. And the charge is largely true: As the GOP has become increasingly conservative, so too has it become increasingly hostile to feminism and insensitive to women’s issues. But Democrats have not merely been horrified bystanders wringing their hands as this “war” has unfolded. The Democratic Party has actively encouraged the GOP’s descent into antifeminism.

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In January 1998, in the run-up to the twenty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton held a meeting in the Map Room of the White House with leaders of women’s groups ranging from Planned Parenthood to the National Women’s Law Center. The meeting took place in the aftermath of the painful and polarizing debate on late-term abortion—a debate in which conservatives capitalized on a seemingly extreme abortion position in order to bludgeon progressive leaders.

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The tables have turned. Just a few days ago, Republicans seemed poised to capture the Senate, with Democrats fearing for their 53-47 majority. Indeed, the math has long seemed to favor Republicans: Of the 33 contested Senate seats in 2012, Democrats hold 23, while the Republicans hold only ten, meaning the GOP has far fewer seats to defend. But as soon as Maine’s centrist Republican Senator Olympia Snowe unexpectedly announced her retirement on Tuesday, the 2012 elections suddenly looked much different.

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I'm blinking in astonishment at the vote breakdown on the motion to table the Blunt-Rubio amendment allowing any "sponsor, issuer, or other entity" involved in providing health insurance--not just the Catholic Church--to eliminate coverage for contraceptives  if doing so conflicts with that sponsor's, issuer's, or other entitity's "religious beliefs or moral convictions." In the name of religious freedom, Sens.

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I was never among those who believed that the White House had deliberately started a fight over birth control with its new rule requiring health insurance to cover contraception, as a way to provoke an inevitable conservative overreach.

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Jon Chait asks the key question in response to the internal administration memo I uncovered while researching my book--the one in which Christy Romer wrote that it would take $1.7-to-$1.8 trillion to fully revive the economy by 2011. Chait writes: It’s important to keep in mind, though, that this still does not resolve the question of whether or not Obama could have gotten a larger stimulus. ... [T]he ultimate decision-making power here was where it always was: with Ben Nelson, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter, the senators who stood at the decision-making point.

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The Lame Duck Mystery

Before the holidays, the lame duck Congress passed a flurry of far-reaching legislation, including real compromises (the tax package) and long-cherished progressive goals (the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”). This is all to be applauded—but one mystery remains: Why was Congress, particularly the Senate, able to get so much done in December that it wasn’t able to get done before the mid-term elections?

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Conservative Crosshairs

Republicans are poised to take over the U.S. Senate in 2012. This isn't contingent on a GOP presidential win, or even a particularly good campaign year, but rather on the extremely tilted Senate playing field created by the 2006 Democratic landslide. Yet, oddly, that is no comfort for many sitting Republican senators, who may face savage primary challenges if they are even perceived to slight the conservative base.

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