As long as right-wing activists are machine-gunning the Republican Party's most electable Senate nominees, why not plan for a 2012 clash with Olympia Snowe? Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe doesn't face election for another two years but the three-term lawmaker, who has a reputation as a Republican moderate who sometimes is willing to break with the party leadership, should be seeing this warning sign on her political radar: 64 percent of the state's Republicans say she is "too liberal," according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted Sept. 2-6.
WASHINGTON -- Imagine that your neighbors started getting letters describing all sorts of horrific deeds you had allegedly performed. Wouldn't you feel you had the right to know who was spreading this sleaze—especially if the charges were untrue? Now imagine a member of Congress telling a lobbyist from Consolidated Megacorp Inc. that she would do all she could to block an extra $2 billion in an appropriations bill to purchase the company's flawed widgets for the federal government.
[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] There's an interesting new development on the Elizabeth Warren front today. But, before I get to that, some backstory. I've written before about why Warren is likely to be confirmed as head of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection if the president nominates her. Basically, some key Republicans, like Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe (and even Jim Bunning), seem to like her.
A modest but worthwhile effort to curb the power of money in politics died on Tuesday afternoon when Senate Republicans refused to let debate on the measure go forward. The DISCLOSE Act would require corporations and interest groups to identify themselves when they sponsor political ads and, in the case of smaller organizations, to reveal their donors. President Obama and Democratic leaders hoped the bill would, among other things, help undo the damage of the recent Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court threw out limits on corporate political spending.
Last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd aroused the ire of progressive activists when he wondered whether Elizabeth Warren, the former Harvard Law professor who is a leading candidate to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be “confirmable.” “There’s a serious question about it,” he said on NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show.” Dodd’s concern is legitimate given that a mere 41 votes can block action in the Senate, and that the GOP has been willing to filibuster even seemingly popular proposals.
This is the fourth of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read parts one, two, and three.) Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final installment, which reveals how the White House decided not to drop health care reform in the wake of Scott Brown's victory, and what Nancy Pelosi did to broker the final deal. Reset Barack Obama, the law professor, was acting like a prosecutor. He’d invited Grassley to the Oval Office, to talk about the senator’s concerns.
When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.
Republicans Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Scott Brown voted to defeat a GOP filibuster of a $15 billion tax break for businesses that hire workers. Ben Nelson voted with the Republicans. What does this tell you? It tells you that these Senators recognized that the legislation is essentially symbolic, and therefore a good time to burnish their moderate credentials rather than spend political capital to advance their party's agenda.
Everyone remembers that George W. Bush’s first tax cut was contentious when Congress considered it back in 2001. So contentious, in fact, that the Bushies didn’t even try passing it under normal Senate procedures. The GOP leadership, worried that it couldn’t collect 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, relied on reconciliation, the Senate rule that allows budget-related measures to pass with a simple majority. What fewer people remember is the margin by which Bush’s tax cut finally passed the Senate. As it happens, the number of yeas was 62—including 12 Democrats.
A couple days ago, I suggested that one option for Democrats to consider if they lose Massachusetts would be to go back to Olympia Snowe and find out if she wants to deal.