Olympia Snowe

Senate Bipartisanship

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.

As I've been saying, the procedural critique of the Senate that some of us have been making for years is starting, but only starting to make headway into the conventional wisdom.

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Nice Guys Finish Last

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.

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I've been critical of Rahm Emanuel recently. But this line of attack seems a little unpersuasive: Democrats in Congress are holding White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel accountable for his part in the collapse of healthcare reform. ... The lawmaker said Emanuel misjudged the Senate by focusing on only a few Republicans, citing Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as too narrow a pool. “In the Senate, you have to anchor in the middle and build out," said the lawmaker. “They just wanted to win," the source said of Emanuel and other White House strategists.

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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.

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A lot of Senate observers have been wondering whether Republican Lindsey Graham's really going to stick around to support a climate bill. After all, he's already been censured by his state GOP and will face a lot of pressure from the leadership not to work with Democrats. Surely at some point he'll just drop the issue, right? Well, maybe, but he sure doesn't sound like a man about to back off: U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham renewed his call Tuesday for federal controls on greenhouse gas pollution, despite continued criticism from the Republican Party's most conservative members.

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After the Vote

Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo has some good scene reporting from the vote early Monday morning: Vicki Kennedy, widow of Ted, embracing members after the vote; Charles Schumer joking that Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Mormon, was heading off for a stiff drink. He's also got some hints about what's coming next: Sens.

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In a local radio interview this morning, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson indicated that he remains a "no" for now. He's not satisfied with the compromise on abortion that Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey proposed. He's not happy about the burden the Medicaid expansion places on states. He's not content with the level of cost control. He could be posturing, of course, but this is entirely consistent with what he's been saying all along. And it's why insiders have been warning he'd be harder to win over than Joe Lieberman. (Time's Amy Sullivan is among those not at all surprised at this deveopment.

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More news from Speaker Nancy Pelosi today: She indicated that the House might be willing to pass the Senate's latest public option proposal, which entails offering new non-profit plans across the country and making Medicare available to some workers over 55. If true, that would eliminate a major point of contention between the two chambers. To be sure, first the Senate would actually have to pass the measure. And while Pelosi's endorsement might give it a little momentum, the latest pronouncement from Senator Olympia Snowe has taken away some. Via Politico: Sen.

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Ezra Klein packs a lot of wisdom into this paragraph: The first problem for people who care about policy outcomes--regardless of which direction they care about those outcomes from--is that the Congress has developed an overwhelming bias toward inaction and the status quo. It is much stronger now than it has been in the past, and it's exacerbated because we are much more divided now than we have been in the past. The answer to the systemic dysfunction on display in the health-care reform debate does not lie elsewhere in the health-care reform debate.

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