COMMENTARY | Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, usually a reliable moderate who can be counted on to reach across the aisle and vote with Democrats, has started to shift just a little to the right and vote with her fellow Republicans more often than not.
Snowe has built up a reputation as a RINO, or, in the vernacular, “Republican in Name Only.” This tendency has been a constant source of irritation among more conservative Republicans, who have tried to console themselves with the knowledge that a Republican from a New England state cannot stray too far to starboard.
But Politico has noticed that Snowe has been doing exactly that in recent years, voting more conservatively and sticking to her side of the aisle. The blame or credit, depending on one’s point of view, seems to belong to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid has not been as adroit as some of his predecessors in peeling off a hand full of Republican moderates, like Snowe; Susan Collins, also of Maine; and newly elected Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Usually this tactic involves making just enough compromises to attract senators like Snowe and Collins to vote for a Democratic bill. That way the Democrats have a cushion with their own caucus and can boast that a bill was passed in a “bipartisan manner.”
But Reid does not seem to have the knack. Part of the reason is that in the last Congress, the Democratic majority was so overwhelming that the votes of Republican moderates were not needed. Snowe and other moderates were shut out of the formulation of such bills as the stimulus package and health care reform.
There is no memory quite as long as a United States senator who has been dissed. Snowe seems to be enjoying a little revenge by voting with her fellow Republicans and denying Reid the votes he needs to pass legislation now that the Democratic majority is narrower.
The fact that Snowe has drawn a Tea Party opponent for next year’s primaries may be a factor as well.
Of course, there is also the idea, considered quaint among the more cynical of political analysts, that perhaps Snowe has started to move a little to the right because her political views have shifted. It is not inconceivable. The presidency of Barack Obama has moved the country to the right due to his radical policies and form of governance. Snowe may not be immune to that.
Source: Is Olympia Snowe feeling the heat? Manu Raju & Scott Wong, Politico, May 9, 2011