Congressional reporter Carl Hulse paid tribute to Maine's two moderate Senate Republicans, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, for giving President Barack Obama two crucial Yes votes on his $800-billion spending plan in Wednesday's "No Ordinary Republicans: Maine Senators Break With Party on Fiscal Plan." The plan appears on its way to passage as of Wednesday afternoon.
The unusual headline suggests there is something extraordinary about Republicans who support Obama's massive spending priorities.
Senators Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe are not close friends, but they have plenty in common. They both represent Maine. They share a centrist ideology. They are proper and genteel. And they can drive their Republican colleagues to distraction.
Much to the dismay of their fellow Republicans and to loud applause from Democrats, the two senators from Maine have put President Obama on the precipice of winning passage of an $800-billion-plus economic recovery plan rejected by almost everyone else in Congress who shares their party affiliation.
On one of the biggest bills ever to confront lawmakers, the two senators, surviving members of the vanishing breed of New England Republicans, are wielding outsize power. Along with Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the third Republican who broke from the pack and provided a crucial vote for initial passage on Tuesday, the two Mainers find themselves holding virtual veto control over the legislation as it enters crucial negotiations between the House and Senate.
Many Senate Republicans would prefer the outcome be in other hands.
Hulse did quote Republican senators who take issue with Snowe and Collins, before turning his attention to them again, giving them space to sell their fellow Republicans on the Democrats' big-spending plans:
The two Maine senators acknowledged that some of their Republican cohorts might be disenchanted. But they say they are simply doing what the pragmatic and independent people of Maine sent them to Washington to do....This is hardly the first time the two have broken from their party; it has occurred regularly over the years on budget, health, tax and environmental policy. But now it comes as Republicans are much more vulnerable, holding just 41 seats, and knowing that the loss of Ms. Collins and Ms. Snowe deprives them of what little power they retain to block Democratic legislation....Both senators say they wish their Republican colleagues would take a second look at the legislation, and Ms. Snowe said she had been talking to House Republicans about getting behind it. "At this moment in our nation's history, I think it is crucial that we build a consensus," she said.
Hulse is not as kind to conservative senators, referring to Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as an "archconservative" in a July2008 story.