Facing possible Tea Party challenger, centrist Snowe moves to the right

May 9, 2011

By Alexander Bolton -The Hill

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), once the Democrats’ great hope for bipartisan healthcare reform legislation, has taken surprisingly conservative positions in the Senate this year.

Snowe said observers should not be surprised. She said that while her actions might have prompted a backlash from Democrats, they’re in keeping with long-held views.

Snowe stunned longtime Democratic colleagues Wednesday by blocking action on a small-business bill she co-wrote because Democratic leaders refused to allow a vote on an amendment they saw as a political hit job.

“Sen. Snowe actually wrote this bill,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Senate Small Business Committee. “She killed her own bill under the guise that she feels so strongly about reg reform.”

Snowe, the ranking Republican on the Small Business Committee, filibustered the bill because Democrats wouldn’t allow her a vote on an amendment she co-sponsored with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one of the Senate’s most outspoken conservatives. The amendment would curb federal agencies’ power to implement regulations. For example, it would require regulatory agencies to first study the potential impact on small businesses.

Snowe told The Hill that her Democratic colleagues shouldn’t be surprised. She said her amendment on regulatory reform is relevant to the underlying bill because it affects businesses across the country. She believes she had no recourse but to filibuster after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took the unusual step of denying her, the ranking member on the committee of jurisdiction, a chance to vote on her own proposal.

Landrieu said Snowe’s demand was inconsistent with her earlier request that the Small Business Committee advance a “clean” small-business bill, free of extraneous policy provisions.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) described themselves as “surprised” by Snowe’s stand on a bill that otherwise had broad bipartisan support.

“This is something eight, 10 years ago never would have happened, there never would have been cloture on this,” Feinstein said in reference to the procedure Democratic leaders pursued to end Snowe’s filibuster.

Snowe said the burden of federal regulations is a problem that must be addressed immediately, while the national economy continues to struggle.

“We have got a serious problem in America,” Snowe said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It’s persistently high unemployment, it’s sub-par growth. The economic conditions are deeply troubling. We have to get the show on the road. That means regulatory reform. It is one of the chief, foremost concerns among small businesses.”

It’s one of several conservative positions Snowe, long considered one of the Senate’s pre-eminent centrists, has taken this year.

To read more, visit: http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/159483-snowe-moves-to-the-right-and-defends-her-actions

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