Sen. Olympia Snowe did something pretty extraordinary: she voted for a bill on its merits, after careful consideration, because she saw a serious problem that needed to be dealt with. Our senator bucked the urge to leverage political advantage, and voted for the Finance Committee bill on health care reform at great political risk.
There’s a reason the political scene in Washington is dominated by representatives of the extremes: it pays. Appealing to the more fringe elements in one’s party assures campaign funding and votes from the base, as well as favorable treatment by the party leadership which means more money for the home state, more votes, etc. In the age of hyper-partisanship, moderates are a dying breed. Exhibit A: the only two moderate Republicans in the Senate belong to our very own delegation.
What makes Snowe’s vote so admirable is that it was based on principle, not posture. She recognized that the bill she voted for is not perfect, and that significant work is yet to be done to reign in costs and ensure competition. Snowe’s most recent independent streak positions her perfectly to continue to shape the course of the legislation, and to continue to serve her stubbornly independent constituents to the best of her ability. Independence might not win you many friends in D.C., but I’d like to think it still counts for something in Maine.
Chris Bell, U.S. PIRG