Collins' Moderation Based on Politics, Not Policy
There's an interesting subtext to Maine Today political reporter Rebekah Metzler's overview of Susan Collins' last two years in office.
It's mostly found clinging to a series of quotes in the article, gathered from a wide variety of political sources:
"We were anxious for their support, grateful for their ultimate support, but a little bit puzzled about the twists and turns the bill took," Maine Center for Economic Policy Executive Director Kit St. John is quoted as saying about Collins' maneuvering on financial regulation.
"It's not half a loaf, it's 90 percent of a loaf of what she wants[…] To hold it up for the other 10 percent ... maybe it's smart politics, but I don't get it" is the quote from Colby College professor of Government L. Sandy Maisel on Collins’ objections to campaign finance reform legislation.
Then there’s this passage:
Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, predicts the pair will veer to the ideological right if the November elections goes as he anticipates.
"I think (the November elections) are going to go our way, and when they do, I think the senators will see that, and they'll try to mirror what they think people want," he said.
I think Webster’s quote explains some of the puzzlement expressed by Maisel and St. John. If you’re expecting Collins to chart a consistent, moderate policy course, you’re likely to be confused by her actions which instead seem to be better predicted by political considerations.
As I mentioned a year ago, Snowe and Collins’ bipartisanship and independence seems to be more based on the politics of the moment than deeply-held, moderate policy beliefs or the spirit of principled independence and bipartisanship that some great Maine politicians have exhibited.
A good example of this was Collins’ work on the stimulus bill. Metzler’s article does list some criticisms of Collins’ effort to shape the legislation, but it doesn’t fully explore what is perhaps the most trenchant critique: Rather than acting on the basis of an economic theory of how stimulus and economic recovery should work, Collins picked a dollar amount she wanted the bill to hit based on what she thought was politically feasible and cut programs more based on their political vulnerability than their stimulating effects.
As economist and New York Times opinion columnist Paul Krugman wrote at the time, many of Collins’ cuts were actually to “the most effective and most needed parts of the plan.”