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Excerpt: "News outlets are busy canvassing Republican senators to see how they plan to vote Thursday on the Blunt amendment ... With less than 24 hours to go before the vote, only Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe had confirmed that she would vote against the measure. ... Snowe's surprise declaration that she would be stepping down from her seat after three terms because of the 'atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies' served to crystallize the debate over the Blunt amendment."

Maine's Republican senators, Olympia Snowe (left) and Susan Collins are members of Wish List, a dwindling group of female Republican politicians who are pro-choice. (photo: Harry Hamburg/AP)
Maine's Republican senators, Olympia Snowe (left) and Susan Collins are members of Wish List, a dwindling group of female Republican politicians who are pro-choice. (photo: Harry Hamburg/AP)

Olympia Snowe Quit Senate to Protest GOP Agenda

By Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast

01 March 12


ews outlets are busy canvassing Republican senators to see how they plan to vote Thursday on the Blunt amendment, which would allow employers to withhold insurance coverage for any health-care service that violates their “religious beliefs and moral convictions.” It would grant this exemption not only to religiously affiliated institutions but to all secular employers as well.

With less than 24 hours to go before the vote, only Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe had confirmed that she would vote against the measure. Her fellow Maine moderate, Sen. Susan Collins, remained undecided, at least for the record. A third female Republican senator, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, was also withholding her commitment, raising the prospect of a potential mini–women’s rebellion within the GOP over the controversial amendment.

Introduced by Missouri Republican Roy Blunt and cosponsored by Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown in the heat of the debate over making contraception coverage mandatory as part of preventive health care for women, the amendment looked like a good vehicle for Republicans seeking to make the debate about big government trampling on religious freedom. But polls have since shown that the religious-liberty argument has been undercut by successful Democratic efforts to characterize it as a war against women, and comedians portraying it as the GOP’s war against sex.

Snowe’s surprise declaration that she would be stepping down from her seat after three terms because of the “atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies” served to crystallize the debate over the Blunt amendment. Her decision also underscores the political peril facing Republicans over the measure. Asked about it on Wednesday, Mitt Romney told a reporter he was “not for” the Blunt amendment, but within the hour, a spokesperson came back to say the way the question was phrased was confusing, and that Romney supports the Blunt measure “because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith.”

Romney won’t get off that easy, because the issue is more complicated. The Blunt amendment goes beyond religious institutions, allowing any employer that, for example, disapproves of smoking or drinking to potentially withhold treatment for those behaviors. After weeks of overreach on women’s issues, including a debate over invasive probes as part of a bill in Virginia requiring women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound, you would think that Republicans would be looking for a way to get back to the economic issues that were supposed to define this election year.

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is in an especially difficult position as a cosponsor of Blunt. He really can’t back away, so instead he’s been doubling down, claiming that Sen. Ted Kennedy, his iconic predecessor, would agree with him, an assertion that Kennedy’s son Patrick says is flat wrong. The younger Kennedy asked Brown to refrain from airing a radio ad invoking his father’s name; Brown refused. Brown’s efforts to portray himself as an independent-minded lawmaker will take a big hit if he goes ahead with this vote.

A unified Republican vote has been a hallmark of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and there was immediate speculation that Snowe’s decision to resign was driven in part by pressure from the GOP leadership to get her to vote with her party on Blunt. The fact that she gave only a few hours’ notice to McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, fueled the speculation that Snowe, long a thorn in her party’s side, had finally had enough. A spokesman for Snowe denied that the pending Blunt vote had anything to do with her decision to resign.

Snowe’s frustrations with her party have been longstanding. Democratic Sen.  Barbara Mikulski, a friend of many years, took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to decry Snowe’s departure, saying it’s “because she’s sick and tired of the partisanship.”

For a time, Snowe voted against her party in almost equal measure with her support for Democratic legislation, but that balance was changing as she faced Tea Party pressure in a primary challenge and, in an election year, more of a concerted effort in the Senate for Republicans to stick together. She did not support President Obama’s health-care bill, though she did back the initial stimulus spending, one of only three Republicans to do so.

The respect Snowe commands on Capitol Hill and among the media is substantial, and she will be missed as one of the very few who could at least be courted across party lines. A Democrat affiliated with a Senate campaign and who did not wish to be named said of the Republicans, “They have gone off into some deep, dark cave that we came out of 400 years ago, and poor Olympia Snowe had enough.” A pro-choice Republican woman from Maine is a job description that doesn’t find many takers in today’s GOP, to the detriment of both major political parties.

Eleanor Clift is a contributing editor for Newsweek. Follow her on Twitter. your social media marketing partner


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+99 # andyseles 2012-03-01 12:00
Olympia Snow was and still is one of my heros. She could always be counted on as a voice of reason and consistently showed the courage of her convictions. How she managed to "hang in there" all this time among her Neanderthal colleagues still amazes me.
+121 # artful 2012-03-01 12:07
I admire her position here, but I would have hoped she would have upped the ante a bit, by quitting the Republican party and running for her seat as an independent.She will indeed be missed--one of the few thinking republicans left in the land.
+70 # Alice W 2012-03-01 12:25
I agree with you, why not become an Independent? I think Maine voters would respond to that. Hopefully she'll change her mind.
+41 # Karlus58 2012-03-01 12:47
yes, I like that idea. Why not? And....what about Susan Collins? What's up with her? She voted for it. Women need to realize her position as well and counter accordingly.
+79 # Erdajean 2012-03-01 12:21
It's a sad fact that one of precious few GOP senators with a working brain -- and a conscience -- has to leave Congress to keep her integrity. As a former Republican -- or, until Reagan -- I have to say there USED to be some honor in it, at least for the sake of (used to be!) fiscal conservancy -- but that notion long ago sank and died in the acid pot of
vicious GOP lunacy. From that early camp came Olympia Snow, who was increasingly under pressure from the dumbest scum of Congress to hate and destroy everything good about our country.
It just may be that her defection and after-life will lend more to the cause of humanity than her vote in Congress ever could. This much I wish for her, and all of us.
+47 # Robert B 2012-03-01 12:29
I've never understood why people like Olympia Snowe, who knows perfectly well that the Republican Party has gone nuts, don't become Democrats instead. She's going to vote like a Democrat, but she'd rather resign than actually make an effort to stand against these fascist loonies. This half measure gets my half respect.
+41 # bugbuster 2012-03-01 12:37
Maybe she wants to be a Republican because she believes in what she perceives to be the basic philosophies of the GOP she grew up with. Today's GOP is certainly not that.

Recall that the EPA was established in the Nixon administration. There is an example of how grotesquely deformed the GOP has become.

When I was a kid people complained that there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the parties. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it does show how different things are today.
+10 # Cambridgemac 2012-03-01 13:34
Today's Democratic Party - and particularly Obama - are to the right of Richard Nixon. THAT's the problem. Not the fact that Republicans have gone from being cryptofascists to open fascists. The Overton window has been pushed far, far to the right - and Obama is part of it. And Snow, also.
+11 # bugbuster 2012-03-01 16:08
That's very easy for you to say. You probably imagine that you would do differently. You wouldn't. No one, even the President, has the power to change anything more than a tiny little bit at a time over decades.

Obama is not part of The Problem. The Problem is a Congress full of people who neither understand nor respect the democratic process, which involves compromise and give-and-take.
+2 # bugbuster 2012-03-01 16:10
That outlook is exactly the mirror image of the Tea Party outlook.
+1 # Smiley 2012-03-01 13:41
Now there's not a nickel's worth.
+14 # futhark 2012-03-01 14:54
Democrats keep promoting the military response to foreign affairs and security state mentality to domestic ones, so I see no valid reason for an independent thinker like Olympia Snowe to join them. She would be much better off joining fellow New Englander Bernie Sanders as an unaffiliated Independent. My advice to her would be to steer clear of neocon leaning Zionist Joe Lieberman, however. He's not really an independent. More like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
+5 # wfalco 2012-03-01 18:44
Quoting Robert B:
I've never understood why people like Olympia Snowe, who knows perfectly well that the Republican Party has gone nuts, don't become Democrats instead. She's going to vote like a Democrat, but she'd rather resign than actually make an effort to stand against these fascist loonies. This half measure gets my half respect.

My thoughts exactly. I am a former New Englander and am aware there is a streak of "blue bloodism" up there that makes it difficult for some to become Democrats. That is the only reason (albeit quite weak) of why a rational thinker like Senator Snowe would continue on as a Republican. That and because it's friggin Maine. Lots of strange, lumberjack lookin hunter types up there.That whole "fiercely independent" nonsense.
+34 # davidr 2012-03-01 12:31
The cave is indeed 400 years old on this continent, and its name is "antinomianism" — hostility to the application of moral judgement and reliance on faith alone. Among other ill effects, this tends toward theocracy and ideology; away from science, reason and political negotiation. Snowe is well out of that particular cave.
+52 # maddave 2012-03-01 12:32
Olympia Snow - the last GOP hand on the throttle of the Senate's always-out-of-c ontrol Tea Bagger juggernaut - will be sorely missed.

But before you punch out completely, Ma'am, Bernie Sanders could use some company and morale support in his position as the Senate's only sane independent member.

Even us liberals would support you far more-than-half- of- the-time.
+22 # Inspired Citizen 2012-03-01 12:32
The more Republicans retire, the better for the country. The GOP agenda is simple: help this president fail at every turn. The more that independent voters understand this malicious and unAmerican agenda, the more likely we will have economic recovery and progress on all fronts.
+21 # bugbuster 2012-03-01 12:41
But Snowe has voted with the President at times. She isn't like the rest of them. The GOP needs more like her.

Present company excepted I'm sure, most independent voters *are* the problem with the electorate. They call themselves "independent" when in fact they are simply not paying attention. They are swayed by TV ads. They decide in the polling booth for the shallowest of reasons. They will put more thought into the color of a bath towel than their choice for President.
+3 # Patriot 2012-03-01 13:08
On what specific FACTS do you base yur stereotypical claims? If so many state did not require that people name a arty in order t register to vote, there would be more independents, I think -- and I would be one of them!
+5 # bugbuster 2012-03-01 14:09
I base my assertion on the following facts: 1) money buys TV ads which help people win elections, 2) polls reveal undecided voters until voting day, and 3) party-affiliate d voters decide early based on party. These facts are borne out again and again by polling results and their accurate predictions of election outcomes.
+21 # Virginia 2012-03-01 12:39
“because she’s sick and tired of the partisanship.” This is what I hear from our Dem Congressional Reps too. It's too bad to lose good people left or right. The nut-job rightwingers will just find somebody else as bad as they are and make it worse. "R's" vote "R" period. Dems more likely vote for the person and that's likely how "R's" get elected. Dems sit home. R's go to the polls rain or shine and have organized distribution of mail-in ballots to make it easier.

R's have social clubs that meet monthly and keep their base energized. At the local Dem level there always seems to be a fight for power - everyone wants to lead the group. R's are sheep and like to be led by the strongest in the group. Dems all want to be leaders and don't know how to find followers. Bottom-line is unless Dems make considerable changes - everything will remain status quo...even with these opportunities.
+19 # Interested Observer 2012-03-01 12:57
Read "The Wrecking Crew" by Thomas Frank, and you will see that this is simply another form of a well established agenda to ruin government while blaming the same government for unsolved problems. Cripple, subvert, or destroy is the program. and it doesn't get smaller, its resources are quietly redirected to very opposite of the intended purpose.

"R's are sheep and like to be led by the strongest in the group." Close to a text book definition of "authoritarian" .
+5 # Interested Observer 2012-03-01 12:59
Too bad she does not have the means or desire to go independent like the DINO Joe "Freedom of, not from, religion" Lieberman
+21 # mrbadexample 2012-03-01 12:44
Assuming a dem takes Snowe's seat, that's two flips (Scott Brown can't co-sponsor Blunt and survive in the Bay State).
-81 # Martintfre 2012-03-01 12:52
Insurance for contraceptives?
Incredibly bad economics.

Insurance is meant to cover unexpected unplanned big ticket expensive things.

Like your house burns down, your car is stolen or smashed into pieces and people are hurt.

Insurance is not meant to cover daily consumables like food, heating cost or contraception.

If insurance gets perverted by stupid pandering politicians to cover every little thing - then no one has any incentive to be smart about the price of anything.

The greedy stupid people will whine (Because somebody else is paying for it) Of course I want the best! It is my RIGHT !
-29 # tedrey 2012-03-01 13:28
This may be the first time I have partly agreed with Martinfre on anything, but I think he's partly right. We're not talking about insurance for health care per se, but for preventive care, like regular checkups, that lead to improved health and lowered costs down the line.
I don't see why insurance companies might not refuse to cover contraception, IF they'd lower premiums accordingly. But they never ever do that!
+5 # historywriter 2012-03-01 20:04
I'm sure that you refuse to buy life insurance for your family, on the remote chance you will die some day.
+9 # Cambridgemac 2012-03-01 13:37
Hey, good like bargaining over the price of your triple bypass - or the price of your surgery after your car accident. ROFLMAO.
"Being an American, I naturally spend most of my time laughing." - HL Mencken
+33 # Cambridgemac 2012-03-01 13:39
One question - Why do the French pay HALF what Americans do for health care and get better quality, including home visits by docs and no waiting list for appointments? In my view, it's because the government negotiates with providers. What's your view?
+28 # bugbuster 2012-03-01 14:04
It's good business for an insurance to cover contraception. It's a lot cheaper than covering a pregnancy, birth, and baby. If the woman doesn't want a pregnancy, it is in the best interests of both her and her insurer to make sure she doesn't get pregnant.
+19 # MJnevetS 2012-03-01 16:29
Quoting Martintfre:
Insurance for contraceptives? Incredibly bad economics.
Insurance is meant to cover unexpected unplanned big ticket expensive things.
Your comments show an extreme ignorance about insurance as well as human reproduction. By paying for prescription medication, i.e. the birth control pill (which ANY insurance which contains a prescription plan DOES cover) Insurance companies can pay roughly $120.00 per year versus (with unplanned pregnancy) $10,000.00 or more for prenatal, natal and post-natal care. Therefore, it is very good economics for insurance companies to cover contraceptive care, as they potentially save 100 times their outlay per person, per year. The bigger problem is the existence of a for profit health insurance system in this country, for which nationally we pay about two times as much for as the average Western Nation and for which we receive health care which is ranked 32nd for Industrial Nations. Finally insurance IS supposed to cover "daily consumables like food, heating cost or contraception" Think Worker's Comp. or disability insurance which is supposed to cover everything for you after an injury. Your ignorance, like your lack of shame, seems to know no bounds. If people really wanted the best (in health care) they would move to almost any European country where healthcare is deemed a basic human right, as opposed to a commodity to be sold for profit.
+27 # indianfirst 2012-03-01 13:01
I do hate to see her go because she was there to remind the Republicans of how they could legislate without hatred and stupid ideology against women. Half the country is women! That's a statistic that falls on their deaf ears. I am going to fight them with everything I have because of where I have come to compared to where my mother was and because I have three darling granddaughters who deserve full participation in this American society.
+20 # JudyC 2012-03-01 13:18
By Googling RINO (Republicans IN Name Only) one can view various "hit" lists to "cleanse" the GOP of those who aren't conservative enough. Senator Snowe is at the top of all of them. Polls, however, show that Snowe would retain her seat either as a Republican or an Independent. She is disgusted with gridlock and partisanship, however, and, no matter what her affiliation, voting would come down to only one of two ways. The two-party system in which "winner takes all" is not working. Other countries that have multiple parties and apportion seats in congress, parliament, etc. according to the percentage each party has received are much more representative of the people. Rarely does a party win such a majority that it can bring the government to a standstill. Instead the different parties must form coalitions which require meaningful dialogue and give and take. Many Americans feel that neither the Democratic Party nor the GOP represents their viewpoint. Perhaps that is why, even in Federal elections, 40 to 50% of US eligible voters choose not vote.
+22 # ganymede 2012-03-01 13:18
I think we're going to see the entire coun try 'stepping down' from the Republican agenda. It looks like we're entering the end game scenario for the collapse of the GOP. It's very strange watching a major political party commit hari-kari, but this is only inevitable considering all the rightwing contradictions.
+18 # dick 2012-03-01 13:45
Health insurance is not the same as fire insurance. In the modern world, health care "coverage" (because it's so expensive) would be better language than 'insurance.' You don't want your kid to catch fire before you can collect any benefits. Olympia Snowe voted against health care & dug her heels in to successfully undermine a real Stimulus. She has voted with Mitch the Monster time & again, against all reason. Look at Susan Collins' wimpy waffling on Blunt. We need an E.Warren clone, not Mt.Olympia.
+11 # Sophie 2012-03-01 14:20
You are correct. Snowe was, and is STILL a Repug, and after looking at her voting record, she was not exactly a champion of progressive rights. Right on about Warren.
+2 # kyzipster 2012-03-02 08:58
She is registered Republican for a reason. I don't agree with her stance on these issues and I'm a very big fan of Warren but I still see her departure as a loss. She stood up to her party during the Bush years repeatedly. This country cannot function without the 2 parties attempting compromise, without debate and disagreement within the parties. The Democrats are capable but Snowe may be the only Republican in the Senate who is willing to think for herself and her departure is not a good sign.
+4 # jwb110 2012-03-01 13:46
Can't she just change Party's?
+11 # cordleycoit 2012-03-01 14:10
So Snow wouldn't wear the Republican Burka and give control of her body to the nice Senator who as a man gets to regulate her health. How unrepublican of her. Her party has failed to realize how hard they are working to defeat themselves since they are alienating half the population.
+10 # dick 2012-03-01 14:14
I do not understand the assault on "partisanship." I find no fault with being a partisan on behalf of national security, anti-terrorism, economic opportunity, equal rights, etc. The problem is with officials who adopt & defend irrational and/or anti-democracy positions. No one should compromise with them. The problem in D.C. is not with partisan liberal & conservative ideas clashing. RESPONSIBLE positions can be decided by majority rule or reconciled. The problem is with truly insane proposals. Evil people & crack-pots have won office. Lots of them, & they are very looney, not "partisan."
These are not Eisenhower Republicans folks; they are nuts.
+9 # historywriter 2012-03-01 15:22
I have for many years held to the same party because, even though they often go astray, their basic values are the same as mine. They care about people, they want to create safety nets, they do not think we should have to try to navigate some things alone like good, affordable [or free) health insurance. There are too many exceptions (including from our president) but liberals are quicker to rise to defend equal rights, civil rights, rights to free speech and freedom from imposed religions and the like.
In my view, my party has failed when it fails to follow its own (partisan) principles.
+11 # humanmancalvin 2012-03-01 15:09
Along with Snowes departure goes the last bit of sanity in the GOP. Could never understand why she was a republican to begin with after all she is an intelligent politician with some liberal views. On my way to join a local Sarasota phone bank in support of President Obama tonight;the woman that canvased me on the phone said she was a republican who just couldn't stand the absurdity of her party any longer. Hopefully this is a trend for all thinking republicans to abandon their sinking ship.
+4 # wwway 2012-03-01 15:18
I can't imagine why Snowe just didn't switch parties. I'd ask my constituents about this idea and let them push me where I need to be. But I guess in the boiling pot the GOP has created there's not much time or incentive to "think and do."
I blame the partisan situation we're in on Republicans. They are the lawmakers for the 1% and the 1% is never going to give up their power to control the message, the church, and education.
The only remedy is for the people to identify and cast votes for leadership in their favor. It's really time for Americans to wake up and stop being Chickens for Col. Sanders.
+6 # mnmufon 2012-03-01 15:53
Blunt amendment would allow employers to withhold insurance coverage for any health-care service that violates their “religious beliefs and moral convictions.” It would grant this exemption not only to religiously affiliated institutions but to all secular employers as well.

This sounds like they could deny coverage for any treatment that might increase their insurance costs, (like cancer, major operations, etc.), which would be repugnant to their greedy nature.
+5 # 666 2012-03-01 16:36
"[The Republicans] have gone off into some deep, dark cave that we came out of 400 years ago, and poor Olympia Snowe had enough.”

Just 400 years ago? More like the caves hominids emerged from 4 million years ago.
+4 # Bodiotoo 2012-03-01 17:33
How about a Constitutional Admentdment that bans outside money from local Congressional office and allow working stiffs an opportunity to be a people's representative. Put a limit on how much money can be spent on a local campaign...and stop this redrawing of districts to favor one party or the other. How about using computers to straight away draw up districts based on population alone. No party affliations! Ane expand the house to 1200 seats so we all get a better chance to actually reach out and communicate with our representative.
Presidential vote should be popular vote, use the Congress when there is no majority winner, top three just like now.

Senate...nice that we vote but again the money should be limited to donors in state. Stop this cross the state lines and outside influences (including the parties)
Representative: The People's House
Senate: The Sate Concerns
President: Representative of the people.
...and clean up the Supreme Court...when there isd a conflict of interest they should not rule.

Sorry to see Senator Snowe go, but an example of the party politics and the (outside)money for re-election being tied together
+4 # historywriter 2012-03-01 17:52
This is the best idea, getting money period out of campaigns. But the simplest way to do that is to fund all campaigns--no exceptions. That will never pass, of course.
1200 members! Nothing would get done--maybe that would be a good thing.
Some people are trying to get an ethics code adopted for the Supreme Court. Every other judge in every other capacity has ethics codes and someone to manage it.
Odd, no one on the SC is interested in one.
+8 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-03-01 17:50
You know, my church is a Peace church. Does the Blunt Amendment mean we could choose to deny all medical relief to all generals, admirals, legislators & weapons dealers & manufacturers?
+8 # ABen 2012-03-01 17:50
Just one more voice of reason and moderation culled from the ranks of the Greed Obsessed Party. If Eisenhower were alive today, he would be a Democrat. What a shame!
+3 # 1984 2012-03-01 18:36
Senator Snowe is doing a great disservice to the American people who care about others. Why can't she either do as Lieberman did and switch parties or become and independent? With Barney Frank retiring and Senator Snowe stepping down, the GOP is only getting stronger.
+5 # Willman 2012-03-01 18:49
The Maine senate seat could handily be won by a Democrat or independent. The Maine people are as tired of the extreme right as Sen. Snowe.
The timing of her announcement doesn't leave the Repubs of our state a lot of time to gear up let alone try to campaign on getting along in congress.

I cannot imagine how any repub would campaign on getting along with the other side. The have a "my or the highway" mentality.
+4 # ABen 2012-03-01 20:52
I have great faith in the people of Maine, and I am certain most of them are sorry to see Snowe leave. However, I am equally certain that Maine voters would be more than willing to instruct Mitch McConnell where to put his leadership.
+5 # Jude 2012-03-01 19:02
“Religious beliefs and moral convictions” somehow seems to apply to contraception. So I guess that means no more coverage for vasectomies? And on a related note, I’m wondering if all the wonderful medical coverage elected politicians get (but deny to other Americans) includes coverage for Viagra. My guess it it didn’t take long for that drug to be included in these mostly old men’s benefits.
+11 # Helen Marshall 2012-03-01 20:33
What's to stop an employer who is a Christian Scientist from refusing any insurance coverage of medial treatment, which is unnecessary and immoral according to his/her religious beliefs?
+3 # kyzipster 2012-03-02 08:47
The Republican brand is an embarrassment to the country and now they've driven out their one lonely voice of reason in Congress. When will voters stop rewarding this toxic ideology? We need 4 strong political parties, 2 on the left and 2 on the right, if this country is to survive.
0 # jack406 2012-03-03 17:10
If Rick Santorum is nominated as the Republican Candidate for President, the Republicans will lose big to Obama. It might be like the Goldwater loss.

When that happens, leaders like Olympia Snowe will be needed to help pull the Republican party back to the moderate base that can win an election. Otherwise, the Republicans will be done for.

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