Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine)

U.S. Senator (since January 1995)

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Why She Matters

As one of the only Republican moderates left in the Senate, Snowe has been at the center of some of the upper chamber's most divisive policy debates and has helped craft compromises on some of the nation's most polarizing issues.

Throughout her career in public office, she has shown a willingness to defy her party's leadership. Snowe supports abortion rights, opposes drilling in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and has backed proposals long-heralded as bedrocks of the Democratic platform, including adding prescription drug benefits to Medicare and raising the minimum wage. She was the one of the only Senate Republicans to help craft bipartisan health-reform legislation during President Obama's 2009-2010 push to overhaul the health-care system, but she ultimated opposed the bill.

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Olympia Snowe, on compromise, Citizens United and former colleague Kay Hagan

“The forces of division are well organized and they are united. ... But the majority of Americans want their government to work, and it needs to work for all of us.”

How Susan Collins became the Senate’s key deal-maker

Maine’s senior senator is once again in the middle of several big deals.


Getting the gang back together: Bush family, friends convene in Texas to celebrate H.W.

(Photo by Chandler Arden/George Bush Presidential Library Foundation / Photo by Chandler Arden/George Bush Presidential Library Foundation)

“It’s like a combination between a college reunion and ‘The Big Chill,’ ” said an aide to the 41st president.

A bipartisan time-out? Women honor women in North Carolina

Problem solving, not partisanship, was the evening’s theme -- not that you can take politics completely out of the conversation in a contentious election season.

Olympia Snowe book party: Congress 'doesn't have to be this way'

There's a powerful demand out there for the juicy personal-life stories of powerful women. So you have to admire the former senator for resisting that trend -- and delivering a legislative history instead.

Former senator Olympia Snowe backs gay marriage

(Robert F. Bukaty / AP)

Former Maine senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican, revealed Friday that she supports gay marriage and backed a ballot measure legalizing same-sex unions in her state last fall.


Snowe lonely as moderate Republican (1:01)

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe on Wednesday said she didn't have a lot of company as a moderate in Congress. Snowe opens up about her departure in an interview with CBS News.


At a Glance

  • Career History: U.S. Representative (1978 to 1994); Maine State Senator (1976 to 1978); Maine House (1973 to 1976)
  • Birthday: Feb. 21, 1947
  • Hometown: Auburn, Maine
  • Alma Mater: University of Maine, B.A. (Political Science), 1969
  • Spouse: John R. McKernan, Jr.
  • Religion: Greek Orthodox
  • Committees: Senate Finance Committee, Small Business & Entrepreneurship (ranking member); Select Committee on Intelligence; Commerce, Science & Transportation
  • DC Office: 154 Russell Senate Office Building, 202-224-5344
  • State Office: Auburn, 207-786-2451; Augusta, 207-622-8292; Bangor, 207-945-0432; Biddeford, 207-282-4144; Portland, 207-874-0883; Presque Isle, 207-764-5124
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Path to Power

Snowe was born in Augusta, Maine, to a father born in Greece and a mother whose parents emigrated from Sparta. Both her parents died when she was a child, and she was raised by her aunt and uncle in Auburn, Maine. She attended grade school at St. Basil's Academy, a New York private Greek Orthodox school, then returned to Maine where she graduated from Little High School in Auburn.

Snowe entered politics in 1973, when she was elected to fill the seat of her late husband, state Rep. Peter Snowe, who died in a car accident that year.

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The Issues

Snowe is one of a dying breed of moderate Republican lawmakers that have been traditionally elected from the Northeast. As such, she typically plays a pivotal role in the divided Senate, where her vote on big issues is eagerly courted by both Democrats and Republicans. She usually votes with her party on defense and foreign policy matters, while breaking with Democrats on economic and cultural issues.

In the 111th Congress, Snowe has voted with her party just 58.2 percent of the time, a measure equal to that of her Maine colleague, Sen. Susan Collins (R).

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The Network

As one of the Senate's only remaining moderate Republicans, Snowe and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) headed the Centrist Coalition. She also co-chairs with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) the Common Ground Coalition, a centrist group that focuses on improving communication between Senate Democrats and Republicans and has been an outspoken advocate of increasing communication across the aisle.

She is a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, where she works with chairman Max Baucus and ranking member Charles Grassley to craft compromise bills. And she works closely with fellow Maine senator, woman and Republican, Susan Collins.

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Additional Resources

  1. Fritz, Jane, "The New York Times, In Budget Battle, a Different Balancing Act," May 20, 1995
  2. CQ Transcriptwire, "CBS: Sen. Snowe on a Public Option 'Trigger,'" The Washington Post, September 13, 2009
  3. Snowe web site, Press release: Snowe Hails Passage of Bill Strengthening Special Inspector General's Power to Oversee Rescue Plan Funds, Dec. 12, 2008
  4. Kinzie, Susan, Bangor Daily News, "Finding their Way, Sens. Snowe and Collins Aim to Make an Impact," Feb. 8, 1997
  5. Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition
  6. U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes
  7. Herszenhorn, David, The New York Times, IN THE SENATE; Snowe Will Oppose Bill, Dec. 21, 2009
  8. Levi, Michelle, CBS's Face the Nation, "Snowe: Public Option Blocks Consensus," September 13, 2009
  9. Bangor Daily News, "Senators support vote on minimum wage act," Oct, 28, 1995
  10. NARAL Pro-Choice Senator Ratings
  11. Herszenhorn, David M. and Robert Pear, "Health Policy is Carved Out at Table for 6," The New York Times, July 27, 2009
  12. Snowe web site, biography
  13. National Journal, Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition
  14. Time.com, "Olympia J. Snowe: The Caretaker," April 14, 2006
  15. Washington Post Votes Database
  16. USA Today, Second Republican backs troop withdrawal bill, July 11, 2007
  17. "Sen. Olympia Snowe supports unilateral military action against Iraq" Associated Press
  18. Abrams Jim. "Maine senator has history of being in the middle of things" 4/11/04 Associated Press State and Local Wire
  19. Snowe official biography, Senate web site
  20. Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition, Snowe's Senate Web site biography
  21. Snowe web site, Press release: Snowe Plays Pivotal Role in Advancing Tax Portion of Economic Stimulus Measure, Jan. 28, 2009
  22. Volsky, Igor, "Olympia Snowe Joins Senate Finance Dems to Support Taxing Health Insurer Profits," Think Progress, The Wonk Room, July 16, 2009