As I’ve been noting here, one of the key thing to watch for in today’s vote on the Blunt amendment is how many Republicans defect from the party’s support for it. On the Senate floor just now, one of the key “centrists” that Dems were watching, Susan Collins, announced she will vote for it.
“I feel that I have to vote for Senator Blunt’s amendment, with the hope that its scope will be further narrowed and refined as the legislative process proceeds,” Collins said, vaguely accusing both sides of “playing politics” with the issue.
Collins had been undecided, and the reason she offered for supporting the Blunt measure is that she had asked the Obama administration for further clarification on how Obama’s contraception mandate compromise — which would be undone by Blunt — would impact self-insured religious organizations. She claimed the answer provided by the administration was insufficient.
The question, of course, is whether any answer would have been sufficient. Given Collins’ repeated role as Lucy to the Dems’ Charlie Brown, it’s fair to ask whether this was merely an excuse to cast the Yes vote on Blunt that she would have cast no matter what reassurances the administration offered.
And this goes to the heart of another debate that’s been raging of late. Olympia Snowe’s announced retirement has prompted a great deal of hand-wringing about how supposed “centrist” politicians no longer have any meaningful role to play in Washington. The demands for ideological purity on both sides, we’re told, have grown so strident that the possibility of bipartisan compromise has vanished.
But here you have a case where one of these “centrists” decided not to opt for the compromise position, and instead is going with the extreme one. Obama’s compromise is supported by six in 10 Americans, including 62 percent of independents, according to a new Kaiser poll. The Blunt position, by contrast, is the ideologically rigid one.
If there is no longer any “center” in Washington, it’s because “centrist” Republicans are not embracing solutions that are actually centrist. If bipartisan compromise is no longer possible in Washington, it’s because “centrist” Republicans are embracing the uncompromising positions, rather than the ones that represent genuine compromise.
UPDATE: The Senate just voted down the Blunt amendment, 51-48. More soon.