Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Olympia Snowe

Being a moderate Northeast Republican (one of only two left) when your party is in the midst of an identity crisis can't be easy, but the senior Senator from Maine appears unfazed. Measured, logical and dogged, Olympia Snowe spent much of the year trying to come up with a bipartisan health care reform bill on the Senate Finance Committee while being wooed nonstop by the White House and other Democrats. When the so-called Gang of Six group of Republicans and Democrats trying to hammer out a bill behind closed doors disbanded, she didn't retreat to the GOP locker room but instead stayed at the table. In return, President Snowe (as some grumbling liberals mockingly dubbed her) got a number of amendments added to the legislation and was the only Republican to vote in favor of the committee's final bill. Even though she often sides with her caucus, Snowe was also a crucial swing vote in February, throwing her support (as one of only three Republicans to do so) behind President Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill. These days, when she leans into a microphone to speak, ears perk up instantly — in this deeply divided Congress, no lawmaker from either side of the aisle can afford to ignore Olympia Snowe.

— Kate Pickert