My last “Political Animals” article stated my opinion on the viability of the “public option” and its similarity with Dirigo Health. The next assignment is to grade our senators, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, regarding their stances on health reform, as well as TARP, cap and trade and their legacy in the Senate. I do this at a risk of breaking the Republican Eleventh Commandment, as stated by President Ronald Reagan:

“Thou shall not criticize fellow Republicans in public.”

I am certain my opinions may ruffle some feathers and draw ire from both senators as well as the Maine Republican Party, but the facts speak for themselves. It seems as though the trend in Maine, and around the country, has been refusing to listen to the people who elected the representatives to office, whether the state Legislature or Congress.

Sen. Snowe was first elected to Congress in 1978, after serving five years in the Maine Legislature. Sen. Collins was first voted to the Senate in 1996 and has not missed a vote since being elected. Both are hard working and committed to the people of Maine. Both are also proud of their independent voting records and willingness to compromise on both sides of the aisle.

Collins and Snowe both vote 59 percent of the time with the Republican party and a 78 percent with each other. The disturbing fact to many conservatives is that they both vote with the liberal Democrats 41 percent of the time. I compared the voting records of Collins and Snowe to one of the most liberal Democrats, Senate President Harry Reid, D-Nevada, on one side, and the most conservative Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, on the other.

Though they voted more with Republicans, the content of the legislation was most disturbing. Neither senator has shown fiscal constraint, regardless of what they say in the press. They have voted for the most costly spending measures ever seen in Washington. (Check the votes for yourself on the Web site of Congress.)

Collins and Snowe catapulted themselves into the national spotlight with the new administration, with their views and votes on the over-spending insanity of the federal government. Our senators were the swing votes for the stimulus package voted in by Congress in the beginning of 2009 as part of the “Gang of Three” which included Sen. Arlen Specter D-Pennsylvania. (Who was a Republican at the time of that vote.)

Since the stimulus vote, both Senators have been courted by the Obama administration and the Democrats to vote for such measures as cap and trade and the health care reform bills. I have written to both of the senators and called their offices to find their stances and the way they are leaning on their votes. The response from their offices were non-committal and vague.

It was my sincere hope to speak with both senators during the August recess at a town hall-style meeting that would have allowed them to hear their constituents’ opinions, so to help them decide what was right for Mainers. To my surprise and many others, there were no town halls held. 

Their offices informed me they were holding some forums with business leaders and a couple of walks in the downtowns of some cities in their districts instead. 

The main frustration I hear in the real world is the politicians just don’t listen and do what the special interest groups and big money donors want. By the actions of our two senators, Snowe and Collins, I cannot say I disagree.

The question I ask myself on a regular basis is,” Why be so elusive on these issues, when the reason they got re-elected was because we believed what they told us?” I can tell you that we in Androscoggin County busted our butts to get both senators re-elected, and feel very betrayed by the non-responsive actions.

History will be kind to both senators for their willingness to cross party lines and work in a bipartisan fashion. One thing I have always said is “it is ok to compromise a position, but you can never compromise your principles.”

That is where the senators and me part ways!

Scott Lansley is chairman of the Androscoggin County Republican Committee, a former legislator and current selectman in Sabattus. E-mail: [email protected]

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