Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
Over the years, I’ve watched centrist Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine again and again provide the calm and rational voices needed to move stalled legislation. The two women played significant roles in negotiations that helped the senate reach an agreement this evening on a stripped down stimulus bill of about $780 billion.
Hulse and Herszenhorn at the NY Times report:
Democrats succeeded, after a long day of private negotiations and intense public debate, in winning the support of enough Republicans to move the package toward a final Senate vote, where Democrats are confident of passage, given the support announced by several Republicans. Exact outlines of the accord, which is somewhat smaller than the amount originally sought by President Obama, were not immediately available, but the senators agreed to cut some spending and strip out some business tax cuts to gain enough Republican support.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, hailed the agreement. “This is a very critical juncture for our great country,” he said on the Senate floor.
The timing of the Senate vote was not clear, but Mr. Reid signaled that action could take place over the weekend. Once it the package is approved, differences between the Senate legislation and a considerably different version passed recently by the House will have to be reconciled. President Obama has said he hopes all that can be accomplished in time for him to sign the measure within 10 days.
Three centrist Republicans, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, were among the senators wooed by Democrats, whose efforts were bolstered by Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, who is a former Congressman from Illinois.
Senator Reid and Mr. Emanuel reportedly met with Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter Friday evening to smooth out any remaining wrinkles. Soon afterward, Mr. Reid conferred with his fellow Democrats to gain their approval.
Gaining enough Republican support was essential, since 60 votes are generally required under Senate rules to move a bill forward. “Is it perfect?” Senator Collins asked rhetorically on the Senate floor. “No.” But what was put together is a worthy compromise, she said.
Mr. Reid singled out two negotiators, Ms. Collins and Senator Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska, as “two people who got us where we are, with great work by others.”