Despite what seemed to be a bruising August for health care reform efforts, Congress still appears to be on a path to pass a bill this year. At the center of that effort is one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. Snowe is perhaps that most moderate Republican remaining since Sen. Arlen Specter jumped ship to the Democrats. An analysis of her voting record this year shows that she is more likely to vote with the Democrats than to vote with her Republican peers. It comes as little wonder that she would be targeted as the deciding vote on health care reform.
Snowe has a 60% or higher voting agreement with every Democratic or Independent senator for the 111th Congress, while maintaining the same level of voting agreement with only twelve Republicans. The voting similarity between Snowe and Democrats is so similar that she holds a 70% or higher voting agreement with eleven Democratic senators. She holds this level of voting agreement with two Republicans.
The two Republicans that have a high level of voting agreement with Snowe are Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Sen. Collins, Maine’s junior senator, is, like Snowe, often a reliable Republican vote for the Democrats. Collins also cast votes in support of the stimulus bill and other Democratic proposals including S-CHIP expansion and fair pay in the work place. Collins holds the highest voting agreement of any senator with Snowe at 86.92%. Murkowski’s voting agreement with Snowe likely results from her support for fair pay in the work place (all Republican women in the Senate supported this legislation) and her support for most cloture votes.
The Democrats with the highest voting agreement with Snowe are also seen as key votes in the health care reform push. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Sen. Blanche Lincoln hold the two highest voting agreements with Snowe. Both are seen as key votes on any health reform bill and Nelson, in particular, has been a key player in all major legislation this year. Nelson was instrumental in passing the stimulus bill earlier this year and has recently echoed Snowe in her support for a public option trigger in the health care reform legislation. Lincoln is seen as one of the more conservative Democratic senators and faces a tough reelection campaign in one of the few states that trended away from the Democrats in the 2008 election. Her vote will be crucial to Democrats on health care reform and her high level of voting agreement with Snowe shows how crucial the Maine Republican’s support for a bill may be.
The regularity with which Snowe votes with Democrats may be a bright spot for the majority as they push forward in the health reform debate. As some have determined that reform efforts have dwindled as the summer has come to an end, a careful look at the landscape shows that little has changed. All that matters is whether Snowe intends to use her position as the most Democratic friendly Republican to craft a bill she would support.
To see voting agreement with Sen. Olympia Snowe for all senators see this visualization.
The visualization was created using data from the New York Times’ Congress API.