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Maine's Olympia Snowe decries partisanship -- when it suits her

February 28, 2012 |  4:28 pm

Olympia Snowe
Olympia Snowe of Maine, one-half of that state's moderate Republican Senate delegation, is taking her ball and going home. Snowe announced Tuesday that she won't seek reelection because she's had it with hyper-partisanship.

"I do find it frustrating," Snowe said, "that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions. With my Spartan ancestry, I am a fighter at heart, and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue. However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail."

The Senate -- and Congress as a whole -- are poorer when moderate Republicans (and conservative Democrats) pack it in. Snowe has demonstrated independence, a stance made more possible (and sometimes necessary) by her Northeastern constituency. But she hasn't always been a maverick.

There was no more partisan split in the Senate than over the confirmation of UC Berkeley professor Goodwin Liu for a seat on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the parties had agreed not to filibuster judicial nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances," Republicans blocked Liu -- and Snowe joined in, questioning Liu's objectivity and complaining, as did other Republicans, about his past criticism of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. As The Times reported, the Liu cloture vote was essentially a party-line affair, "with just one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supporting him, and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who faces a difficult reelection fight, voting with the GOP."

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 -- Michael McGough

Photo: In this Jan. 8, 2010 photo, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) laughs during an interview with the Associated Press, in Portland, Maine. Snowe, who has served 33 years in Congress, released a statement Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 saying that she will not run for re-election. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP Photo

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