One of the most fascinating parts of watching the stimulus bill negotiations from a Maine point of view is the separate, meandering paths our two senators have taken as they've considered the legislation.
Most commentators believe Snowe's will be the easier vote for Democrats to secure, but in the voting so far, it's been Collins who has supported more Democratic amendments to the bill. Here's a graph illustrating their positions relative to other senators from fivethirtyeight.com.
Collins has been an outspoken leader of the group seeking to streamline the bill in order to gain bipartisan support. She's been looking to cut both what she considers wasteful spending and programs in areas like health and education that she believes should be dealt with in other legislation.
In an interview on WLOB yesterday, Collins explained her thinking:
There's some other spending in the bill that is for good programs, but they're not programs that should be jammed into the stimulus package. They should go through the regular appropriations route.
Ben Nelson and I[...] we met deep into the night to try to finalize the list of cuts of programs, some of which are very worthy, but don't have anything to do with the goals we put out out.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Friday morning circulated a roster proposing $88 billion worth of net cuts from the measure. She proposed eliminating money in the bill for K-12 education while boosting funding for Pentagon operations, facilities and procurement by $13 billion.
almost half of [the cuts] would come from education grants to states, with an additional $13 billion in aid to local school districts for special education and the No Child Left Behind law on the chopping block as well.
Greg Sargent has more details.
I'm not sure why Collins is going after education funding, which is a great idea when you're trying to stimulate the economy. As the Wonk Room put it:
[I]nvestments such as these would be a wise use of stimulus dollars. They would not only prevent states from making potentially debilitating budget cuts, but will also aid America in restoring its competitive academic edge. America’s lead in educational attainment has slipped in recent years, which increased federal aid could help address.
Snowe seems to be on a different (and better) page. She announced today that instead of working with Collins to find education cuts, she'll be working with Democratic leader Harry Reid to eliminate some of the bill's $275 billion in tax cuts.
It appears the bill now won't go to a vote until next week. Plenty of time for Maine's senators to have even more of a say.