Monday, September 29, 2008

How Will She Vote?

Still no word from either candidate on the Wall Street bailout bill. That's understandable--the language wasn't finalized until about twelve hours ago.

While it's always risky to try to infer Sen. Collins' position on legislation from her public statements, here's a stab at it.

First, to recap: After several days of flailing, Collins began parroting Rep. Allen's talking points on the bailout bill. She followed Allen in calling for curbs on executive compensation, taxpayer protections and more oversight.

It was a transparent effort by her camp to eliminate any daylight between the candidates on the issue.

But on one point, she was unwilling to echo Allen. And it leads to a conspicuous difference.

Namely: From the beginning, Allen had asked for a "lifeline" for homeowners. He later spelled out that criteria, calling for the legislation to include--in the words of PPH reporter Matt Wickenheiser--"authority for bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of mortgages on first homes."

It's not hard to understand why Collins refused to parrot that demand: For her friends in the real estate, financial and construction industries, it crosses a bright line.

And guess what: The real estate, banking and construction industries won. After heavy lobbying, the bankruptcy provision was excised. It didn't make it into the final draft.

So Allen has plenty of reason to vote against the legislation. By contrast, all of the principles Collins enunciated have been met.

What's more, the bill is quintessentially bipartisan: It's an almost paradigmatic example of centrist legislation, crafted with strong input from both sides of the aisle and the White House.

In short, it's the product of just the kind of consensus-building process that Collins has made a career out of fetishizing. So it's hard to see how the junior senator could avoid voting for it.

Of course, it also gives Collins' big business allies and patrons most of what they want. And after spending eight years enthusiastically supporting economic policies designed to widen the gap between the rich and everyone else, it would seem like election year pandering for her to turn around and abandon her Wall Street friends.

So Collins looks like a likely bailout supporter to us. Allen has a bit more room to maneuver, but it would make plenty of sense for him to oppose it.

We'll know where things stand soon enough.

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