Massachusetts’ newly elected Republican senator, Scott Brown, was not in attendance at the meeting between President Obama and House Republicans Friday. But on Sunday, he spoke as if he was ready to help Mr. Obama turn the country around.
“I want to be able to provide, you know, my knowledge and my energy to helping,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Mr. Brown won the Massachusetts race in part by distancing himself from the Republican party to win over independents – calling himself a “Scott Brown Republican." It was, in many respects the key to his victory, with independents outnumbering Democrats or Republicans in Massachusetts.
He sought to continue to carve out that independent identity Sunday.
In some respects, he persisted in railing at the Washington establishment under Obama. Asked if the entire healthcare reform deal now before Congress should be scrapped, he replied: “Yes.”
“It was on its last legs before I even got elected, because the Democrats even were upset at the backroom deals, for example, in Nebraska,” he added. It’s time “to go back to the drawing board and do it in a transparent, bipartisan manner.”
Signs of cooperation
Yet Brown also offered support for Obama. He said would have voted to confirm Obama appointees Ben Benanke for the Federal Reserve and Timothy Geithner for the Treasury. Moreover, he said he backed Obama’s proposed $33 billion tax credit for businesses, and even refused to endorse the widespread Republican criticism that Obama is soft on terror.
“I don't think it's just about the president,” he said. “So I'm not going to give him a grade and say who did – President Bush or President Obama – who did the better job.”
His answers clearly reflect the political demands upon him: If he veers to the right when he arrives in Washington, he risks alienating the voters who elected him. Yet his comments suggest that, at least at first blush, Brown is well situated to take advantage of the political situation created by his election.
Brown suggested that Obama’s meeting with House Republicans came as a direct result of the Massachusetts election, and the math supports his theory. Now one seat short of the 60-seat, filibuster proof supermajority that existed before Brown’s election, the Democrats must win at least one Republican vote to move bills through the Senate.
While it is difficult to imagine the Senate's most junior member bucking his party on key votes, his moderate voice could help in laying the groundwork for bipartisan cooperation – something missing from Obama’s first year.
“I hope I'm on the front of the line, you know, leading the charge” toward bipartisanship, he said.
'Big tent' Republican
Brown’s election could also have an effect on the Republican Party itself: His platform supports abortion rights and Massachusetts’ right to legalize gay marriage here. In a party that has seen talk of “purity tests,” Brown’s election shows the benefits of a “big tent” strategy that includes a greater variety of opinions.
“I've always been a big tent person, you know? We need more people to come into our tent to express their views in a respectful and thoughtful manner,” he said.
Brown was clear, however, what the bedrock of his political philosophy would be. “Make no mistake, I am a fiscal conservative,” he said. “And when it comes to issues affecting people's pockets, and pocketbooks, and wallets, I'll be with the Republicans if they are in fact pushing those initiatives.”
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