February 26, 2012

Collins, Snowe rank as least conservative GOP senators

By Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com
Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON — Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine are the two least conservative Republican senators, according to 2011 vote ratings released Friday by the nonpartisan National Journal.

The publication issues annual conservative and liberal rankings of members of Congress, putting together a composite score based on key votes on economic, social and foreign policy issues. Collins and Snowe have usually been in the middle of the Senate in the annual National Journal ratings.

For 2011, of the 47 Senate Republicans, Collins' conservative rating ranks her 47th, last among GOP senators, while Snowe's rating comes in 46th.

In the House, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, is rated the 53rd most liberal lawmaker. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, a member of the Blue Dog coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats, is rated the 130th most liberal House member.

The ratings are based on 97 Senate votes and 105 House votes during 2011. An example of votes by Collins and Snowe that affected their ratings: Both voted for the confirmation of Edward Chen to the U.S. District Court in California, while 42 GOP senators voted no.

In the Senate, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jeff Merkley of Oregon tied for most liberal last year, while Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was rated most conservative. In the House, 19 Democrats tied for most liberal and 10 Republicans tied for most conservative.

'WE MIGHT BE UNDER FIRE AGAIN'

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's civilian payroll totaled $408.3 million last year, says a group representing shipyard employees, businesses and public officials.

The Seacoast Shipyard Association releases its economic impact study every year. But the report the group released Friday was against the backdrop of a potential new base closure threat to the shipyard in Kittery, which employs about 4,700 civilians and about 100 military personnel.

The study also included some other Navy organizations on the site, bringing its estimate of the total employment to about 5,100. The yard's military payroll totaled $40.5 million, including Coast Guard personnel, the study said.

The shipyard, which overhauls nuclear submarines, was placed on the Defense Department's base closure list in 2005, but that recommendation was overturned by the independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

The Obama administration has requested that Congress approve new base closure rounds in 2013 and 2015. Maine and New Hampshire lawmakers say the shipyard does valuable work, but a defense analyst says the yard could be vulnerable because there will be less work in the future overhauling nuclear submarines.

This year, the report alerts the community "that we might be under fire again," said Neil Rolde, the association's chairman. "It's a way of increasing their concern because they can see more clearly how this facility affects the economy of this area."

'THE INVISIBLE WAR'

Rep. Chellie Pingree will play the roles of host and participant when the Maine Democrat hosts a screening Tuesday on Capitol Hill of a movie examining the issue of sexual assaults in the military.

"The Invisible War" won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at this year's Sundance movie festival. It includes an interview with Pingree, who has authored a bill seeking to ease hurdles to disability benefits for veterans who have been sexually assaulted during their military service. The movie also includes interviews with victims Pingree has met with, said Willy Ritch, Pingree's spokesman.

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