Commentary: Collins, Snowe and Brown rise above partisan politics

Bob Ray Sanders is a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Bob Ray Sanders is a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MCT

Three Republican senators have proved once again that they are an anomaly in their party's contemptuous caucus.

They have shown us once more that, unlike the majority of their GOP colleagues in the Senate, they have the commitment, the vision and the courage to do what they think is best for this country rather than what is most expedient for a backward-thinking, obstructionist political party.

In a 60-39 vote Thursday to pass the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Democrats in the Upper House of Congress could count on the support of only three Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

With legislation designed to prevent another economic meltdown that brought us the worst recession in more than 60 years, the vast majority of those who wear an "R" after their names refused to stand up for the American people, choosing instead to side with the huge financial institutions that have spent millions fighting against more regulation.

Once again, with the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression, most of the Republicans were robotic cheerleaders on the sideline rooting for defeat. It is the role they have decided to play not only through the midterm elections in November, but until the 2012 presidential election, if they last that long.

Their out-of-touch leaders' strategy is to be a do-nothing party that prays for continued economic despair while preying on the fears of a hurting public. They are a cynical bunch that would proudly cheer on bad times if it means political victory in the fall.

The minority leader in the House, for example, called for repeal of the finance reform legislation even before its final passage.

It doesn't take a genius to know that Wall Street, along with the nation's largest banks, was in desperate need of reform. It had become an out-of-control gaming industry -- a Las Vegas of the East -- that played with investors' and depositors' money. Even when these institutions were failing, their CEOs and top management were raking in millions and billions of dollars.

Deregulation, as well as totally ineffective regulations, had given them carte blanche to gamble with other people's money and use convoluted Ponzi schemes to scam trusting and naïve investors into betting their life's savings on a Wall Street game of craps that was using loaded dice.

On the one hand these Republican leaders condemn the administration for trying to bail out the banks that were "too big to fail," although the president saved the country from total economic collapse. On the other hand they defend Wall Street when there's an attempt to rein in bad practices that put the nation in financial jeopardy.

Republican leaders, you really can't have it both ways. The people surely see through the hypocrisy.

That is why today I have the greatest respect for Collins, Snowe and Brown, who refused to bow to the pressures of partisanship in favor of protecting the people of this country from those greedy, callous individuals and institutions who, frankly, don't give a damn about them.

In announcing her support of the bill early last week, Snowe said, "While not perfect, the legislation takes necessary steps to implement meaningful regulatory reforms, create strong consumer protections and restore confidence in the American financial system."

She is right. By no means is this a perfect bill, because no bill coming out of any legislative body in America is perfect. But this legislation does add a new consumer protection bureau, strengthens the authority of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it adds regulations to the high-stakes, highly manipulative trading schemes called "derivatives" -- whatever they are.

So Collins, Snowe and Brown have my great admiration today, because I truly think they vote their convictions even on issues when I disagree with them.

I'm more than embarrassed, however, by my Texas senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, who voted against this bill and others supported by the president. I've known both for years, and I'm convinced they are better than their recent votes on Capitol Hill or many of their recent statements defending those votes.

In the same week that he voted against protecting the public from financial fraud, Cornyn announced he would vote against the president's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

His reasoning was hypocritical and nonsensical.

"Solicitor General Kagan's testimony before the Judiciary Committee did not assure me that she agrees with the traditional understanding of the proper role of a judge," said Cornyn, a member of the committee. "Judges should strictly interpret the written Constitution, which means both enforcing written limitations on the scope of government power, such as the Second Amendment ... as well as not inventing new rights or imposing their own policy views on the American people."

It appears most Republicans in Congress have put their faith and their fates in the hands of the far-right wing of the party. As long as they do that, we cannot expect bipartisan support on most crucial issues facing this country.

And that means the country has to depend on one party to lead while the other remains not just on the sidelines, but far away from the field of play.

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