Collins wants attention, too

COLLINS WANTS ATTENTION, TOO…. The White House and Senate Democrats went to great lengths to woo Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and earn her support, at least for now, of health care reform. For the most part, this is seen as extending some bipartisan cover to center-right Democrats who seem reluctant to back a reform measure on a purely partisan vote.

But Time‘s Jay Newton-Small pointed to a very different angle: would Snowe shift some attitudes among Republicans?

[Snowe’s vote] opens the door — even just a peek — to leveraging Snowe’s vote into widening GOP support. The White House and Harry Reid will now, I’m told, begin courting members such as fellow Mainer Susan Collins, Indiana’s Dick Lugar, George Voinovich of Ohio and Tennessee’s Bob Corker.

Given what we’ve seen over the last several months, this sounds very hard to believe. Other than Snowe, Republicans have been nothing but hostile towards the very idea of reforming the system. The top two Senate Republicans — McConnell and Kyl — have repeatedly said the GOP caucus simply can’t accept what Democrats are attempting to do. Gaining the fleeting support of one Republican moderate took enormous effort and included major concessions. The idea is to now seek more GOP votes?

As it turns out, the AP reported this morning* that Collins wants everyone to know she has an open mind.

Another Republican senator says she’s open to voting for a sweeping health care overhaul this year. Maine Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday the status quo is unacceptable and she shares the goal of passing responsible health care legislation to expand coverage and curb costs. But Collins also said she has serious concerns about the version that cleared the Finance Committee Tuesday with the support of her Maine colleague, Olympia Snowe. Collins said she worries the coverage won’t be affordable for many families and small businesses, and said proposed Medicare cuts are too deep.

Collins, to date, hasn’t been especially interested in playing a constructive role on reform. So why hint this morning that she’s open to compromise? Because she’s no doubt noticed that her Maine colleague has been lavished with attention — from the media, from the White House, from Senate leaders — and positioned herself as Congress’ most important member. Collins, in all likelihood, wants to get the consideration Snowe has received.

In fact, I’d surprised if we didn’t see more of this. Lieberman started popping off yesterday, probably with the same motivation — he, too, wants to have leverage and power. Before long, there may be quite a few senators wondering if they can be the next Olympia Snowe.

* Update: Upon further reflection, the AP’s reporting on Collins’ position appears to have been misleading. Her office is rejecting the notion that Colins is open to voting for the Democratic bill.