Brown’s stance on major issues

Senator Scott Brown has yet to commit to any debt bills. Senator Scott Brown has yet to commit to any debt bills. (Brendan Smialowski for The Globe)
Globe Staff / July 28, 2011

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Since his election last year to the US Senate, Republican Scott Brown has established a pattern of waiting until just before major votes to stake out a position, a style that has remained consistent in the current debate over the debt limit. Here are other major votes where he was reluctant to take a stand.

Health care reform Brown’s dramatic election to the Senate in January 2010 broke the Democrats’ supermajority and was widely interpreted as a referendum on President Obama’s health care overhaul. Democrats, left with few other alternatives, opted to pass key changes to the health care bill via a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation. Republicans loudly condemned the tactic and swore immediately that they would repeal the law. When asked directly by reporters in Boston if Brown would oppose the reconciliation bill, he avoided a direct answer and said he had to read it first. Saying that his remarks had been mischaracterized, Brown ultimately joined his party in unanimous opposition to the bill.

Financial reform Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate scrambled for the support necessary among Republicans to pass a major reform of financial industry rules, which was among President Obama’s priorities last summer. Despite key concessions granted to win his vote, Brown was slow to commit to the legislation, taking two weeks to decide before ultimately backing the bill. Earlier in the year, when pressed by a reporter for specifics on how he thought the measure should be fixed, Brown turned back the question, by saying: “Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me. And then I’ll get a team and go fix it.’’

New START treaty The New START treaty required a vote by two-thirds of the Senate to pass, which meant nine Republicans were needed to join all 58 Democrats in favor. The treaty’s Congressional champion, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, predicted its passage even though there were initially too few public declarations of support. Brown was among the last to cross the aisle, two days before the vote, after weeks of debate and last-minute intelligence briefing for senators.

Budget talks Brown declined to provide his full views of major budget cuts, as lawmakers worked on a plan to avert a government shutdown. He took criticism from the right, which wanted him to hold the line on spending, and from the left, which wanted him to protect major programs with a big impact in Massachusetts. He later drew criticism for his apparent reversal on whether or not he’d support Representative Paul Ryan’s House-proposed budget in May. One week, he told a crowd in Georgetown, Mass., that he’d vote for the GOP budget even though he didn’t expect it to pass. But by the next week, he stated publicly via an op-ed that he couldn’t support the plan due to its overhaul of Medicare. In the end, he broke with Republican leadership by joining the majority against it.