Scott Brown: the complete record

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Brown has flip-flopped, waffled or sat on the fence on issue after issue.

Issue / Brown's behavior
Details

The Ryan budget plan (the one that ends Medicare as we know it)

Flip-flop

In May 2011, Brown announced he planned to vote for the federal budget plan drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan and House Republicans, which proposed to save Washington money by ending Medicare as we know it and instead giving seniors vouchers to put toward buying private health insurance. This proposal would result in the average Massachusetts senior paying $6,520 a year more for their health care, according to data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and a report by the Senate's Joint Economic Committee. As first reported by the Newburyport News , Brown told a North Shore business group that, "The leaders will bring forward (Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's) budget, and I will vote for it." [1]

Brown's backing for the controversial "Ryan Plan" created an immediate uproar. Brown's first response was to duck and dodge, reiterating how "I applaud the direction the Ryan budget takes us in terms of reducing spending," but refusing to answer when asked directly about the Medicare plan. [2] Then, in a complete 180 degree reversal, Brown published an op-ed declaring that he would actually be voting against the Ryan Plan budget. PolitiFact, a leading non-partisan fact checking organization, examined Brown's shifting positions on the Ryan Plan and concluded that Brown had committed a "full flop" on the issue, the name it gives the most flagrant politician flip-flops.

Wall Street reform

Waffle

As the Senate considered Wall Street reform legislation in 2010, Brown bobbed and weaved, voting three times to thwart the bill with filibusters and saying "I can't support it," [3] before turning around and voting for it on initial passage (Senate votes #124, #126, and #127, 4/26/2010 through 4/28/2010 and #162, 5/20/2010). Weeks later, Brown pulled back again, saying he might not support the bill on a final vote. With his support vital to passage, "Brown used the leverage of his swing vote to win key concessions sought by the [financial] firms," the Boston Globe later reported. Wall Street firms and banks donated $140,000 to Brown in just a few weeks as Brown worked to scuttle a proposed tax on big banks and hedge funds and a bar on financial firms' risky investments. [4 Having successfully watered down the bill, Brown then gave it his vote (Senate vote #208, 7/15/2010).

Increasing any rate as part of tax reform or to reduce the deficit

Flip-flop-waffle

Campaigning for US Senate, Scott Brown touted his signing of the anti-tax "pledge" promoted by GOP activist Grover Norquist. [5] In Washington, Brown has repeatedly voted against proposals that increase taxes on the wealthiest handful of Americans by even a little bit, despite the nation being in what he calls a "financial emergency." Brown's votes have put him out of step with the majority of Americans, who support raising taxes on the wealthy to help reduce the deficit.

So it was noteworthy when in a December 2011 interview, Brown changed gears and declared: "If you want to raise rates or do something as part of overall tax reform, I am all ears." As the Boston Globe reported: "[Brown] even seemed to leave the door open in the future to move away from his no-new-taxes pledge when he said was open to raising tax rates in an overhaul of the federal tax system." [6]

But Brown walked away from his words within hours, issuing a statement about how "Scott Brown is opposed to raising taxes." Speaking through a press aide, Brown now maintains he is "open to raising revenues by closing loopholes as part of comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates" -the direct opposite of what Brown said about rates and tax reform a day earlier. [7]

Debt ceiling deal

Fence-sitting

During the July 2011 debate over increasing the debt ceiling, Brown refused to say where he stood on any of the major competing plans, instead "seeking to score points by criticizing the tone of the debate, while not addressing the substance of any tax or budget-cut proposals," according to the Boston Globe . [8] Brown finally took a couple specific positions just before the voting started. Even then, Brown covered his bets, voting in favor of every plan offered, from cut, cap and balance to both the Boehner and Reid plans to the final legislation (Senate votes #116, #120, #122, and #123, 7/22/2011 through 8/2/2011).

Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell

Flip-flop

In December 2010, Brown voted to end the military's policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell, reversing the stance he had taken a year earlier when, seeking the Republican nomination for US Senate, he'd advocated retaining "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. [9] Six months later, Brown reiterated that he would vote against repeal, but was "keeping an open mind" and said he wanted the Pentagon to study the issue some more. [10] In September 2010, Brown joined a filibuster designed to prevent passage of a defense bill containing a provision repealing "Don't Ask." [11] (Senate votes #238, 9/21/2010 and #281, 12/18/2010.)

START Treaty

Fence-sitting

Brown waited until one day before a crucial vote to announce that he would back a new START Treaty requiring nuclear arms reductions by Russia and the U.S. [12]

The existence of global warming and "cap and trade" agreements

Flip-flop

Nowadays, Brown voices skepticism about whether human activity is really responsible for climate change and has suggested scientists who say it is may have a biased "agenda." In his race for US Senate, Brown was asked if he believed global warming was a "big fraud." As reported by the Boston Globe : "Brown's answer was illustrative, in that he did not reject the fraud theory." [13] In Washington, Brown has denounced proposed cap and trade legislation and voted to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of power to regulate greenhouse gases (Senate vote #54, 4/6/11), throwing his support behind an amendment offered by an Oklahoma senator who insists global warming is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated" and compares environmentalists to Nazis. [14]

Yet just a few years ago, Brown took an opposite view. State senator Brown was such an enthusiastic supporter of Massachusetts' participation in a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative ("RGGI") agreement that in 2008 he issued a press release (archived here) headlined "Brown announces approval of greenhouse gas emission bill" and declaring, "reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine." Per Brown's release: "The RGGI agreement establishes a carbon dioxide 'cap and trade' program to reduce emissions."

Kagan nomination to Supreme Court

Fence-sitting

Brown "was among the last senators to reveal his decision [regarding the nomination of Elena Kagan], making his announcement hours before the vote," the Boston Globe reported in August 2010. Despite having earlier hailed Kagan as a "brilliant woman," Brown voted against confirming her to the Supreme Court, claiming she lacked sufficient judicial experience (Senate vote #229 , 8/5/2010). [15]

States' right to enact marriage equality

Waffle

Speaking to Massachusetts voters, Brown likes to downplay the relevance of his ardent personal opposition to marriage equality, often falling back on a talking point about how, "We've already had the debate on gay marriage in Massachusetts. It's time to move on." In a January 2010 interview, Brown asserted with respect to gay marriage: " I believe that states should have the ability to determine their own destiny and the government should not be interfering with individual states' rights on issues that they deal with." [16] Yet in Washington, Brown has backed federal interference with state recognition of same sex marriage. Brown voted for a measure to intervene against the District of Columbia's decision to authorize gay marriage (Senate vote #89, 3/25/2010), and he supports the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," which denies same sex married couples basic federal rights and benefits available to other married couples. [17]

Brown often refuses to say where he stands on key issues and waits until the last minute to reveal how he will vote.

Since going to Washington, Scott Brown has gained a reputation for refusing to say where he stands on key issues and waiting until the last minute to reveal how he will vote. Even the Lowell Sun editorial page-among the most conservative in the state-has chastised Brown for "being deliberately foggy on the key issues in an attempt to assuage all sides" and said his constituents "deserve far less fence sitting." [18] The Boston Globe has reported Brown "often does not reveal a position on an issue until very soon before he casts a vote," and "[s]ince arriving in the Senate in early 2010, Brown has tended to wait until the final hours of a debate before disclosing his views," [19] even on issues where he's had weeks or months to make up his mind. " Brown's made a habit of refusing to give a direct answer to just about any question," according to Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzenis, while Globe columnist Scot Lehigh says, "[o]n controversial matters, he usually keeps his options open as long as he can." [20]

As the US Senate debated the federal budget last year, the Globe headlined "Brown maintains typical silence on budget fight," reporting that Senator Brown was refusing to answer direct questions about which budget cuts he supported or opposed. [21] Later, as the nation teetered at the edge of default, Brown refused to say where he stood on any of the major competing debt ceiling plans, instead "seeking to score points by criticizing the tone of the debate, while not addressing the substance of any tax or budget-cut proposals," according to the Globe . [22] Indeed, Brown was caught on video telling an audience he would demand tough concession on the budget, such that "If we raise the debt, we're going to do it only if blank, blank, blank, and blank." During the debate on Wall Street reform in 2010, when pressed for specifics on what changes he sought in order to make the bill acceptable to him, Brown dodged, asking the reporter posing the question to give him some ideas: "Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me," Brown said. "And then I'll get a team and go fix it." [23]

Senator Brown has admitted that keeping silent is a political stratagem, with a press aide offering this perhaps unintentionally telling explanation: "The senator is smart enough to know that once he makes his position known, it becomes highly political, which doesn't play well with pushing an agenda forward for the country." [24]

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"Scripted" Brown avoids spontaneous encounters with Massachusetts voters and in-depth interviews on substantive subjects.

Scott Brown "has yet to hold a public town hall meeting to take questions from Massachusetts residents," as the Associated Press put in July 2011, and the general public was not allowed in to any of Brown's stops on his so-called "jobs tour" last August. [25] The Boston Globe has reported that Scott Brown "rarely grants in-depth interviews on substantive subjects," and his "handlers have begun employing a strategy to shield Brown from the media." [26] Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson says Brown "communicates mostly through press releases and prepared speeches," while the Globe's Brian McGrory has dubbed Brown "scripted to within a consonant of his life." [27]

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  • [1] "Senator gets candid about nation's troubles," Newburyport News, 5/14/2011 (here)
  • [2] "Brown won't say if he supports Medicare overhaul," Associated Press, 5/17/2011 (here); "Brown hedges on Medicare overhaul...," Boston Globe, 5/18/2011 (here)
  • [3] "Brown opposes current financial bill," Boston Globe, 4/14/2010 (here)
  • [4] "Donations poured in as Brown's role grew...," Boston Globe, 12/12/2010 (here)
  • [5] "Divergent strategies for Brown, Coakley...," Boston Globe, 12/10/2009 (here)
  • [6] "Scott Brown seeks underdog role," Boston Globe, 12/29/2011
  • [7] "Sen. Scott Brown suggests he could support raising tax rates in reform deal," The Hill, 12/29/2011 (here)
  • [8] "Brown sticks with reticence on proposals," Boston Globe, 7/28/2011 (here)
  • [9] "Mass. GOP Senate hopefuls clash on eve of primary," Associated Press, 12/7/2009 (here)
  • [10] "Brown says no to repeal of "don't ask," Boston Globe, 5/26/2010 (here)
  • [11] "GOP blocks repeal of 'don't ask'..," Boston Globe, 9/22/2010 (here)
  • [12] "Senate poised to OK arms treaty," Boston Globe, 12/22/2010 (here). The crucial vote was Senate # 292, to invoke cloture and end debate, held on 12/21/2010
  • [13] "Environmental differences...," Boston Globe, 12/17/09 (here)
  • [14] "GOP bid to keep EPA from regulating greenhouse gases fails," Boston Globe, 4/7/11 (here); "Politics reasserts itself in the debate over climate change," New York Times, 8/5/03 and Tulsa World, 7/22/06 ( here )
  • [15] "Kagan heads to high court," Boston Globe, 8/6/2010 (here)
  • [16] "Dems use NY gay marriage law to tweak Sen. Brown," Associated Press, 6/27/2011 and "Scott Brown casts first anti-gay vote," Bay Windows, 3/30/2010 (here)
  • [17] "Dems use NY gay marriage law to tweak Sen. Brown," Associated Press, 6/27/2011 (here)
  • [18] "Will the real Scott Brown please stand up?" editorial, Lowell Sun, 4/14/2011 (available here)
  • [19] "Brown maintains typical silence on budget fight," Boston Globe, 4/9/2011 (here); "Brown sticks with reticence on proposals," Boston Globe, 7/28/2011 (here)
  • [20] "Photograph gaffe leaves Brownie a bit camera-shy," Gelzenis, Boston Herald, 5/8/2011 (here) ; "A dicey dynamic for Brown," Lehigh, Boston Globe, 12/8/2010 (here)
  • [21] "Brown maintains typical silence on budget fight," Boston Globe, 4/9/2011 (here)
  • [22] "Brown sticks with reticence on proposals," Boston Globe, 7/28/2011 (here)
  • [23] "Brown opposes current financial bill," Boston Globe, 4/14/2010 (here)
  • [24] "Brown sticks with reticence on proposals," Boston Globe, 7/28/2011 (here)
  • [25] "Sen. Scott Brown has yet to hold town meeting with Massachusetts residents," Associated Press, 7/8/2011 (here); "For Brown, politics is still local," Boston Globe, 8/10/2011 (here)
  • [26] "Brown sticks with reticence on proposals," Boston Globe, 7/28/2011 (here); "The life of the party..." Boston Globe, 1/2/2011 (here)
  • [27] "Scott Brown shows his dodgy side," Williamson, Telegram & Gazette, 5/15/2011 (here); "Brown vs...hmmm," McGrory, Boston Globe, 4/13/2011 (here)