U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine is urging Massachusetts voters to support fellow Republican Sen. Scott Brown, saying he's one of a dwindling number of lawmakers willing to work across party lines.
Snowe, who recently announced she would not seek another term citing the increasingly divisive atmosphere in Washington, said Brown is a "rarity" on Capitol Hill who "doesn't pay lip service to bipartisanship."
"Scott, as you already well know, is not your status quo, business as usual, go along to get along politician," Snowe said during a press conference Monday at Brown's campaign headquarters.
Snowe said encouraging bipartisanship is critical to the functioning of the Senate.
"That's why I have been saying how important it is that we begin to reward candidates and elected officials who are willing to craft a consensus," she said. "The people of Massachusetts really have an extraordinary opportunity to send a message to the rest of America ... that says we are going to reward someone at the ballot box who has been a bridge-builder."
Snowe also called Brown a critical vote in favor of issues important to women, pointing to his support for renewing the Violence Against Women Act.
While the law has been widely supported by lawmakers of both parties since it was first signed in 1994, some Republicans in the Democrat-controlled Senate have objected to the expanded version of the law.
That version has new provisions that would include protections for gay and transgender victims and allow illegal immigrants who have been victims of abuse to claim temporary visas.
The Maine Republican downplayed Brown's recent support for an amendment that would have let employers or health insurers deny coverage for services they say violate their moral or religious beliefs, including birth control. Snowe also opposed the amendment, which failed.
Snow chalked up her difference with Brown on the amendment to what she called an "honest disagreement" on the best way to craft a conscience exemption for religious groups.
Brown's likely Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, has faulted his support of the amendment, which was sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Warren said in a recent radio ad that the amendment would have allowed employers or insurers to claim a vague moral conviction to deny contraception or any other health care coverage.
"This (amendment) threatens women's access to contraception, mammograms, even maternity care," Warren said in the ad. "It's just plain wrong."
Massachusetts Democratic Party activists say Brown is highlighting his support for the Violence Against Women Act to try to woo back women voters he might have lost during the debate over contraception.
Brown rejected the criticism, saying he co-sponsored renewing the legislation last year before the contraception issue surfaced. Brown also said his support of the bill is personal as well as political, pointing to his mother's relationships with abusive men when he was growing up.
"I remember the desperation that my mom, my sister and I felt when we were confronted in the middle of the night with some of the very real challenges of stepfathers wanting to hurt us," he said.
Brown was introduced at the press conference by his wife, former Boston television reporter Gail Huff.
Huff wasn't actively involved in the campaign that led to Brown's 2010 special election win to the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy, but said she's able now to be more involved since she's no longer a reporter in Boston.
Brown said he's used to being surrounded by "strong willed women" and Huff said the family, including Brown and the couple's two daughters Ayla and Arianna, have open discussions around the kitchen table.
"The girls, now that they are 23 and 21, have very, very specific ideas about what they do and don't believe and they chime in with a lot of great ideas, and it's wonderful for both of us to be able to bounce things off of them because their generation sees things very differently," Huff said.
Brown declined to be more specific about the family discussions, but when a reporter asked Huff to name an issue that she and the couple's daughter have educated Brown on, Brown chimed in and said "how to cook."
"Yeah, how to cook, how to sew, how to clean," Huff added.