Monday, February 26, 2007

Breaking out the Kid Gloves

The Kennebec Journal lets Sen. Collins off way too easy in this editorial on the junior senator's decision to renege on her 1996 commitment to serve no more than two terms:

Collins' answer to her critics is that when she made the pledge, she wasn't truly aware of the power of long-term incumbency--and now she is. We're a little suspect of that explanation...Susan Collins was an experienced political hand when she made her pledge who surely knew, at some level, the power of seniority.

We'd be happier with the good senator if she just said what really appears to be the case: She changed her mind. She likes being a U.S. senator (who wouldn't?) and wants to stay on the job. Changing one's mind is generally a signal of openness to new ideas and evidence, not political perfidy...

Certainly, it would be nice if none of us made promises we can't keep, or don't intend to keep. But who among us--except the saintly, perhaps--has not changed our mind at least once, an act which could be interpreted by some (often our children) as a faithless about-face?

Note to Kennebec Journal: This isn't about "changing one's mind." It's not about white lies or personal foibles and it's got nothing to do with failing to live up to the expectations of your children.

It's about a public commitment to voters, made in the context of a political campaign.

Collins wanted something from the people of Maine and the promise was a way to help get it--plain and simple. She signed a contract with Maine citizens and she's now getting ready to fink on her end of the bargain.

We can argue about the significance of Collins' broken promise--how important it should be to voters in 2008. But can we all please agree that it's more serious, and tells us more about Collins' character, than a broken dinner date?

Read Craig's take at Turn Maine Blue here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Scenes From The Senate

On Saturday a vote was held in the Senate to close debate on the Iraq war resolution. Sen. Collins was among seven Republicans lining up with Democrats in favor of bringing the resolution to a vote.

COLLINS WATCH was there.

Photos by Willow Lawson.

More at Contrapositive.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Twelve and Out?

Last week I assessed the evidence that Sen. Collins had promised to seek only two terms in the Senate and concluded the following:

While it doesn't sound as though Collins made a formal, explicit promise not to seek re-election in 2008, she certainly made something close to a pledge.
Well, hold the phone.

It looks like she may have made a full-fledged pledge after all.

Craig at Turn Maine Blue has produced an audio tape on which he says Collins is caught pledging to serve no more than two terms.

A transcript of the tape reads as follows:

Audience Member: Simple question, requires a one word answer, three of you support term limit amendment to the constitution, I want you to take the pledge, if you are elected will you serve twelve years and no more.

Female Voice: Yes
Male Voice: Yes
Male Voice: Yes
If it's Collins's voice on the tape, the water just got a bit hotter.

Funding Formulas

Just yesterday I revisited Sen. Collins's sorry tenure as Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental affairs--during which time she successfully beat back a White House attempt to allocate homeland security funds on the basis of risk.

Well, today we learn from Congress Daily that Collins is at it again:

The Senate is planning to move legislation to implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, but with provisions that appear to put the chamber on a collision course with the House.


The Lieberman-Collins bill does have some controversial provisions...For example, it would guarantee each state receive more guaranteed funding than the House bill...

The 9/11 Commission recommended doing away with state guarantees, saying all grants should be based on risk...

"I have concerns with the first responder funding formulas," House Homeland Security ranking member Peter King (R-NY), said. "I believe the Senate should follow the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which gave the House formula an 'A.'"
So there you have it: Collins is once again teaming up with Sen. Joe "three way tie for third place" Lieberman (CFL-CT) to put pork barrel politics ahead of the security of the nation.

Collins may say that 9/11 changed everything, but she clearly doesn't believe it. Like so many of her fellow Republicans, she's still got a pre-9/11 mindset.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Seriousness Watch

Today we learn that Sen. Collins is working to stall the Real ID Act, which includes national standards for drivers' licenses.

I don't know enough about the act to know if its security benefits outweigh the costs (as Collins seems to believe). But reading about Collins's legislation was a fresh reminder that the junior Senator was the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs as recently as December.

What does she have to show for her tenure? The record isn't pretty: Under her leadership, the Senate failed to heed the lessons of 9/11 and pass the kind of vital port security, chemical plant security and air cargo security legislation that the country desperately needed.

In fairness to Collins, she was confronting a White House and Republican majority more interested in launching foreign wars than in doing the difficult, boring work of securing the homeland.

But she can't blame the White House for her sordid role in the homeland security funding formula debate of 2005: Collins spearheaded successful efforts to divert homeland security funds from high-risk areas to low-risk ones.

As the New York Times noted at the time:

Before the vote, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made a powerful appeal to the senators to distribute the money based on risk. But the Senate, led by Susan Collins...put political pork ahead of national security.
Let's be blunt: On the homeland security front Collins has been part of the problem, not the solution.

Anyone who lives in a city or works in a city--or has friends or relatives who do--should have their head examined before lifting a finger to help re-elect Collins.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Collins Watch

In the past I'd heard vague rumblings about a 1996 pledge from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to serve no more than two terms in office. But searches both on and off the internet turned up nothing.

Thankfully, Foster's Daily Democrat has the scoop:

Collins said during her first campaign for the Senate she did not plan to serve more than two terms and thereafter reaffirmed that position when she first sought re-election.

The Bangor Daily News, on Sept. 17, 1996, reported Collins saying: "I want to go to Washington, serve two terms, and then come home."

Six years later, in a letter dated Sept. 6, 2002, to Carl Lindemann of Portland, Collins wrote: "I am proud of the accomplishments I have made during my first term, and I hope to have the opportunity to serve the people of Maine in the Senate for another six years. I intend to serve only two terms as I indicated in the Sanford forum six years ago."

But now, heading into a campaign for a third term, Collins says she has had a change of heart...

"I've found that I really underestimated the importance of seniority and how much difference it makes when you are a more senior member," said Collins, who worked for former U.S. Sen. William Cohen for a dozen years after college.

"At the time, I thought that 12 years, that two terms, would be enough. This was at the height of what I would call the frenzy over term limits," Collins said.

While it doesn't sound as though Collins made a formal, explicit promise not to seek re-election in 2008, she certainly made something close to a pledge. In any case, blaming the "frenzy over term limits" for her predicament does little to enhance her credibility.

In other news, Roll Call demonstrates why the minimum wage will be an issue in Collins's 2008 campaign:

Democrats are targeting Collins, who is up for reelection in 2008, and part of their strategy will be highlighting her mixed record on the minimum wage...

On March 7, 2005, Collins was one of only 16 senators to vote no on competing wage amendments offered by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Kennedy's measure would have raised the minimum wage $2.10, and enjoyed bipartisan support with Republican Sens. Pete Domenici (N.M.), Norm Coleman (Minn.), the recently defeated Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) and Mike DeWine (Ohio). The amendment was defeated 46-49, falling 14 votes short of the 60 needed.

The Santorum amendment was billed as more business-friendly, calling for a wage increase of $1.10 with tax breaks for small businesses. Some conservatives, such as Sens. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and then-Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), voted for the measure, but it also fell, 38-61.

Collins's office declined to comment to The Hill on her votes at that time, but explained her stance when pressed on those votes this week, stating that the senator repeatedly has voted against minimum-wage bills that do not contain small-business exemptions and tax breaks.
Except that the Santorum amendment did include small business tax breaks.

Looks like Collins is going to have explaining to do on a whole host of fronts.

Collins Watch

Via Newsweek:

QUESTION: Do you see any contradiction between supporting McCain, who is in favor of escalating the war, and your current role now in trying to stop the escalation?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): No, because there isn’t going to be any candidate who I agree with 100 percent. This is a major issue, and I’m sure that John wishes he hadn’t taken me on the trip [to Iraq] with him in December. That’s the real irony.
Silly me. And I thought the irony was that almost two years before the election, Collins has already signed on to back a candidate for president whom she vehemently disagrees with--or at least professes to--on the most important issue facing the country.