Thursday, December 31, 2009

Left Hand, Right Hand, Etc.

In a single 20 minute speech, Sen. Collins blasts legislation because it gives special deals to particular states and then touts legislation for giving a special deal to a particular state.

Amazing how she pulls that off.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thought of the Day

Now that PPH has offered yet another sycophantic piece about Sen. Snowe, doesn't the paper owe Sen. Collins a fresh, gushing profile as well?

Shill Game

I have no reason to believe that Bill Nemitz is getting ready to pull a Jeannine Guttman.

But I can't think of anyone better qualified to write limp, fawning press releases for Maine's senior senator than the PPH columnist.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

The AP:

Republican senators attacking the cost of a Democratic health care bill showed far different concerns six years ago, when they approved a major Medicare expansion that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits...

With no new taxes or spending offsets accompanying the Medicare drug program, the cost has been added to the federal debt.

All current GOP senators, including the 24 who voted for the 2003 Medicare expansion, oppose the health care bill that's backed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats...As for their newfound worries about big government health expansions, they essentially say: That was then, this is now...

Six years ago, "it was standard practice not to pay for things," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah...

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said simply: "Dredging up history is not the way to move forward."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just One Example

It's not worth taking the time to unpack all of Sen. Collins' distortions here. But I'd like to look at one example, to convey just how misleading she's willing to be.

At 1:43 in her new video, Collins produces a chart to support what is perhaps her most troubling criticism--that the Senate bill will "increase health care costs" and fail to "rein in costs." After all, wasn't reform supposed to deal with runaway costs? If it doesn't--and instead sends them soaring higher--surely the junior senator is right that the reform legislation is a failure.

But is she right?

As the chart fills the screen, Collins cites the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and viewers are clearly meant to deduce that the chart was produced by the CBO.

It wasn't.

In fact, when you look at the tiny fine print, the chart seems, instead, to have been drawn up by the Senate Republican Policy Committee--using numbers churned out by the "Senate Budget Minority."

And so Collins has performed a bait-and-switch, swapping in a partisan chart--produced by reform opponents, based on their own assumptions--even as she leads viewers to believe that she's passing along independent analysis.

Needless to say, reform proponents reject the chart's conclusions: While they readily concede that (as the CBO notes) total, aggregate cost of all health care spending will go up initially in the Senate legislation (as it would in any plan that extends coverage to millions--including the imaginary one that Collins could actually support) the bill is designed to reverse that increase over the long term by restraining spending growth.

(That may sound counter-intuitive at first, but it won't once you look at the numbers.)

Of course, Collins is free to challenge health care economists like Jon Gruber, who vouch for the cost control mechanisms in the bill. But she doesn't challenge them in her speech. She simply asserts that they're wrong. And pretends that her position is backed up by respected, independent experts.

That's sneaky. It's disrespectful to Mainers and it shows bad faith. And it's totally consistent with the junior senator's disingenuous approach throughout the health care debate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Voting With Your Dollars

Anyone who buys a copy of Portland Press Herald is subsidizing this kind of sloppy, delirious commentary.

Something to consider.

"Billions of New Taxes"?

If you're wondering how Sen. Collins would reform health care--and pay for that reform--you won't find out in this seven minute video.

But you will get to watch Susan Collins talk down to Mainers like only she can.

Along the way, she works in all the standard GOP distortions, manufacturers a couple of her own, cites a hospital executive--who happens to be a campaign donor--to bolster her argument, and poses, astoundingly, as a fiscal conservative.

Did I mention that the production values are laughable and that her text is occasionally ungrammatical?

In short, good clean fun for the holidays.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

Ezra Klein:

Thanks to the magic of Google, it's easy enough to revisit the plan (pdf) Obama campaigned on in light of the plan that seems likely to pass. And there are, to be sure, some differences. The public option did not survive the Senate. The individual mandate, which Obama campaigned against, was added after key members of Congress and the administration realized that the plan wouldn't function in its absence. Drug reimportation was defeated, and a vague effort to have government pick up some catastrophic costs was never really mentioned.

But the basic structure of the proposal is remarkably similar...

Whether you love the Senate bill or loathe it, whether you're impressed by Obama's effort or disappointed, it is very hard to argue that the bill Congress looks likely to pass is fundamentally different from the approach Obama initially advocated. "The Obama-Biden plan both builds on and improves our current insurance system," the campaign promised, and on that, for better or for worse, they've delivered. You can debate whether Obama should have lashed himself to such an incremental and status-quo oriented approach, but you cannot argue that he kept it a secret.

What's New?

Bruce is right that Sen. Collins' claim about "seven" Republican amendments is, at a minimum, misleading.

Of course, throughout the health care debate, we've gotten little but slippery rhetoric from the junior senator.

Frustration At Home

Democrats aren't the only ones put off by the GOP's stonewalling on health care reform.

How a self-proclaimed "moderate" could filibuster the most significant piece of domestic policy legislation in a generation--debated for months and ratified by a national election--is simply beyond comprehension.

It's a decision that will haunt Sen. Collins. Or at least it ought to.

Putting Maine First?

It seems pretty clear that Sen. Collins could have cut a deal with Senate Democrats on health care reform that would have redounded to the benefit of Mainers. And so it's no exaggeration to say that her constituents will be literally worse off because of her stubbornness, her disingenuousness and her duplicity.

But then again, Mainers drew the short straw in the stimulus bill too--a piece of legislation Collins voted for--in no small part because of changes she demanded.

So maybe the real lesson is that Maine's needs just aren't a top priority for the junior senator.


Sen. Susan Collins, a bipartisan moderate centrist, votes to block a health care plan supported by a wide majority of senators--who represent an even a wider majority of the American populace--from even receiving an up or down vote.

The plan which only a year ago she called "pretty good" is apparently now seen as so dangerous that she must do everything in her power to prevent it from being enacted.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


After calling candidate Obama's health care plan "pretty good" and something she could vote for during her 2008 reelection campaign, Sen. Collins characterizes the version of it up for a vote in the Senate next week--watered down and nudged to the right to suit centrists-- as "devastating."

She calls it, "detrimental." She accuses it of taking the country "in the wrong direction." She says it "will do more harm than good."

Of course, doing more harm than good is something that Susan Collins knows plenty about.

Thought of the Day

I've been watching Sen. Collins for years, and I still have absolutely no idea what a health care reform bill that she could support would look like.

I doubt anyone knows.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

Paul Krugman:

Let's also not fail to take note of those who had a chance to join in this historic moment, and punted...

I'm talking...about the self-described centrists, pundits and politicians, who have spent years lecturing us on the need to make hard choices and actually come to grip with America's problems; you know who I mean. So what did they do when faced with a chance to help confront those problems? They made excuses.

Health care costs are, as everyone serious acknowledges, at the core of many of our difficulties, very much including long-term budget deficits. What reformers have been saying for years is that the only way to tackle health care costs is in the context of a reform that also tackles the problem of uninsurance; and so it has proved...

So did the deficit scolds, the people who preach the need to rein in entitlements and start paying our way, rally behind the cost-containment plans? Um, no...

And the lesson I take from that is that these people are insincere. They like posing as defenders of fiscal rectitude; they like declaring a pox on both houses; but when push comes to shove, their dislike of social insurance, their refusal to consider any government economy measures that don’t involve punishing people with lower incomes, trumps their supposed concern about acting responsibly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting To Work?

I defer to Ezra Klein on the health care policy nitty gritty. But I'm not sure I share his analysis of the significance of the Collins-Wyden amendments. And I definitely don't agree with his intimation that Collins has done anything especially praiseworthy here.

To back up for a moment: What seems to have happened last week, in essence, is that the junior senator agreed to support Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) smart, sound amendment as long as he supports her bad-but-not terrible amendment. (That probably oversimplifies the the terms of the agreement. But from what I've read, that does seem to be the jist of it.)

Meanwhile, Collins is still declining to say much of anything nice about the legislation; and she isn't specifying what changes she would need to get on board.

When you take that context together with Collins' history--and in particular, her recent displays of outright cynicism on the subject of health care--it seems far less obvious that what she's engaged in is a good faith effort to strengthen the bill.

Sure, Collins could have had an eleventh hour epiphany and decided, suddenly, to be constructive. But based on what we've seen to date, her goal could just as easily be to dilute the bill to make it less effective; or to nudge the bill to the right for ideological reasons; or to it revise it in ways that will make it harder to pass.

She's entitled to do those sorts of things, of course. And all things being equal, that kind of horse trading, back-and-forth and gamesmanship should probably be encouraged.

But I'm not sure it deserves to be praised. At least not unless it both improves the legislation and helps it get passed.

And it's simply to early to draw any conclusions about that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Off The Beat

Hope to be back soon. Meanwhile, in case you missed it, there's this.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Then What?

For some reason, Sen. Collins' package of health care reform amendments go undiscussed on her website and unmentioned in her most recent e-mail newsletter.

But let's assume they're as reasonable as they sound: If they pass, will she then support the legislation? Or at least not try to block it from getting an up or down vote?

Times like this underscore what a shame it is that Portland Press Herald went under.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Signal or Noise?

Sen. Collins breaks with the GOP, voting in favor of the first amendment to the Senate health care bill.

Then and Now

Sen. Susan Collins during her 2008 campaign:

"This [health care] is a complex issue. It's one that I think we should tackle by holding hearings all over this country...and then come to Washington and work for two months or three months on virtually nothing but health care and come up with a comprehensive bill that provides access to health insurance for every American."
Sen. Susan Collins, yesterday:
"I'm concerned about the amount of pent up work," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Wednesday in the Capitol as debate on health care slowed to a crawl. "I think we need to have more of a focus on the economy. There are a lot of appropriations bills that need to be debated, a lot of tax bills that need to be extended, so it is a concern of mine how this is all going to be completed in time."

No Longer Operative?

I suspect that this column by Sen. Collins was drafted before the junior senator's recent discussions with the Obama administration, and before the OMB released encouraging data on health care premiums earlier this week.

At least I hope so: The piece is full of unsubstantiated dire predictions and unsourced, dubious empirical claims.

And then there's this:

Most of the health care reform debate so far has centered on the need to expand coverage to the uninsured, a goal that I embrace. No one should have to cope with a devastating illness and the prospect of bankruptcy because of a lack of insurance. The fact is, however, that it will be difficult to achieve our goal of universal coverage until we find a way to control the health care costs that have driven up the cost of coverage for families, employers and governments alike.
First of all, the notion that the health care reform debate has centered on expanding coverage is obviously false. There's been much more discussion of the public option, abortion and "death panels."

But more important is Collins' bizarre claim that achieving universal coverage will be "difficult." After all, the legislation on the table right now gets us almost all the way there.

So yes, getting to universal coverage has been "difficult." But it's been difficult, mostly, because people like Susan Collins have been doing whatever they can to block it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Being Constructive?

This sounds, of all things, like a genuinely constructive proposal.

My hunch is that it's window-dressing, and an attempt to stay in the conversation: At a certain point, Sen. Collins was going to have to fill out her objections with a few details--or risk being ignored. (Even a beloved bipartisan moderate centrist can get away with vague, contradictory complaints for only so long.)

So it would be foolish to assume that Collins is now willing to negotiate in good faith on health care. I very much doubt, for example, that the junior senator is working up a slew of smart, serious amendments designed to strengthen the bill--and get it passed.

But of course, I'd love to be proven wrong.

Question of the Day

Remember how Sen. Collins used to tout her support for end-of-life consultations within Medicare?

Not Just Me

In two October posts (here and here) Matthew Yglesias and Igor Volsky delve into the contradictions at the core of Sen. Collins' position on health care.

Volsky and Yglesisas are less harsh with Collins than we've been in recent weeks. But of course, they haven't been watching the junior senator as closely as we have.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Excuse, Please

Sen. Susan Collins, November 23, 2009:

The greatest barrier to health care coverage today is cost...My concern is that this bill would actually drive up the cost of health insurance for many middle-income families and small businesses. (Bold and underlined in original.)
New York Times, page A1, December 1, 2009:
The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the Senate health bill could significantly reduce costs for many people who buy health insurance on their own, and that it would not substantially change premiums for the vast numbers of Americans who receive coverage from large employers.

Collins and the Dupes

During her 2008 campaign, Sen. Collins characterized universal health care as a priority. She said that the Obama health care plan was "pretty good" and that she was open to supporting it. And she argued that her experience working on insurance and health issues--and her pragmatic approach to the legislative process--would put her in a position to facilitate comprehensive reform.

About one third of Democratic voters looked at Collins' centrist, wonky rhetoric on health reform (and other issues) and saw it as a sign of seriousness.

They took her moderate branding at more or less face value: Would she be with Obama on everything? Of course not. But on the big issues, the Democratic presidential candidate and the Republican senator from Maine weren't really that far apart, were they? And even when the junior senator disagreed with the new president, she would do so constructively--in ways that strengthened legislation and improved policy.

Democrats believing these sorts of things were probably decisive in Maine's decision to send Collins back to Washington for another term.

One year later, it's as clear as could be that they were dupes.

Remember: Collins now opposes even debating and amending a health care proposal that fits the outlines of the plan she called "pretty good" thirteen months ago. (Imagine if she'd declared such an intention last October--or even held it out as an option.) She's repeatedly exaggerated the cost of reform. And the only thing resembling a constructive proposal she's put forward is tort reform--a knee-jerk GOP solution to pretty much everything; a plan that's popular with the tea party crowd but would have only a modest impact on soaring health care costs.

In most media markets, such a glaring contradiction between campaign rhetoric and action in office--such transparently bad faith--would attract attention. It would gain traction and stimulate public discussion, even if the issue involved didn't happen to be the most significant domestic policy proposal in a generation.

The flip-flopping politician would be scrutinized in local TV news broadcasts, lambasted in op-Eds, criticized in editorials and lampooned as a fraud in political cartoons.

In Maine, not so much.

Still, the boldness of Collins' reversal--and its breathtaking cynicism--is no less stunning for the lack of coverage.

Not exactly democracy at its finest.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

They Write Letters

Thomas E. Perry:

The recent votes of Sens. Collins and Snowe were not for or against the health care bill as they would like to make you think. The vote was whether or not to debate the bill.

In other words, should we discuss, negotiate, compromise on the bill, and Snowe, Collins chose that we should do none of that with this bill. If they had prevailed, then health care reform would have been dead and they know it.

Snowe says "we have a responsibility to solve" and yet her vote says I refuse to debate it or discuss it. If you refuse to communicate, then how do you solve a problem?

Collins says the "proposal falls far short when it comes to reining in the cost of health care." Once again your vote says you refuse to debate it or discuss it. If you refuse to communicate, then how do you "rein in the cost?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comforting The Powerful

Why would a newspaper scrupulously avoid criticizing elected officials in its editorials--even when criticism follows logically from its editorial position?

Is it about celebrity worship? Back-scratching? Timidity?

Are there more positions on Sen. Collins' staff opening up soon?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Profiles In Bad Faith

Sen. Collins votes against even debating the Senate health care reform bill, which looks an awful lot like the Obama plan that she termed, "pretty good" during the 2008 campaign.

In a statement, Collins calls the bill "divisive" and "partisan."

Divisive and partisan, indeed.

Picking Their Battles

Gerald has a couple questions about Sen. Collins' priorities, and those of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

MIT health care economist Jon Gruber, winner of the Health Economists Inaugural medal for the best U.S. health economist under 40:

It [health care reform as proposed] does real things on cost control, and then it does real things to make cost control more politically viable. It lays the groundwork for doing more. To kill this bill for not doing enough on cost control would be like criticizing the Yankees for not winning the Super Bowl. They won the World Series! They did what they could do!

Thought of the Day

When you boil it down, Sen. Collins seems to be saying that she voted against Part D before she voted for it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Asked, Unanswered

After months and months of fawning, pliant coverage from the Maine media, a genuine reporter has stood up and had the temerity to ask Sen. Collins not one but two serious question about health care reform.

Kudos to Jackie Farwell and Mainebiz:

You've said you're troubled by the proposal to fund reform by cutting $500 billion from Medicare. How do you suggest we pay for the reform?

I think part of the problem with the bill is that it would finance a massive expansion of government, totaling a trillion, over a trillion dollars if you look at the House bill for example, and it would do so by slashing $500 billion out of the Medicare program and by imposing a series of new taxes, fees and penalties on small businesses, on individuals and on medical equipment manufacturers and on insurance companies. The problem with that is those increased taxes...are going to drive up the cost of health insurance. For example, probably half the insurers in this country are nonprofit and yet they are going to have new taxes to pay. They are going to pass that on to the consumer.

So I think we need an approach that focuses more on reducing the cost of health care and then invest those savings into expanding coverage. I would start by providing generous tax credits for small businesses because over 60% of people who are uninsured work for small businesses that can’t afford to provide them insurance. So to help to make health insurance more affordable to small businesses, you would lower the number of uninsured Americans by a substantial amount, by millions.
So Collins is going to pay for expanded coverage out tax credits? In short, by giving out more money? An unorthodox approach to cost trimming to say the least.

And that's the only solution she puts forward, unless you count her comment about "reducing the cost of health care." But of course, everyone wants to reduce costs. Being able to throw around buzzwords isn't the same thing as having an actual plan.

Bottom line: Collins, asked a direct question, replied with what is basically gobbledygook.

And it gets better:

You voted for Medicare Part D, which was an unfunded new health care program and the costs are estimated now around $1 trillion. But the Finance Committee’s health care bill would be offset by cuts elsewhere, and Obama has said he won’t sign it if it increases the deficit. Can you explain your rationale?

Medicare Part D has turned out to be far less expensive than the amount that you just quoted...I voted to means test Medicare Part D so that higher-income people would be paying more for their drug coverage and that would have lowered the cost even further. My position didn't prevail on that, but I did vote to means test--in other words to require high-income people to pay more of a premium than lower-income people for Medicare Part D, so I've shown that I've been concerned about the cost of Medicare.
Um, what? Sure, Collins voted for an amendment to means test the unfunded, budget-busting program--to make it slightly less fiscally irresponsible. But when that amendment failed she still voted for the bill.

For this she wants credit? Because she voiced some (purported) misgivings about an indefensible plan before helping it become a reality?

Ridiculous--and almost laughable.

Amazing what happens when someone asks serious, straightforward questions.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Star Struck

PPH, with ample access to Sen. Collins, apparently chooses not to ask her a single penetrating question.

(Or maybe they did, and just decided not to report on it.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Standing Out

Credit Sen. Collins for standing up to her GOP colleagues, at least so far, on Afghanistan:

Ten of 11 Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee are...marking Veterans' Day with a joint letter urging the president to give the commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the forces he has requested.

The letter was signed by every Republican on the committee save for moderate Susan Collins of Maine.

Collins is going her own way. She said she agrees it’s time for Obama's decision on troop levels but "I did not wish to sign on to a letter telling him what decision he should make as commander in chief."

"Once his decision is made and justified to Congress, I will assess and comment on it."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Disingenuousness Watch

Reputedly pro-choice Sen. Susan Collins:

"If Congress makes the mistake of establishing a new government-owned insurance company, it would need to extend the prohibition [on abortion coverage] to that company because it is using federal funds."
Collins is widely considered "pro-choice." It's a key part of her moderate branding.

But that self-description is--at best--a huge oversimplification of her views. If you were inclined to be less generous, you might even call it a deception.

More here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Just Stop It. Seriously.

Shame on Sen. Susan Collins. Tons of bluster, zero self-examination.

And remember, HHS Secretary Sebelius hadn't even been confirmed when Collins stripped $780 million in pandemic flu preparedness funding from the stimulus bill.

If Collins knows a way to speed the production and distribution of vaccine, she ought to go ahead and share that information with the scientists.

And while she's got them on the phone, she ought to apologize for this:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Profiles In Shhh

Rep. Pingree speaks up about Question 1. Sen. Collins? Not so much.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hypocrisy Watch

From MPBN:

Maine Sen. Susan Collins has come out in opposition to President Obama's nomination of Rafael Borras for a top post at the Department of Homeland Security.


Collins says in his current position, Borras manages 100 people, and in the new DHS position, he would manage more than 200,000 people, along with a $50 billion annual budget.

Collins says Borras also made numerous tax errors on recent federal income tax filings, mistakes she says "show a lack of attention of detail and a pattern of carelessness."

Despite the objections of Collins and other Republicans on the panel, Borras nomination was approved by a vote of 7 to 3.
Borras managed fifteen hundred people during his time as a regional administrator for the General Services Administration's Mid-Atlantic region during the 1990s. And before that, he was deputy assistant secretary of the Commerce Department. So he's certainly got experience as a manager.

So is the main objection supposed to be a few unspecified tax errors? Is there more to the story? It's not entirely clear.

But it would be interesting to hear the junior senator explain how Borras' credentials and foibles stack up against those of former Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) head Julie Myers.

Myers, you'll remember, was the 36-year-old niece of retired Joint Chiefs Chair Richard B. Myers and wife of Michael Chertoff's chief of staff who was elevated to her ICE leadership post via recess appointment by the Bush administration--even though she lacked any relevant immigration or bureaucracy management experience.

As Myers' awaited confirmation, she raised further questions about her fitness for the post by famously awarding a racist Halloween costume first prize at an agency Halloween party. Then she allegedly destroyed evidence of the incident.

Talk about bad judgment.

So what did Susan Collins think of all this? You guessed it: She stood by Myers and her thin resume. Collins supported her confirmation.

Of course, it's not possible that the junior senator has different standards for Republican administrations than she has for Democratic ones.

Is it?

BDN: Public Option Essential

They write editorials:

Without the public option--Democrats are now calling it the "consumer option" and "competitive option," to explain its raison d'etre--the health care bill is a partial fix, something like putting three new snow tires on the car.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, whose vote for the Finance Committee's version of the bill without a public option was gratefully embraced by the Obama administration, is now signaling her disapproval of the revival of the government-run plan. Her GOP colleague, Sen. Susan Collins, also appears likely to abandon the reform effort if it contains a public option.
Of course, on the other hand, Sens. Snowe and Collins have interesting biographies and seem like really nice people...

Missed This

The Lewiston Sun Journal has some thoughts:

As soon as Sen. Olympia Snowe voted for health care reform, the nation's eyes turned toward her counterpart, Sen. Susan Collins. Hijinks ensued.


On Oct. 14, [Collins] released a long statement that essentially said she endorses health reform that produces more affordable insurance options and doesn't cost too much money. But this is not particularly helpful because, regardless of partisan sensibilities, everybody wants that. The question is how it's done.


Poker faces are valuable in politics, we understand. On this issue, however, Collins shouldn't be concerned about making detailed sentiments on reform clear. In fact, as the former state insurance commissioner, her opinions would be quite valuable to this process.


We know Collins has strong positions on health care reform, yet in the context of the pending legislation, nobody quite understands what they are, and she isn't saying...Her position as a U.S. senator requires her to let her constituents know what she thinks.
(Via Al Diamon.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Memo to Maine Media

A public option that anyone can purchase is now supported in Maine by a margin of 61%-28%.

That's a landslide--and an even bigger margin than the last Research 2000 poll.

Short Term Memory

Sen. Collins now:

Maine Senator Susan Collins is demanding to know why there are shortages of the H1N1 vaccine...In her letter, Collins said the tight supplies of the H1N1 vaccine is [sic] "alarming."
Collins this spring:

She also thinks the Obama administration is "not doing a good job of preparing the nation for a biological weapons attack by terrorists" though I don't remember Collins criticizing her feckless pals in the prior administration for their half-hearted approach to homeland security.

In short, utterly shameful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something to Watch

Matthew Yglesias writes:

One good way to tell the difference between a member of congress who’s genuinely concerned about the long-term budget deficit and a hypocritical jackass is to ask them where they stand on the Kyl-Lincoln $250 billion budget-busting giveaway to the children of extremely rich people.
Of course, Sen. Collins' voting history strongly suggests that she'd support such a measure, irresponsible as it is.

But Collins works really hard and has great family. So I guess that makes it okay.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Diamon: PPH Story Not Journalism


On Oct. 25, the Maine Sunday Telegram...did its own story, by staff writer Matt Wickenheiser, that incorporated some of the [Washington] Post's material, but added another round of fawning interviews--again, without a single critical opinion.

Collins has a great work ethic, we’re told, because of her background growing up in northern Maine. She has an excellent resume, and she's beloved not only by members of the GOP, but by Democrats and independents. So much so, apparently, that no one could be located who took a less positive view.

This isn't journalism. It's public relations.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PPH or People Magazine?

Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram runs a health care-pegged profile of Sen. Collins today that reads more like a canonization brief than a piece of legitimate journalism.

The article, full of glowing praise from Collins fans, includes not a single skeptical-sounding clause about the junior senator; no critics are heard from; and all context about the, um, evolution of Collins' position on health care is omitted.

The piece also privileges biographical detail over legislative substance, the implicit message being that Collins is first and foremost a celebrity--and only incidentally a legislator.

Of course, this kind of friendly, uncritical approach is what we've come to expect from PPH, whose former editor is now a Collins staffer.

When the new ownership arrived, an early editorial hinted that a more healthy, less cozy relationship between the paper and the senator might develop. But since then, Richard Connor has raised the white flag and returned to the fawning approach adopted by his predecessor.

It's not just a shame--it's a betrayal of the paper's readership. Or what's left of it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Collins With Scozzafava

Sen. Collins got in the middle of the divisive NY-23 congressional race today--the one that's been splitting the Republican party down the middle--by campaigning with Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican.

Scozzafava is opposed by pretty much the entire slate of 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Gov. Sarah Palin.

For some reason, video of the event is hidden behind a firewall.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Snark Watch

New York Magazine:

Reading the Post article today, we were reminded of one of our favorite things that happens whenever [Sens. Snowe and Collins] are covered in the press together. There's always a line like this, in every story (emphasis ours):
Snowe and Collins, who are not personally close and are at times competitive, could be critical crossovers.
Is that a necessary detail? No. It's like the political version of, "Claire Danes, who stole Billy Crudup away from a pregnant Mary-Louise Parker, could be an Oscar contender." Not key to any particular story, but always so much fun to write!

Zip It

Sen. Susan Collins is unhappy with the pace of the H1N1 vaccination program.

“There still is an issue of whether the vaccine is going to get to people too late,” Rep. Susan Collins (R-Maine), vice chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified.


Collins questioned Napolitano on emergency preparedness. Collins said Bowdoin College, in her home state of Maine, reported an increase from six H1N1 flu cases to 245 in little more than a week's time.
But here she is in April.
In the face of the recent outbreak of swine flu cases reported in Mexico and several southern states, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins stands by her efforts to eliminate $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness from the federal economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year.
Here's contemporaneous video:

Collins is--literally--the last person in a position to be criticizing the government's response to the flu pandemic. So you might expect that, when the issue came up, she would have the decency and humility to keep her mouth shut.

No such luck.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

"I don't play the game with the administration, 'I'll give them a vote if they give me X, Y, Z for Maine.' I advocate very hard for the state of Maine on a host of issues, but I'm not interested in a quid pro quo."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rare Burst of Candor

From Roll Call:

"Susan Collins is as conservative a Senator as can be elected from Maine," a former GOP Senate leadership aide said. "She is wired differently than Sen. Snowe."
That sounds about right. More:
Republican Senate aides say Collins has kept [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell informed of her position from the outset, again noting that she has emerged as one of the loudest voices in private Conference meetings against the Democratic bills.
This isn't a surprise to anyone paying close attention. But it runs directly counter to the impression conveyed by the media in Maine and Washington.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How To Pay For It?

Watch Sen. Collins avoid three questions in a row:

Still no idea how the junior senator wants to pay for reform. (Hint: $54 billion over 10 years gets you nowhere.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Collins: "I'm Not Seeking More Attention"

Alas, more of the same.

Sen. Collins doesn't want the money to pay for reform to come out of Medicare. Fair enough. So where does she want it to come from?

(And why doesn't anyone ever ask her?)


We haven't run this chart in a while.

Anyone paying close attention knows that Sen. Collins is a stalwart supporter of big business and a vigilant guardian of corporate interests. She has been for a long time.

UPDATE: Incidentally, "Health"--just below "Finance/Insur/RealEst"--includes pharmaceuticals and HMOs.

The National Media

I don't think this is a case of Sen. Collins duping the national media.

The truth is that, for obscure and complicated reasons, many Washington-based reporters are desperate to believe that Collins is above the fray. And so they'll do somersaults to support that narrative, even in the face of evidence that undercuts it. Even when the junior senator herself is supplying the evidence.

Collins may have created the myth that she's indifferent to partisan concerns, but members of the national media have always been willing accomplices.

Seriousness Watch

When it comes to health care, Sen. Susan Collins professes to support universal coverage.

But she's never come anywhere near articulating a plan for how to get there. (Except that she wants lots of hearings.) And she opposes all five health care reform proposals currently making their way through Congress.

What does that say about her seriousness on the issue?

Right Wing Talking Points

If she's such a serious-minded, results-oriented, pragmatic, moderate bipartisan centrist, then why is Sen. Collins slinging mud instead of offering solutions?

Why is she fear mongering--and parroting unsubstantiated insurance industry claims--instead of explaining how she proposes to improve the legislation?

"Many individuals and families would be forced to pay more for their health care under the Finance Committee bill, and they would have fewer choices...

"As structured, the bill actually could discourage small businesses from adding more jobs...

"The legislation contains no meaningful medical liability reforms to reduce frivolous lawsuits..."

Potholm: Mainers Trust Snowe More

The Boston Globe:

Christian Potholm, a political scientist at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, said he believes that if Snowe still favors the bill when it comes to the floor, she could have a significant influence on the state's junior senator, Susan Collins, another moderate Republican. Like Snowe, Collins supported the Democrats' stimulus plan in February.

"I think there is a fair amount of rivalry" between them, Potholm said. But because of the importance of this issue, and because Mainers do not understand what is in the bill but trust Snowe deeply and see her as the expert on this issue, they are likely to view Snowe’s vote as the right one.

"People have a great sense that if anybody knows whether it's a good or bad bill, it will be her," he said.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nelson: Collins "Likely" On Health Care

In the wake of Sen. Snowe's 'yea' vote on health care reform in the Finance Committee:

"It'll now be a 14-9 vote coming out of Finance Committee," he said. "That's a huge margin. Olympia makes it bipartisan. This is a first step in a long process, but it's an extremely important first step."

Nelson also had a prediction:

"Susan Collins now will likely come with her fellow Maine senator once they vote on the floor."
More proof that even Senate colleagues are blind to the fact that Sens. Snowe and Collins are discrete human beings with different priorities?

Or is Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) actually on to something?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thought of the Day

I wonder how this plays out over the next several weeks. And whether it influences the national debate.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Still Silent On Johnsen

Sen. Collins' refusal to say much of anything about Dawn Johnsen's nomination is disappointing, if not surprising.

It's a reminder that the junior senator is, at best, a selective supporter of the rule of law.

Monday, October 5, 2009

GAO Answers Collins On Ethanol

Kudos to Sen. Collins for asking the question. Sure seems like a dubious program to me.

The GAO report, requested by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), says that a 45-cent-per-gallon federal tax credit is doing nothing to spur production of renewable fuels that government mandates aren't already achieving...

The credit "may no longer be needed to stimulate conventional corn ethanol production because the domestic industry has matured, its processing is well understood, and its capacity is already near the effective RFS limit of15 billion gallons per year for conventional ethanol," the GAO said.

The 45-cent-per-gallon credit available to ethanol blenders is up for renewal next year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dinner With Orszag

Very swanky. I guess the idea is that, when appeals to reason--and to the clear preferences of your constituents--fail, maybe a $29 entree will do the trick.

Let's hope so.

I still think Sen. Collins is likely to oppose the health care reform legislation that comes out of conference. But since the bill has gained momentum, and since it seems increasingly likely that passage won't require her support, the incentives have changed.

With no obvious way to prevent the bill from becoming law, Collins (and her corporate benefactors) may be more inclined to try to influence the final negotiations. And the only way to do that is by supporting the legislation--or at least pledging not to filibuster it.

Quote of the Day

From BDN, which is now the saner of the two major Maine dailies. By a lot.

While lawmakers, including Sen. Susan Collins and the Senate Armed Services Committee on which she serves, are right to want to question Gen. McChrystal, they must also ask themselves how they let the situation in Afghanistan get so desperate.

Diverting much-needed manpower from Afghanistan, which was a base for al-Qaida and where the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were likely plotted, to Iraq is a major reason. Doubling the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan years ago could have made a big difference. So, too, could have setting benchmarks and ensuring progress toward them was being made.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sliding Scale

Sen. Collins keen interest in ACORN and her disgust with the way the Obama administration is treating our allies would be a lot more credible if she hadn't spent years refusing to lift a finger to investigate deadly defense contractor abuses.

They'd be a lot easier to swallow if she hadn't spent years as a steadfast supporter of the most catastrophic--and transparently misguided--foreign policy in memory.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Changing The Subject

In the middle of the most important domestic policy debate in two generations, with Mainers supporting the public health plan option she adamantly opposes by a 2-1 margin, Sen. Collins writes an Op-Ed...

...about the National Senior Games.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Olympia Envy?

Via Huffington Post:

Speechwriter Matt Latimer's new book trains its gaze on the lunacy of the late-era Bush White House. And there was plenty of material...Some of the best stuff:


Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is fond of sending angry, middle-of-the-night e-mails to staffers because she's frustrated that her colleague and rival Olympia Snowe gets more and better press. As a result, reports Latimer, she rips through press secretaries like 30-packs at a beer-pong tournament. (A Collins press secretary didn't respond to a request for comment.)
"Rips through" implies that Collins' press secretaries often quit, or are fired. But that seems not to be the case: Kevin Kelley has been with the junior senator for years. So the anecdote deserves to be viewed skeptically.

On the other hand, maybe "rips through" is supposed to mean something closer to "tears into." That would be more plausible.

Guess we'll have to check out the book, which comes out tomorrow, to see for ourselves.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Consistency at PPH

Just weeks ago, PPH wanted Sens. Snowe and Collins to do everything they could to block health care reform. Now the editors want them to support it.

Is there an amnesia epidemic at the struggling paper? A rogue copy editor? One wonders.

Of course, the editorial is thinly-reasoned, short on solutions and it scrupulously avoids criticizing Sen. Collins. So those things certainly haven't changed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Where Are The Amendments?

Sen. Collins now says that pending health care legislation, "does not do enough to lower health care costs for all Americans."

It's a more plausible criticism than her objection to the program's size. (Though an odd one given Collins' opposition to a public health plan alternative, which the Congressional Budget Office says would lower costs to consumers.)

But the logical next question, then, is: How does the junior senator propose to achieve these lower costs? Bigger subsidies for middle class insurance buyers? More concessions from drug makers? Something else?

If health care reform is as critical as Collins has always maintained, and if lowering health care costs is a pivotal concern, then what steps is she taking to revise the legislation accordingly?

Or this just more hot air?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Collins Health Big Picture

Watching Sen. Collins talk about health care reform over the last several weeks, it's been hard to suppress a snarky, sarcastic response to her maneuverings. We've certainly been guilty of our share of snide comments.

But it's important not to get desensitized to the staggering hypocrisy of her behavior here.

Remember, the basic thrust of Collins' position on reform is that the legislation making its way through Congress is too expensive.

To drive that point home, she's repeatedly cited a $1.6 trillion ten-year price tag, even though it's long been clear that the package would be much smaller. And her worries about cost aren't easy to square with her position, during last year's campaign, that the Obama health care plan was "pretty good"--and that she was open to supporting it.

But obfuscation and bad faith are really the least of her sins here.

Rather, what's shocking and unforgivable about the junior senator's approach to health care--and what's gone totally unreported both in Maine and in the national media--isn't so much the substance of her critique as its context.

Because while the junior senator now wants us to believe that she's spooked about governmental red ink, her record doesn't just suggest otherwise. It screams otherwise.

Susan Collins, after all, voted for all three Bush tax cuts. She voted for Medicare Part D.

The combined ten-year cost of these four laws is more than three trillion dollars. ($2.1 trillion for tax cuts plus $1.0 trillion for Medicare Part D.)

Health care reform, by contrast, is expected to clock in at less than one-third as much.

What's more, while none of the Bush-era programs were paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget, President Obama has publicly vowed, in a nationally-televised address, that if health care legislation increases the deficit he will not sign it.

In the context of these facts, the questions practically write themselves: If Collins is so worried about deficits and the debt, where were these worries when she and her GOP colleagues were doling out huge tax breaks to billionaires?

If red ink is such a big issue, why did she vote for a large, unfunded new health care entitlement program just a few years ago? Why does she oppose, on budgetary grounds, a reform package that pays for itself?

And why the fixation on fiscal prudence only after running up trillions of dollars in public debt?

There's simply no way to have a serious, candid discussion about what Collins has been up to lately without facing up to these questions.

Sure would be nice if someone would ask them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Diluter

If you've been following Sen. Susan Collins in recent months--let alone for longer periods--the clear impression that emerges from reading this article is that the junior senators will work to make health care reform less effective and less efficient--before voting against the whole package.

Collins and Lieberman both told The Hill they are more supportive of a "trigger" concept floated by Collins's Senate colleague, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, which calls for a public option to be implemented if insurance companies fail to fix the current system’s cost inefficiencies.


"I'm opposed to a Washington-run public option," Collins said. "I believe it would cause many people to lose health insurance that they’re currently happy with now, and that’s contrary to the assurances that advocates of the public option have been giving. I'm also concerned about the cost and control issue.

"A trigger is certainly a better approach, but I'm not convinced that we could rely on this administration to resist the lure of triggering the public option."

Collins's wariness comes despite “several” conversations she said she had with Obama in July on the issue, as well as other administration officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Collins isn't convinced that the administration could be trusted to "resist the lure of triggering the public option"--even though the conditions for any trigger would (obviously) be written into the legislation.

Talk about bad faith.

Of course, we all remember how much skepticism Collins showed in her dealings with the previous administration.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Bet On It

The New York Times on health care reform's prospects in the Senate:

Democratic leaders believe Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, the strongest Republican supporter of comprehensive legislation, might provide that 60th vote [to overcome a filibuster]. If Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the strongest Democratic skeptic, defects on a filibuster, Democrats see one more potential ally in Maine’s other moderate Republican senator, Susan Collins

Friday, August 28, 2009

Collins: I Do A Lot of Forums

That and more news here. (Also, a strange dig at Louisiana at 10:40.)

By contrast, some useful information here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thought of the Day

My favorite part of yesterday's Concord Coalition event was when (jump to 51:20) Sen. Collins let stand the impression that the pending health care bills provide insurance to illegal immigrants.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

Former Maine AG Steve Rowe, via Dirigo Blue:

Maine and the nation need healthcare reform that gives every person access to affordable coverage that cannot be taken away. Our families and small businesses will not see a true economic recovery unless we can hold down healthcare costs.

One important way to keep costs down is to provide the choice of a public coverage option to compete with private insurers. With one insurance company now covering 71% of Mainers, we have little choice and even less competition. A public option would give us the choices we want, while providing the competition that will help hold down costs for everyone.

Pressure From State?

Did Sen. Collins or her staff try to pull a blog post after hearing objections from the Department of State?

Curious stuff.

Monday, August 24, 2009

They Hold Rallies

From the Sierra Club:

Date: Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Time: 11:30am - 2:00pm
Location: Nonantum Resort
Street: 95 Ocean Avenue

Senator Collins will be in Kennebunkport on Tuesday August 25th at 12pm. Rally for a clean energy future at the event and show Senator Collins that Mainers want her support for strong national climate legislation that will curb global warming pollution and put people to work in a new clean energy economy.

Senator Collins' vote is critical to pass clean energy legislation and right now she's not sure if she'll support it. We need a huge crowd to send her the message that Mainers want a clean energy future.

Big Oil and Big Coal are pulling out all the stops to persuade our Senators
to stick with the status quo: dirty energy that pollutes our air and stagnates our economy.

Don't let Big Oil and Big Coal speak for you. Can you join the rally for a clean energy future?

The Memory Hole

On Saturday, Seacoastonline and PPH ran articles about Sen. Collins' recent overseas trip.

Both articles focused on Afghanistan. Both included a list of the places Collins visited. And both stories left her stop on the the Greek island of Rhodes off the list.

Here's Deborah McDermott at Seacoastonline:

[In addition to Afghanistan,] the trip also included stops in Libya, Yemen, Kuwait and Iraq.
Here's Beth Quimby in PPH:
Collins...spent the past week on a tour of the Middle East and northern Africa, [in addition to Afghanistan] also making stops in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Kuwait.
To the average Maine news consumer, it's almost as if Collins didn't actually touch down on the paradise vacation island during a crucial period in the national discussion of health care reform. (A discussion which, just weeks ago, the junior senator said needed to be prolonged in the interest of getting a deal done.)

So were McDermott and Quimby working from the same misleading press release?

In a Monday morning e-mail, Quimby said there was, "no mention of Greece as far as I can recall." No word yet from McDermott.

Maybe the lesson here is that you just can't trust Sen. Collins' office--even with something as mundane as an itinerary?

(Photo of Rhodes by jsfiveash.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Next Stop Wonderland

Just two weeks after we applauded Sen. Collins for acting like a grown-up on cash for clunkers, she's resorted to treating Mainers like children, and telling them fairy tales about health care.

I mean, "the non-partisan Lewin Group"? Canadians pouring into American hospitals?

What's next? A gig on Fox News?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ah, Rhodes

Sen. Collins breaks her silence about her recent brief stay in Rhodes.

No real explanation, though, about how the Greek Island stop fit into the larger scheme of things. (And no word on whether she made it to the beach.)

(Photo by pictalogue.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Postcards From The Edge

Sen. Collins has had some genuinely interesting and thoughtful things to say about her overseas trip. (Still waiting to hear about Rhodes, though.)

To be clear: The issue here isn't congressional travel. The issue, given Collins' rhetoric on health care reform, is the timing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Flashback: Nothing But Health Care

The video from last fall's first debate takes a while to load. (Click "play" and then wait a few seconds. You can then click "pause" and it will keep loading.)

If you're patient, at 41:59 you'll see Sen. Collins talk about her desire for Congress to set aside two or three months to work on "virtually nothing but health care."

Of course, it's hard to stay focused on the mundane details of legislation when an opportunity to chat with the deputy foreign minister of Greece is dangled in your face.

What a difference a year makes.

Working Vacation?

Via Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency:

Arizona senator and former US presidential candidate John McCain, as well as Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, on Tuesday evening arrived on the Dodecanese holiday island of Rhodes for a short visit.

On Wednesday the three US senators were given a guided tour of the island's capital by Rhodes Mayor Hatzis Hatziefthymiou...Afterwards, the three US lawmakers met with Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, with talks mostly touching on Greek-American relations.

All three US senators expressed their admiration for the island's natural beauty and praised efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the country.
TripAdvisor notes, "whether your interests are beaches, bars or ancient sites, Rhodes offers an abundance of all three." (More on Rhodes here. Photos here.)

Who do you suppose paid the bill for such vital diplomacy?

Amazingly, no blog posts, as yet, from Sen. Collins about her Greek Island stop. No tweets from Sen. McCain (R-AZ) either.

Probably too busy crafting amendments to improve the prospects of health care reform.

(Photo of a Rhodes beach by mrngr.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collins = Snowe?

MSNBC confuses Maine's two senators. Oops.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chicken Watch

Sen. Collins: Serious or not serious?

Until last week, Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson was among the most enthusiastic backers of end-of-life counseling in government health care programs like Medicare.

That was before conservatives called it a step toward euthanasia and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin likened the idea to a bureaucratic "death panel" that would decide whether sick people get to live. And even though those claims have been widely discredited, the issue remains a political weapon in the increasingly bitter health care debate.

Now, Isakson and other Republicans who eagerly backed the idea are distancing themselves from it or lying low in the face of a backlash from the right.


Isakson and other Republicans such as Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Susan Collins of Maine have co-sponsored legislation in recent years promoting the counseling, including in initial Medicare visits and through a proposed government-run insurance program for long-term care.


Isakson, who initially called Palin's "death panel" characterization "nuts" in an interview Monday, declined later in the week to criticize Palin's statement...

Spokesmen for Lugar and Collins — two other longtime proponents of end-of-life planning — declined to comment on the House bill.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Collins In Libya

And yet somehow I developed the impression that slowing down health care reform was necessary precisely so that Sen. Collins and her fellow "moderates" could spend the recess doing the serious work required to reach a compromise. Silly me.

Anyway, she's blogging from the road.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Collins Will Take Questions

More from the Concord Coalition:

We have sold out of reserved seats for the event on August 25th. There may be extremely limited seating available, on a first come first serve basis, on the day of the event.
The event is not a Senator Susan Collins town hall meeting; rather, Senator Collins will participate with our panel of budget experts. We have been doing these Tour stops since 2005 and we have worked with a number of politicians from both sides of the aisle.

If you would like more background on the Tour, please go to

The panel for the 25th will consist of:

Hon. David M. Walker, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former Comptroller General of the United States;
Robert L. Bixby, Executive Director, The Concord Coalition
Will Marshall, President, Progressive Policy Institute
Stuart Butler, Vice-President, The Heritage Foundation

Senator Collins and the panel of experts will participate in a question and answer session following the presentations.
More details here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Observation of the Day

Sen. Collins has proposed exactly the kind of end-of-life care proposal that, in recent days, has been used as a jumping-off point by right-wing scaremongers and lunatics working to hijack the health care reform debate.

With the decibel level rising, Collins has remained silent on the issue, even as the scaremongers have taken center stage in the national debate.

And the Maine press hasn't so much as acknowledged Collins' proximity to the controversy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

"I'm always surprised when I hear some of my colleagues describe the public plan as being needed to keep the insurance companies honest...when insurance carriers are regulated in every state in the nation," Collins said. "They are a heavily regulated industry."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

But Will She Take Questions?

Breaking with tradition, Sen. Collins has agreed to participate in an open forum in Kennebunkport--hosted by the Concord Coalition. From the press release:

Tuesday, August 25
Noon until 2:00 p.m.
Lunch begins at Noon and the discussion begins at 12:30 p.m.
Nonantum Resort
95 Ocean Avenue
Kennebunkport, Maine

This event is free to the public, but seating is limited. Donations will be accepted...If you are interested in attending please RSVP to or call (936) 676-1899. (Emphasis added.)

Jeff Thiebert, national grassroots director for the Concord Coalition, tells us that the room seats 150, with space for another 50 in an overflow area.

"We are optimistic that we will have a full house," Thiebert says. So it probably makes sense to reserve as soon as possible.

But will the junior senator take unscreened questions from regular citizens? "I am unclear on the exact specifics of the agenda," says Thiebert. "My colleague has been working with all of the panelists and Senator Collins' office on the specifics."


Still, it's hard to see how Collins could expect constituents to sit through a two hour event billed as a "public discussion" without an opportunity, somewhere along the way, to quiz their senator.

If we learn more, we'll pass it along.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Allen: PPH Or Fox News?

They write letters:

When the new owners took over, I hoped the Press Herald would be less bland and more informed.

Your editorial urging Sens. Snowe and Collins to act like "real Republicans" on health care reform certainly failed the second test.

I served in Congress for 12 years with both of our senators. We worked together on many issues, but trust me, they are real Republicans. They just don't uniformly ignore evidence that conflicts with standard Republican rhetoric...

Your readers can get that unfounded opinion from Fox News. But the plans don't do that, and neither does Medicare, our country's most popular and cost-effective health care plan...

Our senators' constituents want real reform, and they won't get that from "real" Republicans.

Tom Allen

Thursday, August 6, 2009

PPH: Collins Surrenders On Clunkers

It's extraordinarily refreshing to see a local paper taking on Sen. Collins, and viewing her with skepticism. But I couldn't disagree more with the substance of PPH's critique of the junior senator, which borders on unfair.

After all, "cash for clunkers" is one of the fleetingly rare instances when Collins put forward a position on the issue before the last minute; publicly set out her priorities for the legislation; and then was flexible enough to reverse herself--on the basis of substance--when it was clear that, despite some faulty architecture, the program was nonetheless meeting her stated goals.

Collins, in other words, let herself be swayed by new information. That's not surrendering. That's acting like a grown-up

Don't get me wrong: I wish Collins had brought the same deliberative, open approach to the debate over the Bush tax cuts. Or the Iraq war. Or virtually any of the controversies of the last eight-plus years.

But to say that Collins simply folded here is awfully misleading.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kesich Slams PPH Editorial

Things are getting awfully interesting at PPH and the other MaineToday properties.

First, all three papers had the temerity to criticize Maine's senators--apparently prompting Naomi Schalit, opinion editor at the KJ and Morning Sentinel, to resign.

And now, Greg Kesich, an editorial writer at PPH, is skewering his own paper's editorial position--explicitly--in the paper's own pages.

Tension, anyone?

But seriously: Kesich's trite, mushy paean to bipartisanship-over-substance is full of the kind of obsolete boilerplate that PPH would really be better off consigning to the Jeannine Guttman era.

Naturally, there's no acknowledgment in Kesich's column that the biggest mistake in recent US history--the Iraq war--was a quintessentially bipartisan project.

There's no concession that the popularity of Sen. Collins might depend, in part, on the junior senator's kid gloves treatment by Maine editors--who seem to have a more or less open invitation to join her staff.

And on the subject of health care in particular, there's no reckoning with the fact that decisive majorities in both chambers support the outlines of the Obama plan--and that if Sen. Snowe and Sen. Collins would simply forswear filibustering the legislation, it would be pretty much assured passage.

Finally, if Kesich wants a single-payer system--a bewildering admission, given what else he says here--his column inches would be better used laying out a nuts and bolts case for that approach.

He should be asking tough questions of his senators instead of blindly carrying water for them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thought of the Day

It's a good thing Sen. Collins doesn't do town hall meetings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not So Cozy

Al Diamon brings us the news that Naomi Schalit has resigned as opinion page editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

Collins Watch readers may remember Schalit for her willingness, repeatedly during the recent Senate race, to publish pro-Collins letters penned by Maine GOP pols and bigwigs--without identifying the writer by title.

(Then, mysteriously, as the election approached, the KJ felt it necessary to strictly limit discussion of the Senate race on its letters page.)

We'll also remember Schalit's tenure for this editorial, one of our earliest hints that the relationship between the junior senator and the Maine media might be a bit cozier than we'd been used to.

That said: With Schalit and Jeannine Guttman out of the picture, and three of Maine's most prominent papers criticizing Maine's senators--rather than offering them political cover--the relationship between the state's media and its political establishment seems a lot healthier than it did a few days ago.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ownership Has Consequences

Well, now it's official: The new owners of PPH are discarding their predecessor's stealth conservative approach on the paper's editorial page.

Today's chatty lead editorial--cursory and disjointed in way that reminds me of, say, a Richard Connor column--basically tells Sen. Snowe and Sen. Collins to block President Obama on health care.

The piece is fact-free, devoid of substance and it indulges in empty sloganeering. So the new PPH editorial page should fit right in with the rest of the right-wing noise machine.

Still, this is a positive change. Better to have PPH honest about where it's coming from than disingenuous--as it was in the past--about its editorial views.

Of course, how this plays with left-of-center readers in Portland and elsewhere is another story.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Collins Right On Clunkers

Sen. Collins was apparently right from the start that the "cash for clunkers" bill was not as narrowly-tailored as it should have been.

The junior senator's version, with tighter standards, would have been better for the environment. And given the level of demand, it seems pretty clear that Collins' greener version of the bill would have had the same stimulative effect.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Part of the Solution

Sen. Collins is certainly capable of playing a constructive role in the health care debate, as this article suggests.

If the House does go ahead and adopt her proposal, maybe it will help Collins feel more personally invested in the success of reform.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Questions for Collins On Health Reform

--Does Sen. Collins support raising taxes on the super-rich to pay for expanded coverage?

--Would she vote to block an up-or-down vote on a bill that created a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers?

--Does she support taxing employer-based health care benefits if that's what it takes to pay for reform?

--Does she support MedPac reform?

--Does she support increased use of comparative effectiveness research within Medicare?

--Will Sen. Collins or her staff take calls from Jane Alonso on the subject of health care reform?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Answer

Well, it took a newspaper based 300 miles south of Maine to extract even a kernel of information from Sen. Collins about her perspective on the substance of health care reform:

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, worries about requiring employers to provide insurance to workers. Without categorically rejecting the idea, she said: "My inclination is to oppose an employer mandate. Employers want to provide health insurance and do so if they can afford it."


Ms. Collins...said she had several big concerns about the House health care bill and a separate measure approved last week on a party-line vote by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

She said that she was "very skeptical" of the new government health insurance plan that Democrats want to create.
Helpful, if hazy. And of course, a slew of questions about the junior senator's views remain unanswered.

(Will anyone ask them?)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BDN: Reform Needed Now

Bangor Daily News seems constitutionally incapable of crossing Sen. Collins or Sen. Snowe. But if you read between the lines, this editorial comes off as a dig at both senators.

Flashback: Higher Taxes For The Rich

Before the election:

I do believe that wealthier Americans can and should pay higher tax rates, and I have voted in support of higher tax brackets for these taxpayers that have an ample ability to pay a higher top rate.
Something to keep in mind over the next several weeks.

Collins: Yes On Sotomayor

I'm actually a bit surprised it took so long.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Rally: Another View

Here's some raw video from Saturday's rally in Portland for fast action on health care reform:

The footage conveys the size of the crowd in a way that the slanted NECN report never manages to.

Disingenuousness Watch

As we all know, Sen. Collins and her lackeys in the Maine media want Congress to slow down on health care reform.

This eight months after the junior senator told voters during her recent campaign that, "I actually think [Obama's] plan is pretty good."

Of course, no one remembers Collins playing for more time during the debate over President Bush's unaffordable tax cuts for the rich--which had a much higher ten-year price tag than the health care legislation currently on the table.

But the idea seems to be that health care reform is so tricky--and so important--that the decades spent refining proposals, the two years spent testing the public's appetite for reform during the presidential campaign and the months spent cobbling together legislative language in six different congressional committees aren't enough.

Apparently there's lots more heavy lifting to do--so much more that an up-or-down vote on a bill shouldn't happen any time soon.

So with such urgent work left to be done, how did the junior senator spend the weekend? Holed up in her office, determined to find a way to lower the cost of reform? Stuck in sweltering Washington D.C., crafting amendments to strengthen the legislation in ways that will improve health care for all Americans?

In a word, no. Instead, she spent Friday evening in Presque Isle at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Look: There's nothing wrong with politicians cutting ribbons. And Collins can certainly talk and chew gum at the same time.

But the junior senator would have more credibility on the issue, and seem less disingenuous, if she'd had more to say lately about the substance of health care reform. And her request for a delay would seem more like a good-faith move if her schedule was crammed full of health care-related activities.

Instead, Collins has been harping on process--her trademark approach to initiatives she opposes but wants her constituents to think she supports.

Delay, then water down, then scuttle. Unfortunately, that seems to be the formula.

Of course, I'd love to be proven wrong.