Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blethen To The Rescue

Talk about a political intervention masquerading as journalism.

There are enough straw men in the piece to fill a THE WIZARD OF OZ costume party. But the real tell is how much of the column is devoted to imputing impure motives to Sen. Collins critics, and then painting them with the broadest possible brush.

Just another day in the life of the Maine print media.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Collins: Specter All About Politics

From Sen. Collins:

"I have great respect for Senator Specter who has worked hard for many years on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.

"I am, however, extremely surprised and disappointed with his decision to leave the Republican party.

"Senator Specter has long been a leading moderate voice in the Senate, and I believe that his decision is more a reflection of Pennsylvania politics than anything else."
Contrast Collins' reaction with the senior senator's take.

PPH: Flu Funds Wouldn't Help Economy

Wrap your head around this, from Sen. Collins' defenders and abettors at the PPH editorial board:

Collins' point--and it was a good one--was that the economic stimulus package wasn't the place for new federal programs that didn't have a direct impact on economic growth.

Setting aside for a moment that any stimulus spending would not have come quickly enough to help with the current swine flu situation, such a program is not stimulus. True, while the spending will create government jobs, a program of this type is not like building a road or researching alternative energy, which spur growth beyond any government spending.

A flu pandemic program is more of a direct government service, one that is necessary for the public welfare, but there are better ways to jump-start an economy.
But is this even remotely true?

Beefing up public health infrastructure doesn't just mean hiring a bunch of bureaucrats. It requires investing in medical equipment and computer systems and drug stockpiles.

Those things have to be purchased from somewhere.

And, presumably, vendors pump the money earned from those sales back into the economy.

Now, there may be other kinds of spending that are more stimulative. But the notion that pandemic preparedness funding has no "direct" economic impact? Or that public health investments aren't real investments? Or that building out a robust disease preparedness infrastructure has nothing to do with economic growth?

PPH is either propagandizing to its readers or its editors are deluding themselves.

Now Wait A Second

Sen. Collins has implied since the beginning that she supported the $800 million in pandemic flu preparedness funding, but blocked the spending on procedural grounds--she didn't believe it belonged in the stimulus bill.

But a careful look at her camp's words (see here and here) reveals something murkier: Collins and her handlers always seem careful to avoid taking a firm position on funding levels. And they never come anywhere near endorsing the $800 million figure.

With that in mind, check out these two paragraphs from a new Washington Times story:

The senator's spokesman said Miss Collins does want increased funding for flu preparedness, though she wanted it to be part of the annual spending process, not the one-time jobs-creation package.

"And, in fact, the omnibus appropriations bill that was signed into law in March, less than a month after the stimulus bill, contains $156 million for pandemic influenza research, which is $1.4 million more than the fiscal year 2008 level," said Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley.
So: Mission accomplished? Certainly sounds like Kevin Kelley feels that way.

Except, of course, that we're looking at something like $700 less in flu preparedness funding then was originally planned.

So does the junior senator have a problem with situation as it stands? Or was the whole point of shifting the debate to the normal budgeting process that the result would be drastically reduced funding?

Will someone please ask Susan Collins, point-blank, whether she wants more pandemic flu funding? And if so, what she's willing to do to secure it?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flu Funds In Perspective

The Collins camp says that Sen. Collins' decision to block hundreds of millions of dollars in pandemic flu preparedness funding hasn't hurt the current effort against the swine flu.

I'm certainly willing to accept that premise until we learn otherwise.

So in an important respect, the junior senator's unfortunate decision appears to be remediable.

But that makes it all the more important that we see Collins--who, remember, professes to support the flu funding--out there fighting for those dollars. And very very soon.

Is Collins willing to alienate Republican colleagues by not just standing up for public health spending but actually proposing legislation and then voting for it? Is she willing to risk something politically to do the important, serious work that the moment requires?

Question of the Day

Isn't it great that Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News asked Sen. Collins so many probing, substantive questions about her bottom line during the stimulus bill debate?

Collins: I Stand By Flu Funds Cut


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.

The Maine Republican successfully sought the removal of the funding because she didn't feel it met the criteria laid out for stimulus funds in terms of job creation or providing an immediate lift to the slowing economy.

“Sen. Collins supports increased funding for pandemic flu preparedness, but she felt it belonged in the regular appropriations bill, not the stimulus package,” said Kevin Kelley, Collins' spokesman.
Get that? Even though she took the lead in getting flu funds cut, Sen. Collins really wanted them approved--just not as part of the stimulus.

But here's the thing: When it came time to vote on the budget--which included a flu preparedness funding boost--do you think the junior senator voted for it?

Alas, no.

Look, there's nothing incoherent about supporting a piece of an omnibus bill while opposing the broader package. Maybe, in her heart of hearts, Collins does actually believe in increased funding for pandemic flu preparedness.

Unfortunately, as in so many other cases, she's had an awfully tough time finding opportunities to translate that belief into action.

Video flashback here.

UPDATE: The Collins camp spins here.

Of course, the fact that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) hasn't yet been approved by the Senate is a function of Republican stalling. And if Collins has been working to speed Sebelius' confirmation along, I can't find any evidence of it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Question of the Day

Does Sen. Susan "Gang of 14" Collins think that qualified nominees for key Obama administration legal positions deserve up-or-down votes?

You'd think that the answer would be obvious.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

She's Kidding, Right?

Sen. Collins sends the hypocrisy meter soaring:

JEFFREY BROWN: Senator Collins, we heard you raise this question as you look at the new strategy [on Afghanistan] of benchmarks. How do we know if we're winning? How do we know how it's going? Were you satisfied with the response? Tell us more about what your concerns are.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: That is the fundamental question...And it troubles me that the administration has committed troops and is coming to Congress for additional resources without having a clear set of benchmarks for evaluating whether or not this strategy is working.

That's a mistake that our government made in Iraq, until General Petraeus took over and until we had a different strategy and clear benchmarks to measure its success.

I don't think we should repeat that mistake.
Hmm. I don't remember Collins making much noise about tactical and strategic errors during the first few years of the Bush administration's tragic bungling of Iraq.

And yet here she is, fretting about benchmarks on national television just days into the Obama administration's reworking of our Afghanistan strategy.

What a difference a new president makes.

Remember, this has nothing to do with politics.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thanks, LCV

The League of Conservation Voters endorsement at work:

Not a single Republican joined with Democrats in supporting a relatively innocuous budget amendment giving Senate committees the flexibility to design a cap-and-trade system that does not increase "the overall burden on consumers."


"It's a complicated issue to tackle at a time when the economy is weak," [Sen.] Collins told POLITICO later.