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.