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.