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.