Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Martell: Collins' 9/11 Act Issues Addressed

I talked a little while ago with President of the Professional Firefighters of Maine John Martell, who was on the phone from Washington. His organization endorsed Sen. Collins in 2008.

Martell made a passionate, pointed case for the Zadroga Act, describing first responders who lost their lives on 9/11 as the "first killed in action" in our nation's ensuing military battles. And after mentioning his own military background, he called 9/11 responders and those who worked the pile afterward "domestic veterans" who deserve "nothing less" than what is owed to battlefield soldiers.

He said he "feels very strongly that" Sen. Gillibrand has addressed Sen. Collins' insistence on appropriate offsets. And while he declined to single out Maine's junior senator for criticism, he drew attention to the different budgetary standards being used by some to assess the Zadroga bill and the recently-enacted, deficit-ballooning tax cut package.

"If we can't take care of the people who took care of us," he said--some of whom are "dying"--then it would be a "harmful, almost shameful statement about who we are as a nation."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quote of the Day


Perhaps the regular media will ask the two senators why they voted against a bill that would provide a path to citizenship to young adults whose only crime is that their parents brought them here illegally when they were young children.

I'd ask them, but they don't talk to me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Asking, Telling

It took months of wrangling and several false starts. And throughout the process, the junior senator often operated with something short of good faith.

But at the end of the day, Sen. Collins deserves a lot of credit for helping shepherd "don't ask, don't tell" repeal through the Senate.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Short Memories

As Gerald at Dirigo Blue notes, Sen. Collins continues to block the 9/11 health bill.

Literally days after voting for $900 billion in red ink-generating tax cuts skewed to the rich, Collins objects to the bill because--wait for it--the $7 billion package isn't paid for.

Got that? Huge tax cuts for the rich? No problem.

But health care for the first responders who got sick from toxic dust spewing out of burning buildings on 9/11? A bill that will grow the deficit less than one percent of what the tax cuts cost? Not so fast.

Sick and twisted. But no longer surprising.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Collins and Firefighters

Right at the beginning:

I wonder how those guys feel about Sen. Collins' decision to be the deciding vote against the Zadroga Act.

No, really, I wonder.

Rhetorical Commitments

Weren't firefighters big supporters of Sen. Collins in 2008?

First responders from across the country came to New York after Sept. 11, 2001, and there are very few who can understand how the country is about to let the 9/11 health bill die in the Senate.

Among the dumbfounded count Maine’s Capt. Mike Clark, of the Bath Fire Department, who is calling on his two senators, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, to rescue the faltering bill.


Clark, a former Long Islander, doesn’t really see how, with all the money the nation is spending on the wars sparked after 9/11, it can't find the cash to fund the $7.4 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, to care to for the first responders.


Senate Republicans voted against moving the Zadroga bill forward last week, saying they want to pass tax cuts for the wealthy first. But with the tax deal all but certain to pass, none have come forward to move ahead with Zadroga--and the clock is running out. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has said he'd back the bill. Just one more Republican is needed to pass it.

Collins and Snowe’s offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Credit, But How Much?

Sen. Collins deserves credit for backing repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" last week.

And while her behavior during "negotiations" inspired serious skepticism, making it clear that she was approaching the process with something short of good faith, the circumstantial evidence suggests that, in the end, the junior senator was genuinely interested in bringing about repeal.

That willingness to do the right thing is to be commended.

But let's not get carried away.

Hoping off the fence to support an extremely popular, morally necessary policy that's in the national interest and the interest of national security after its defeat was already certain isn't exactly a triumph of virtue--or even a demonstration of sincerity. A "declaration of conscience" moment it wasn't.

The better analogy is to a person who, after years of indifference toward--or even mild scorn for--her local baseball team, starts rooting for the home franchise once the team makes it to the World Series. And then goes around telling everyone what a huge fan she is.

So let's keep the junior senator's actions here in perspective. I understand the eagerness of the Maine and national press to encourage this kind of constructive behavior. But encouragement is one thing; rewriting history to cast Susan Collins as some sort of champion of repeal is quite another.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fence Sitting

I'd be remiss not to point out, as Gerald and TPM have, that Sen. Collins voted for repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" only after it was already certain to fail.

Dodge: Snowe Playing Politics

A quick, blunt statement from Andrew Ian Dodge of the Maine Tea Party Patriots:

I think Snowe's vote on DADT is completely electoral politics.

Flashback: HRC On Snowe On DADT

From September 20:

Back in May, just after the defense authorization bill passed out of committee, I e-mailed David Smith, who is in charge of policy and strategy at Human Rights Campaign.

I asked him whether Sen. Snowe would go along with a repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.'

Here's his reply, in full:"She will support repeal."

Didn't See That Coming

Collins votes to advance repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and it still fails. (Sen. Snowe voted "no.")

UPDATE: Greg Sargent has the gruesome details:

Reid concluded that even if Collins was sincere in her promise to vote for repeal if given the four days of debate, there was no way to prevent the proceedings from taking longer, the aide says. Reid decided that the cloture vote, the 30 hours of required post-cloture debate, and procedural tricks mounted by conservative Senators who adamantly oppose repeal would have dragged the process on far longer.

"It would have been much more than four days," the aide says. "Her suggestions were flat out unworkable given how the Senate really operates. You can talk about four days until the cows come home. That has very little meaning for Coburn and DeMint and others who have become very skilled at grinding this place to a halt."


The aide rejected the claim that Reid should have extended the session another week in order to accommodate GOP procedural demands, as Joe Lieberman and others had asked, arguing that extended debate would actually have dragged the session into January, what with other things on the Senate to-do list.

"Why do we need to extend the session?" the aide asked. "Republicans have blocked this bill since February. We've made offer after offer to try to reach agreement on this. Going through those procedural motions along with the START treaty and tax cuts would have taken us until January 5th."
I'm as big a critic of the junior senator as anyone, and I think her behavior on this issue has been repugnant and indefensible.

Still, on first blush Reid's excuse--at least the version of it articulated here--rings hollow.

That said, it's worth drawing attention to the fact that even though Collins voted for the bill, her procedural complaints seem to be what killed it. That's difficult to understand, but worth sorting out in the hours and days ahead.

Is It All Moot?

It's hard to separate the facts from the posturing here--on both sides--but Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is now saying, effectively, that Sen. Collins is asking for a process on "don't ask, don't tell" that's doomed, by its very nature, to fail:

"If we don't proceed with this bill, this week, then involving cloture sometime next week, even if we could do it would be a symbolic victory and I don't believe there would be enough time to hammer out a final bill before the end of the session," Levin said.
Remember, not only does the military authorization bill have to win Senate approval; both houses then need to reconcile their versions of the authorization. And that simply can't be accomplished instantaneously.

Now, is Levin taking into account the possibility that Democrats could extend the session a few days? It's not clear.

But it's certainly true that there's little time left. And that the junior senator is demanding a proportionally huge block of it be spent discussing a bill whose substance has been known for months.

Will She Or Won't She

One of the upshots of Sen. Collins' process-trumps-substance approach to Democratic priorities is that, by the time her bizarre behavior becomes a focus of national media attention--usually because hers is one of a handful of votes up for grabs--reporters are focused, quite rightly, on the legislative endgame: Will it pass? Won't it pass? Who will put it over the edge?

When an issue is coming to its head, that's what readers want to know.

So at that point in the process, there simply aren't many inches to spare or much air time available to delve into the junior senator's rationale for holding things up: What, specifically, does Collins think she'll have accomplished if her procedural objections win out? What, for example, does the length of the debate have to do with the fairness of the process? And why is it necessary for some bills to navigate a gauntlet while it's okay for others to be rammed through.

These are all obvious, vital questions. But they're the kinds of questions that need to be asked by the local media in the weeks leading up to a vote--or they won't be asked at all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So Where Are We?

My take, at the end of a long day:

Between the lines, Collins seems to be telling Reid that she'll vote for repeal as long as the process ties up the Senate long enough to kill some other Democratic priorities.

In other words, she'll allow it to limp across the finish line--but only if she's allowed to put the hurt on Democrats at the same time.

Not exactly "bad faith" negotiating, necessarily. But certainly not "good faith" either.

And that's assuming she isn't simply dithering, which of course can't be ruled out.

Did Collins Just Blink?

I'm not convinced. But it's a plausible reading of the situation given the junior senator's comments just a little while ago. Here's David Kurtz of TPM:

On its face, her demands can probably be met by Harry Reid without too much sweat. That's probably why Reid has now put off tonight's vote.

Now, you could argue that Reid just caved by putting off the vote, but I think that's the wrong read on this.

Collins has finally made her demands concrete and public. And they are not outrageous. At one point she wanted or was said to want two weeks of debate. Now she's asking for a manageable 4 days. Would we have gotten here anyway? Maybe. Did Reid's forcing the issue make the difference? Hard to say for sure, but probably.
Not exactly a profile in courage. But promising--at least potentially.

UPDATE: Politico reminds us why this is far from a done deal:

As the day wore on, Reid seemed to have struck a deal with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and perhaps other Republicans who favor ending “don’t ask” over the number of amendments that should be allowed to the defense bill and was inching towards an agreement on the time for debate.

However, Collins said she and Reid remained in stark disagreement over when to take up the bill, with Collins still insisting upon waiting until the Senate acts on a tax-cut extension deal the White House reached with Republican leaders.

Gibberish Watch


Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told me that she is fine with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) offer of 15 amendments--10 for Republicans and 5 for Democrats. The only question is the time allotted to debate them...She'd be fine if Reid were to allow, say, two hours of debate (one hour for Democrats and one hour for Republicans) for each amendment.

Collins told me that the time issue is important to her because she is "trying to make sure the rights of the minority are protected."
Got that? So 120 minutes per amendment--not 60 minutes, not 90 minutes--is the magic dividing line between respect for the minority and abuse of process.

Yes, it looks increasingly like the junior senator is looking for a way to avoid voting for a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

What Gives?

It's now clear that Sen. Collins is holding out for a military authorization debate and amendments process that's in line with recent historical averages.

Why this imperative trumps everything else is unclear.

In any event, the junior senator's office says that over the last five years, an average of 14.4 amendments have been offered. But Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is now on board for a process that includes fifteen amendments--ten of them from Republicans. So what's the problem?

Is Collins really holding out simply for a longer debate on the bill...on the grounds that longer is, in and of itself, better?

There's no obvious way to make her position make sense.

On The Ground

I just got off the phone with a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal activist, working on the grassroots effort in Maine. (He wasn't authorized, by his organization, to speak for attribution.) A few quick impressions:

--The landscape, as he described it, seems fluid and uncertain. He seemed not to have any idea how Sens. Collins and Snowe will ultimately vote.

--He noted that there's, "a lot of politics on the table." And he didn't rule out the possibility that the junior senator was using repeal as a pawn in a larger political game relating to tax cuts, etc.

--He was skeptical of the idea that Congress would stay in session longer to get repeal done. He didn't use the words "now or never" but that's the impression that came through.

--He said that throughout the afternoon, he and his colleagues will continue to connect with Mainers, urging them to make phone calls and write e-mails to both senators.

DADT Roundup


Maine's junior Senator, the Republican Susan Collins, has the power to end the military's ban on openly gay soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen today--or the ability to crush the hopes of those hoping to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year, according to a Democratic leadership aide. It's her choice, says the Senate Democratic aide, who has direct knowledge of the talks leading up to today's planned cloture vote on the defense spending bill that contains the repeal language. [Emphasis mine.]
Greg Sargent:
A spokesman for Collins flatly denies she asked Reid for unlimited debate. Rather, the spokesman says, Collins has pointed out to Reid that the average number of days spent debating previous defense authorization bills has been 11 days, with an average of 14 or so amendments considered. Collins has asked Reid to come up with a comparable offer, the spokesman says.
Keeping things as murky as possible, as usual.

Unicorns For Christmas

A must-read from Steve Benen (via ASFried):

At this point, Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, who claims to support repeal, appears to be the senator who stands in the way of success. On Friday, Collins had a lengthy meeting with Reid and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), trying to resolve her concerns and clear the way for passage. They didn't reach an agreement.

This was soon followed by President Obama reaching out to Collins directly over the weekend, urging her to do the right thing. They didn't reach an agreement, either. This led to additional talks between Reid and Collins this morning.

In a nutshell, Collins is asking Democratic leaders for unlimited debate on the defense bill. Reid, in turn, is offering Collins a compromise: votes on 10 separate amendments*, seven of which would come from Republicans, three of which would come from Democrats.

Collins has responded that this isn't good enough, and she'll refuse to let the Senate vote up or down on the legislation.

It's worth emphasizing that Collins just isn't being reasonable. Looking back over the last couple of decades, a total of 10 amendments is entirely routine for this defense authorization bill, and is actually far more than the number of amendments considered most of the time.

Why not just give in and tell Collins she can have unlimited debate? Because Republicans really are desperate to kill the legislation, and the most far-right members will keep offering unrelated amendments indefinitely, running out the clock on the lame-duck session, and derailing the bill.

The aide told me, Collins is "basically asking for a unicorn for Christmas. We can't give her a unicorn."

So, is that it? Will Collins screw over gay servicemembers and blow off Pentagon requests over baseless procedural demands? That appears pretty likely.


But it's not quite over. Reid, my source told me, is "still trying," and Lieberman, who's been "tireless" on this issue, continues to urge Collins to do the right thing.

One wonders how many voters in Maine who care about this issue might be willing to pick up the phone between now and tonight.

* Update: Still hoping to persuade Collins, Dems are now offering 15 amendments, 10 of which could come from Republicans.

Questions of the Day

--Will any Maine reporter ask Sen. Collins whether she will insist on the same extended debate and amendments process for tax cuts that she has demanded for "don't ask, don't tell"? And if not, why not?

--Will any Maine reporter ask Sens. Collins and Snowe how they square their professed determination to cut the deficit with their support for a huge, deficit-generating tax cut package?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pretexts, Reliability, Etc.

Greg Sargent on "don't ask, don't tell":

Right now, the outstanding question is whether Reid will schedule enough time for floor debate and amendments to remove Senator Susan Collins' final pretext for saying she'll vote No on cloture for the Defense Authorization Bill containing repeal. Collins has signaled she will support repeal if that time is allotted.

It remains unclear precisely how much time Collins will deem sufficient. But presumably Senate Dem leaders can ask Collins privately how much floor debate time she needs. And if her reply is not too unreasonable, they can give it to her...

Dems will quite rightly protest that Collins has not always proven the most reliable of negotiating partners. They will argue that even if the Dem leadership does give Collins what she wants, she could pull the football away again. So why bother?

I'm very sympathetic to this argument. But ultimately, this comes down to a choice: Do we want there to be some chance that repeal passes this year, or no chance at all?

As unreliable as Collins has been in the past, it's not unreasonable to assume that this is one issue where she does want to vote Yes...

My worry is that Dem leaders think that if they schedule just a few days of floor debate, and Collins balks, they'll be able to blame her unreasonableness for the failure of DADT repeal. If they do that, they will have a plausible case. The only problem will be that DADT will remain in place.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Making It Plain

Give her credit for getting rid of any ambiguity:

Democrats hoping to move forward with legislation other than tax cuts shouldn't look to centrist Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to break the logjam.

Collins said again on Friday that, while she would vote with Democrats to end the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, she wouldn't do so until a debate over tax cuts has been resolved.


The statement is a sign that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (Ky.) Republican conference hasn't fractured in its insistence that the expiring tax cuts be dealt with prior to action on any other legislative business.

Metzler Pulls A Fast One

Check this out, from Rebekah Metzler:

Collins was the only Republican committee member to support repealing ["don't ask don't tell"] when it was first considered by the committee.


Maine's Republican senators have been targeted by groups pushing for repeal. Maine veterans and the Maine Civil Liberties Union staged a press conference Thursday in Portland to press them to support repeal; pop star Lady Gaga also made a trip to Maine in September before a scheduled Senate vote on the issue.

That vote failed, but another vote on the policy--which is included as an amendment in the defense budget authorization legislation--could come during Congress' lame-duck session.
Notice anything fishy?

Let's see. First, we learn that Collins voted to repeal the policy in committee. And later on, we're told that the "vote failed" before the full Senate.

Seems straightforward enough, I guess. And yet, I feel like something's missing. Hmm...

Oh, right: It's that Collins actually voted against repeal when the bill was before the full senate.

Not exactly a minor detail.

And yet Metzler's passive voice construction seems like it's being used, specifically, to conceal the fact. It feels like the product of a deliberate effort to supply readers with a false impression: That Collins has been a supporter of repeal--full stop.

Otherwise, why the peculiar "vote failed" construction? It's vague and it's strained.

So there you have it: A reporter misleading her readers and running interference for a politician.

This is journalism?

MPBN Plays Along

This is just bad journalism. Josie Huang at MPBN seems to know about the letter Sen. Collins signed vowing to block all legislation until the richest Americans get a tax cut. Heck, MPBN wrote about it yesterday.

And yet, in a long story on "don't ask don't tell" Huang manages to sidestep the implications of the letter almost entirely.

But those implications, and the questions they raise, are obvious:

Given the realities of the congressional calendar--and the fact that repeal supporters won't have the votes to pass repeal once January rolls around--how does Collins reconcile the vow to block all bills with her professed "support" for repeal?

Since this "support" is contingent on events not in her control--the Democratic majority caving to Republicans on tax cuts--wouldn't her position more accurately be described as "opposed for the time being" or "potentially supportive" of repeal?

Any serious effort to convey the state of play on the issue would include a discussion of these points. Yet instead of zeroing in on them Huang glosses over them: She mentions the tax cut letter without so much as acknowledging that the junior senator's name is on it.

By taking this opaque approach, Huang helps Collins send Mainers a message about her priorities that pretty much contradicts the one she's sending to her Senate colleagues and the beltway conservative establishment.

Instead of holding Collins accountable and drawing attention to her doublespeak, Huang allows herself to function as part of the junior senator's PR team.

Not pretty.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Low Information

Unless I'm missing something, not a single Maine paper has a story today about the promise from Sens. Snowe and Collins to block virtually all new legislative work until they've secured new tax breaks for the richest people in the country.

It's a position so extreme that it might lead even someone who doesn't follow politics to conclude that Maine's senators aren't the pragmatic, non-ideological centrists they portray themselves as.

But to reach that conclusion, you'd need to actually know what they're up to.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

EQME: Collins Has Chosen Rancor

Betsy Smith, Executive Director of EqualityMaine, via e-mail, on the decision of Sens. Snowe and Collins to hold the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" hostage until they're able to push through a tax cut for the tiny fraction of Americans with incomes of more than $250,000 per year:

It is particularly distressing to myself and our members across the state of Maine that both Senators Collins and Snowe have chosen a path of partisan rancor instead of reflecting Maine values of independent spirit for the common good...They have committed to voting for repeal of this grossly unfair policy in the past. It's time for them to live up to that commitment and for Mainers to remind them of it with their phone calls, letters and emails.
It's worth reiterating that the junior senator has backtracked over the course of the day--or at least tried to leave the impression that she's done so.

But the letter Collins signed says what it says.

Collins: Tax Cuts Trump All

Gerald catches Sens. Snowe and Collins committing to block all new legislation not related to spending until billionaires get tax cuts.

And that isn't hyperbole. It's their position:

We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate's attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.
That means no "don't ask don't tell" repeal. It means no vote on New Start.

Of course, the tax "hike" is on the books. Collins voted for the law that put it in place.

But fresh tax breaks for the wealthy (to the tune of several hundred billion dollars) are now so crucial--so important to the future of the country--that the junior senator will simply sit on her hands until they're enacted.

Now that's moderate bipartisan centrism!

UPDATE: Just kidding? A Collins spokesman tells Greg Sargent that contrary to the text of the letter above, the junior senator could in fact support repeal of "don't ask don't tell" without tax cuts.

This is exactly the kind of (deliberate?) incoherence I referenced yesterday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Friends And Enemies

Sen. Collins has garnered a fair amount of national attention for her ludicrous phone-a-friend approach to the New START treaty.

It might surprise some readers to know that I think there's a good chance she'll actually support the treaty if it comes up for a vote. Why? Because Collins' behavior here hews to the game plan that she virtually always follows when it comes to popular proposals that happen to be championed by Democrats: There's incoherence, dithering, a barrage of non-sequiturs and then a hop off the fence, to one side or the other, at the last possible moment.

In fact, in the scheme of things, the vote itself is almost always less important than a key imperative: not stepping on the argument, or undermining the political position of, her Republican colleagues.

Specifically, what Collins never does--and I'm pretty sure I mean never--is get out front on an issue where she disagrees with the GOP. No matter the salience. No matter what's at stake for the public interest.

Sen. John McCain used to do that. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) is doing it right now. Heck, even a hard-right conservative like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has done it occasionally. But not the junior senator.

Sure, Collins might support the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" in theory. But not when its passage clashes with the agenda of her GOP allies. Sure, she'll quietly support the idea of climate change legislation. Just not the proposal that's actually up for discussion. (Or, incidentally, one that has any chance of passing.)

She might even swing to supporting a depression-averting stimulus bill at the last minute after bad-mouthing and diluting it. But she won't champion the bill, or adopt the kind of aggressive posture that might risk subverting the position of her friends in the GOP.

And what she absolutely won't do is allow her centrist street cred to be used as a wedge or lever to help advance an initiative that's a Democratic priority.

(If anyone is ready with counterexamples, I'm all ears.)

And yet: Isn't this kind of friend-or-enemy approach to substantive issues pretty much the definition of "playing politics"? Isn't this exactly the kind of blinkered, home team approach that the junior senator suggests is at the root of the country's problems?

That Collins would engage in misdirection and bad faith isn't news. But it is amazing that people continue to fall for it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL):

The failure of the United States Senate to ratify the START treaty immediately is going to pose a danger to the United States and its security.

And let me give a historical analogy. It wasn't that long ago that a Republican president appealed to Congress on a bipartisan basis--it was President George W. Bush after 9/11--to rewrite the architecture of our intelligence agencies with a new Department of Homeland Security.

Senator Susan Collins, the chairman of the committee at that time and a Republican, Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, got together and did it. They constructed this new scenario that has made us safer as a nation and they did it during a lame duck session.

There is no excuse for us to, to ignore this responsibility and to say we'll wait several months.
UPDATE: It doesn't change the underlying point. But Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) was actually still the committee chairman during the 2002 lame duck session, when the Department of Homeland Security was created. Collins took over a few weeks later.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thought of the Day

Imagine the incensed editorials we'd be seeing from the Maine press if Democrats were engaged in a politically-motivated effort to block the ratification of a nuclear arms treaty that Sens. Snowe and Collins supported.

Kyl Gets Grilled

Via Steve Mistler. Watch the whole thing:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sen. Kyl (R-AZ)--the GOP point man on New START--is almost as eager to avoid a substantive discussion of the treaty as Sen. Collins has been. And that's really saying something.

Question of the Day

During her fourteen years in office, has Sen. Collins ever leveraged her centrist street cred to influence the debate over--and help advance--an initiative that happened to be a priority of a Democratic president?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ceding Authority

Remember during the 2008 campaign when Sen. Collins said she'd do the right thing as long as both former presidents with the last name "Bush" asked her to?

Me neither:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has reserved judgment on how she will vote until the resolution comes to the floor, said it could make a difference if Obama could get George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both former presidents, to appear with him in support of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START...

"It would be wonderful if President [George H.W.] Bush would come out for the treaty. That would be so powerful and definitely help," Collins said in a telephone interview last week.
If the junior senator is looking for guidance from GOP foreign policy bigwigs, then she might take note of the fact that Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Colin Powell--each of them a former secretary of state--and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen--yes, that William Cohen--have all come out strongly in favor of the treaty.

Instead, she's looking for new hoops for the Obama administration to jump through. And resorting to almost comically vapid, substance-free statements in the process. (Though she does get points, here, for originality.)

It seems pretty clear that this is just another excuse for Collins to continue her GOP-friendly intransigence on a treaty that is, let's remember, about containing the threat of nuclear arms.

Shameful. And shocking. But not surprising.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Via Brad DeLong:

Video Cafe:

AMANPOUR: And, again, as Admiral Mullen said, it's not just a nice treaty with a foreign country. It is about Russia's cooperation on all the issues that the United States needs, whether it's Afghanistan, Iran, and all the rest of it. Plus, I don't know what you think, but some are saying that this could give rise to the hard-liners in Russia again, who just do not want to -- who just don't want to deal with the United States.

LUCE: Oh, absolutely. I think it's -- it's a dream -- if you picked two countries that would like to see a failure of [START] ratification, it would be North Korea and Iran. And I think that -- if that argument doesn't work with the Republicans, that sort of basic elemental national security argument doesn't work, nothing is. There's -- there's a greater hatred of Obama than there is a love of American national security.

To The Brink

From NumbersUSA ("For Lower Immigration Levels") on the DREAM Act:

Sen. Susan Collins -- She voted YES in 2007. But her statements this week lean toward NO. You have driven her to the brink of a good decision; help her do it right.

Sen. Olympia Snowe -- She voted YES in 2007. But she is up for re-election in 2012. She has seen some other ensconced high-seniority Republicans nearly lose or lose to Primary challengers this year. A vote for amnesty now could make her a real target. It is a good sign that she hasn't declared herself a YES yet.

Quote of the Day

Norman J. Ornstein on the DISCLOSE Act:

Where are the previous champions of campaign finance reform? Where is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose greatest legislative accomplishment was given a sharp stick in the eye by a 5-4 decision on the Supreme Court?

Where are previous supporters of reform--and professed supporters of disclosure--such as Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.)?

And most important, where is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who has always been an independent voice, whose Snowe-Jeffords amendment to the campaign reform law was the provision most assaulted by the Citizens United case, who stood up to immense pressure from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republican leaders in 2002 to do the right thing?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quote of the Day

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) on New START:

"We're talking about thousands of warheads that are still there, an existential problem for our country...To temporise at this point I think is inexcusable."
I had to look up temporise. But yes, it means what you think it means.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Questions of the Day

Will any major Maine media outlet move beyond respectful pleading and actually call out Sens. Snowe and Collins for their dangerous intransigence on the new START treaty? And if not, why not?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And Now For Something Different

There are two pieces in today's Sun Journal worth flagging, both by Steve Mistler.

First, Mistler write about the ambiguous positions Sens. Snowe and Collins have staked out on the New START treaty. In the process, he extracts information--weak rationalizations, really--from both senators on an issue they'd clearly prefer not to discuss. In the Maine media, that's an exceedingly rare occurrence.

The second piece is about the decision of both senators to sign an amicus brief arguing that the new health care law is unconstitutional. Here, Mistler draws attention to Snowe's vote for the bill in committee, and tries to get some answers reconciling what seem like contradictory positions.

In both articles, Mistler rejects the template Maine reporters almost always use for these kinds of stories: He doesn't simply chop up and regurgitate press releases or allow himself to be used as a megaphone. Instead, he asks commonsense questions an informed person couldn't help but want answered. And he provides relevant context, even when it doesn't reflect well on one or both of the senators.

It takes nothing away from Mistler's work here to note that this kind of reporting isn't exactly heroic. (Though it is more difficult than stenography.) It's what reporters are supposed to do on a daily basis. And it doesn't--or shouldn't--require a Herculean effort.

What it does require--maybe more than anything else--is seeing Sens. Snowe and Collins as accountable public officials worthy of scrutiny rather than royalty who deserve to be puffed up and celebrated.

That, and respect for readers.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) on his GOP colleagues and the New START treaty:

Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty...Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now. Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not to vote.

Friday, November 19, 2010

At All Costs

Does Sen. Collins have serious, substantive objections to the New START treaty?

Objections that haven't been--or can't be--answered by supporters like former Secretary of Defense William Cohen? Or former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger? Or George Schultz? Or Brent Scowcroft? Or James Baker? Or Colin Powell?

Or is this just about wounding the President?

Anyway, it's a good thing we're not talking about something with high stakes--like loose nukes and the threat of nuclear terrorism.

More seriously: Once upon a time, some of us were surprised--even stunned--to find the junior senator breaking with precedent to vote against extending unemployment benefits with an unemployment rate hovering around ten percent.

But these days, that kind destructive pandering is pretty much expected.

I guess it was time to raise the bar again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Dirigo Blue covers the Paycheck Fairness Act vote.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Times Record: Collins' Silence "Perplexing"

An editorial:

Our country's national security shouldn't be subject to political gamesmanship. But that's exactly what's happening in the U.S. Senate, where the Republican leadership has been using lame excuses to hold up the ratification vote on the New START nuclear arms control agreement with Russia that would reduce both countries' deployed strategic nuclear warheads from 2,200 to 1,550 by 2012...

Given that the New START agreement has the unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other key Pentagon leaders, it shouldn't have been difficult to gain the eight Republican votes needed to reach the 67 votes required for ratification. Previous nuclear arms control agreements, initiated by Republican presidents, had received close to unanimous bipartisan support in the past...

The silence of our two U.S. senators on this treaty is perplexing, given that both Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins have supported earlier arms control agreements negotiated by Republican presidents.

We encourage them to speak up for national security and urge their Republican leaders to stop the politicking and ratify this treaty.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Work For Hire

Mike Tipping notices that Sen. Collins has hired Matt Gagnon, editor of Pine Tree Politics, to work in her DC office.

Tipping suggests that Gagnon, "will still retain ownership over the site."

Glad to see that the revolving door between the Collins staff and the Maine print media--a feature of the state's political landscape with a long, rich history--is making the leap to the digital world.

And yet: Are there any Maine editors out there hardy enough to resist the junior senator's entreaties?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


She keeps bringing it:

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the lack of female representation in her party's leadership is a big problem.

"It does concern me that there are not more women in leadership positions," Collins said, "that I do think is disappointing."

She suggested that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell should at least consider informally including a woman in his leadership deliberations.


A spokesman for McConnell said the elected leadership will not include a woman, but it is possible he may in fact bring a female senator in informally.
(Emphasis mine.)

I'd love to know how that "informal inclusion" gets worked out in practice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flashback: Collins on Palin

The junior senator praised Palin upon her selection as GOP vice presidential nominee, gushed about the excitement she was bringing to the ticket and called her a "great choice" on national TV.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Collins on Sarah Palin:

“I think she likes being a celebrity commentator for Fox and a speaker and being able to provide for her family,” Collins said. “I think that life appeals to her. It’s a lot easier to charge people up than to actually govern.”
UPDATE: As I alluded to on Twitter, Collins' comment will likely be seen through the prism of ideology--as a moderate lashing out at a conservative.

But that misses the point. Collins considers Karl Rove an old friend. She raised money for incoming Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and gave money to incoming Gov. Paul LePage.

So this isn't about a moderate going after a conservative. It's about a creature of the GOP establishment going after an outsider.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Collins Wants Estate Tax Back

News to me:

Collins is proposing that...that lawmakers pass some level of estate tax.

"There has not been any estate tax at all this year," she said. If the tax were to continue at 2009 levels, it would bring in an estimated $26 billion.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Collins Iffy On Benefit Extension


About 2,000 Mainers were notified this week that their unemployment benefits have maxed out. But whether Congress will extend those benefits any further is an open question.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins says she needs to be convinced to support another extension. "I'll have to look at the circumstances at the time, as far as the unemployment rate, the number of people who would be affected in Maine and nationwide whose benefits have expired or would expire, and whether or not it is paid for by cuts," she told Capitol News Service.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


From MTM:

Another result [of the election] is that Maine's two Republican U.S. senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, "will have increasing roles because their votes become more important," said Marvin Druker of USM's Lewiston-Auburn college. Democrats are clinging to a narrow majority in the Senate.
Got that?

When the GOP is in charge, the conventional wisdom in Maine is that it boosts the clout of Sens. Snowe and Collins. And when Democrats are just short of a 60-seat super majority, the Maine media also touts the increasing influence of the home state senators, because their votes are needed to avoid filibusters.

And sure enough, even now, with Democrats needing a whole bunch of Republican votes to achieve cloture--and no obvious new lever of power for either woman--the power of Maine's senators is still said to be on the upswing.

You almost get the sense that, when it comes to coverage of Snowe and Collins in the Maine press, the state's senators can't lose.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

About Last Night

Andrew Ian Dodge of the Maine Tea Party Patriots on what the midterms mean going forward:

I think the fact the Senate stayed Dem is a good thing for the tea party movement as a whole. The Republicans need to pay attention to us in order to retain the house in 2012.
Snowe is going to have a primary fight no matter what happened last night...2012 is going to be very interesting in Maine.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama: Collins Held Line at $700 Billion

President Obama:

And I'll give you one last example because I know this is a famous example in the blogosphere, is the stimulus. I mean, if folks think that we could have gotten Ben Nelson, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins to vote for additional stimulus beyond the $700 billion that we got, then I would just suggest you weren't in the meetings.

This notion that somehow I could have gone and made the case around the country for a far bigger stimulus because of the magnitude of the crisis...
I end the quote with an ellipsis, because he never does finish the thought. But the implication is that it would have made no difference for a president with a 70% approval rating and facing an almost unprecedented economic crisis to put in a day or two lobbying the constituents of a senator--one who had just won reelection as a post-partisan, results-oriented moderate--in a state where he was incredibly popular.

And let's remember what he would have been there to lobby for: Not support. Just support for an up or down vote on the spending package he was arguing was necessary to stave off depression.

Would this approach have worked? I don't know. (I don't believe the President knows either.)

What is clear is that it was politically inept to pretend that an insufficient bill was just fine and dandy.

As much as he seems to want to shift the blame to Sen. Collins and others, the President alone is responsible for that mistake.

Collins On 1099s

The junior senator makes a compelling argument to scrap a weird record keeping provision of the health care law:

At issue is a provision that, starting in 2012, will require all businesses to submit a Form 1099 to the IRS for every business vendor from whom they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a year...

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate Service, this onerous provision will hit some 40 million businesses, charities, and other organizations. It is estimated that this requirement will add more than $190 billion in administrative costs to businesses at the worst possible time. These costs will weigh most heavily on small companies.

Currently, businesses must provide 1099s only for freelancers and other nonemployee service providers that are not incorporated...Under the new rule, businesses will have to generate 1099s for every transaction that crosses the $600 threshold--goods as well as services. Office supplies, building materials, gasoline, meals and lodging, shipping costs, cell phones, and Internet service are but a few of the countless everyday business expenses that will have to be reported to meet this crushing new paperwork demand.


Last month, I joined an effort to strike it from the law through an amendment to a small business bill...I have co-sponsored stand-alone legislation to repeal this senseless, counter-productive provision, and will persist until it is done.
Like Maine's senior senator, Collins often cloaks her fealty to giant corporations with rhetoric about protecting "small business."

But as far as I can tell, this really is about staving off a paperwork nightmare for genuine small businesses. Collins deserves credit for highlighting it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PPH Reporter Wanted Byline Removed

I e-mailed PPH reporter Tom Bell earlier to ask about his involvement in the ugly Cutler Files story in today's paper, which serves up unsubstantiated anonymous charges without backing them up in any way.

The article ran without a byline, but appended to the piece is a note informing readers that Bell contributed to the story.

Here's Bell's reply:

I asked that my byline be removed from the story because there were large portions I did not write and I was uncomfortable with the use of anonymous sources.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It Started In Maine

When did President Obama start to get in trouble with his base? February, 2009. And yes, it began in Maine:

Many of Obama's progressive allies barely had time to get their Inauguration gowns and tuxedos dry-cleaned before they felt the pang of disappointment from a president whose message of hope and change had transformed them into a movement.

It came with the first major piece of legislation signed by the president: the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In January, the president unveiled an $819 billion stimulus package, of which $275 billion was for tax cuts. Republicans objected to the package's price tag, but the minority leadership had no clear plan to block it or oppose the popular new president. Meanwhile, Democrats were eager to demonstrate they were prepared to tackle the economic meltdown inherited from the Bush administration.

But Obama, who had campaigned on a promise to bridge the partisan divide that had stymied action in Washington for years, was determined to win over some Republicans. To that end, he engaged in negotiations in February with Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who was then still in the GOP camp. The result was a compromise, a slimmed-down version of his original proposal.

Progressives were befuddled. With his approval rating of more than 70 percent, they believed Obama could have forced his version of the legislation through Congress and still gotten GOP support if he'd taken the case to the people of Maine and Pennsylvania--two states Obama easily won.

"His willingness to not fight and accept a deal set a precedent going into health care and a signal to any senators that there are no political consequences if you cross this president," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
I would quibble with this version of events: Most progressives weren't upset that Obama accepted a deal, exactly. They were dismayed, instead, that he accepted a deal without first putting up a fight.

And they were baffled by his willingness to embrace--and take ownership of--a final product that was far from ideal.

It goes without saying that the fault for all this is with the President and his advisors. But Sen. Collins was, of course, happy to help.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Question of the Day

How do you suppose Sen. Collins feels about the prospect of sharing a ticket with Governor Paul LePage in 2014?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Supposed Independence


A campaign finance bill, the Disclose Act, fell a vote short in the Senate last month. Another vote is promised after the election, with Democrats offering to negotiate changes that keep the focus on transparency.

Might voters dare to hope that the frenzy of stealth spending could prompt support from Republicans prized for their supposed independence: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts?

If not, the three and the entire Republican Party should explain why they prefer Senator McConnell’s diktat that voters are best left in the dark.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who Is She Kidding?

With the help of her lackeys in the press, probably most Mainers.

Without bold, urgent action, we are heading toward a future of financial stagnation, bogged down by costly entitlements, slow job creation, and sluggish economic growth," [Collins] said.

"This is the stark economic and fiscal environment that will confront the next OMB Director. We need common-sense analyses of what is working and what is not. We require honest assessments of fiscal realities, untarnished by political calculus. And, we expect the courage to admit mistakes and change course.
One of the myths about Sen. Collins that's most destructive and least tethered to reality is the notion that she's some sort of fiscal conservative.

In fact, on budget issues she's a quintessential bad actor. And she's an important part of the problem.


Because Collins votes for virtually all the spending. And then she turns around and votes for all the tax cuts. (If anyone knows of a meaningful, Republican-sponsored tax cut she's voted against, please let us know.)

And then, after supporting trillions in red ink spending and tax cuts that create trillions more in debt, she has the audacity to turn around and lecture others about fiscal discipline. Even while supporting further budget-busting tax cuts.

It's kind of revolting.

The Maine media's refusal to broach the subject is also pretty perturbing, and probably part of the problem. (Over the last four years, I've seen Collins asked just a single straightforward question on the subject, and it elicited gibberish from the junior senator.)

Bottom line: Any way you slice it, Collins has no standing to criticize anyone about the deficit. It really is that simple.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chait On Collins On Civility

Via Amy Fried we learn of a sharp piece on the junior senator's recent kvetching about civility:

Collins' essay is a valuable document, a perfect gem of intellectual incoherence, for its inadvertent exposure of the vacuity of the establishment view...

The stimulus bill was an effort to spark consumer demand through Keynesian pump-priming. Many conservatives adopted the position that Keynesian pumo-priming cannot work. They opposed the bill.

Advocates of the bill presumably accepted the basic contours of its intellectual rationale. Yet they insisted on changes that made the bill less effective. There was no particular intellectual theory guiding the actions of Collins and her moderate GOP allies. They could point to no analysis that claimed their intervention made the bill more effective.

To be sure, they could say that a smaller bill was still better than no bill, but that is not a good defense when you are the one making the bill smaller. To advocates of the stimulus, Collins and her allies seemed to be operating from pure political expediency, unlike both the opponents and the proponents of the bill, who had at least some economic basis for their stance.

So what horrors befell Collins for her stance? A columnist criticized her. Bloggers questioned her opposition to swine flu spending. Conservatives sent her emails. Oh, how could such terrible things be allowed to happen?

If you suspected that the voices of establishment Washington really have no conherent views about substance, and cherish their own prerogatives--especially the absence of criticism of any kind--then Collins' rambling essay will confirm your suspicions.
UPDATE: We served up several tweets along the same lines yesterday. A day later, I have to say I'm struck--more than anything else--by the total incoherence of Collins' argument.

I tend to think of the junior senator as sneaky and meticulous. But her speech raises real questions about that characterization.

Talk Is Cheap


Alzheimer's advocacy groups are concerned that...costly failures may dissuade drugs companies and government-funded institutions from investing further in Alzheimer's research.

Speaking at the launch last week of a new advocacy group, USAgainstAlzheimer's, Republican Senator Susan Collins said the balance of spending on care versus research was badly skewed.

"For every dollar that the federal government spends today on the costs of Alzheimer's care, it invests less than a penny in research to find a cure. That simply does not make sense," she told reporters on a conference call.
So does Collins want the government to cut back on care for Alzheimer's patients within Medicare and Medicaid, and at the VA?

Does she instead want to increase Alzheimer's research funding?

And if it's the latter, how does she propose to pay for this new research push given her recent rhetoric about the importance of fiscal discipline?

Friday, October 8, 2010

When It Suits Her

Remember all Sen. Collins' complaints about one-party rule back when Republicans controlled all three branches of the government?

Y'know, back when the junior senator and her friends were busy launching unnecessary wars, ignoring the rule of law and steering the country toward fiscal ruin?

Me neither.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Civility


Civility hit a new low during this election cycle, [Collins] said, when some senators campaigned against colleagues in their own parties by endorsing primary opponents.
So supporting the person you think would be best for the job--rather than showing reflexive deference to incumbents and the DC power structure--is inherently uncivil.

But smearing the President in a seething, hyperbolic rant is totally okay.

Got that?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


MPBN, today:

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is giving the keynote address today at a national forum on returning civility to the political process...

The focus is whether it is possible to find the mutual respect needed to govern as partisan attacks grow in Congress and across the country.
Sen. Susan Collins, not that long ago:
The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.

And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blinkers On

Interesting (though not surprising) that Mainers have had to depend on Jon Stewart and national publications for anything resembling a candid take on Sen. Collins' hypocrisy on DADT and the defense authorization bill.

As we've noted before, and with rare and exceptions, if Collins and Sen. Snowe don't want to talk about something then it just ain't news as far as the Maine media is concerned.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Putting Her Party First

There's an obvious retort to the argument that Collins was guilty of rigid partisanship and putting ideology ahead of substance in her Tuesday vote against the military authorization bill. It goes something like this:

Oh come on. The military authorization vote was set up by Democrats as a political exercise, an election gambit to fire up the liberal base.

If Sen. Harry Reid (NV) was serious about repealing DADT and the DREAM Act he would have sent them to the floor independently. Or he would have allowed Republicans more than a single amendment. But in either case, Collins isn't to blame for Reid's political posturing.
I don't disagree with the idea that Reid was "playing politics." But that misses the fundamental point.

Namely, Collins has been telling us for years that she simply isn't interested in politics--who's up, who's down and who benefits. Unlike all those ideologically-driven partisans out there, she's supposed to be focused, single-mindedly, on doing what's right for Maine and the country.

Her reelection message hinged on this idea--that she was willing (unlike her opponent) to let the chips fall where they may, ignore partisan consideration and simply adhere to Maine values.

This wasn't an incidental point or something she portrayed as a side bonus. It was her central campaign argument:

On Tuesday she faced a stark choice: Stand behind a bill that had earned her support on the merits or stand up for Republican political prerogatives.

It's pretty clear, given her promises to Maine voters, where she should have wound up.

Her refusal to block out the politics and simply do the right thing probably won't do much to undercut her moderate bipartisan centrist branding. But it ought to.

Your Moment of Zen

Sen. Collins makes The Daily Show, in a segment called, "Are We Ruled By A**holes?" The relevant bit starts at 6:44.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Are We Run by A**holes?
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

It's nice to see Stewart, who's organizing a rally in support of political moderation, drawing attention to the partisanship and hypocrisy inherent in Collins' decision to let process considerations trump substance...only when Democrats are in charge.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Question of the Day

Working to stop a bill you say you support on the grounds that your partisan allies have issues with it: Isn't that pretty much the quintessential example of partisanship?

Sharing The Limelight

I've seen the idea floating around that the Lady Gaga rally somehow backfired. Because, you see, Sen. Collins is turned off by celebrities.

Collins press release headline:


Flashback: HRC Endorses Collins

In the wake of Human Rights Campaign's 2008 endorsement of Sen. Collins, David Smith, who is in charge of policy and strategy at the organization called the junior senator an "ally, friend and leader."

The endorsement was quite controversial at the time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EQME: Collins and Snowe Are Pandering

From Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine. Via e-mail:

EqualityMaine is extremely disappointed in U.S. Senators
Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who today voted lockstep with their
Republican colleagues Mitch McConnell and John McCain in a display of
pandering to the right to avoid repeal of the military's discriminatory
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy...

"Governing is about making important choices in difficult times," said Matt
Moonen, Political Director of EqualityMaine. "Senators Snowe, Collins,
McConnell and McCain are using arcane Senate rules to delay progress on LGBT

Strange Equivalency

Sen. Collins on the Senate floor:

I support the provisions in this bill. I debated for them; I was the sole Republican on the Committee that voted for the Lieberman-Levin language on don't ask, don't tell. I think it's the right thing to do, I think it's only fair...But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude Republican amendments. That too is not fair.
Does Collins believe that preventing Republicans from offering every poison pill amendment under the sun is unfair in roughly the same way--or to the same degree--as is a blatantly discriminatory federal policy?

I don't think it requires too tortured a reading of the above paragraph to conclude that she's implying some sort of equivalency.

Of course, the fact that Collins views phantom Republican procedural prerogatives as comparable in importance to equal treatment under the law--with the former edging out the latter--speaks volumes.

A Loyal Soldier

With all the ink being spilled about the defense authorization bill, and its repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy, it's instructive to set out, in plain English, what Sen. Collins is up to here.

Namely: At this hour, it appears that Collins is planning to work to block even an up or down vote on a bill that she's already voted for in committee.

It's that simple.

As usual, she's cloaking her obstructionism with complaints about procedure. But the pure partisanship of the move--turning around and blocking a bill she's already voted for--is audacious, even for the junior senator. It's hard not to almost admire that kind of gall.

Meanwhile, will the move help the junior senator shore up her credentials with the tea party folks? Andrew Ian Dodge of the Maine Tea Party Patriots doesn't seem to think so. Via e-mail:

I have never heard any tea party types mention ['Don't Ask Don't Tell'].
This isn't even about fending off a challenge from the right. It's about partisan loyalty. And it's vintage Susan Collins.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Collins Slams DeMint


Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who has seen his stature rise through his support of conservative candidates, made it clear in the aftermath of the Delaware upset that he would prefer losing a seat to Democrats than having Republican colleagues who stray from the conservative line and erode party unity and image by voting for policies supported by the Obama administration.


Senate Republicans do not deny that Mr. DeMint has opened a rift. “It is a new and shocking development to have a member of our conference opposing incumbent Republicans,” Ms. Collins said.

Snowe, HRC and DADT

Back in May, just after the defense authorization bill passed out of committee, I e-mailed David Smith, who is in charge of policy and strategy at Human Rights Campaign.

I asked him whether Sen. Snowe would go along with a repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.'

Here's his reply, in full:

She will support repeal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In The Spotlight

You probably know by now that Lady Gaga is coming to Portland tomorrow to push Sens. Snowe and Collins not to block an up or down vote this week on the 2011 Defense Authorization bill, which includes a repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy.

But you may not know that Collins voted for DADT repeal in committee, and she also backed the full bill.

So why, then, does Collins need to be cajoled? How on earth does she justify going mushy this late in the game?

Yup, she's going to hang her hat on "process":

"Senator Collins would like the Senate to proceed to a full and open debate on the defense Authorization bill, with members able to offer amendments on all relevant issues," said Kevin Kelley." She has spoken to Senator Reid and encouraged him to work with Republican leaders to negotiate such an agreement so that the bill could be brought to the floor."
Of course, it's routine for the number of amendments to be limited, the length of the debate to be limited, etc. And, for crying out loud, Collins has already voted in favor of the bill. So--outside of the fact that the junior senator is a Republican and the commander in chief happens to be a Democrat--where's the problem?

It's not remotely clear. In fact, you kinda sorta get the sense that, just maybe, Kevin Kelley is trying to create a smokescreen.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the junior senator responds, if at all, to the very public pressure she'll be receiving over the next 24 hours.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Collins Job Approval In The Dumps?

Via Dirigo Blue--which doesn't run itself--we learn of the new Collins and Snowe approval numbers from Public Policy Polling.

The news isn't great for the junior senator: Her approval/disapproval clocks in at 45%-43% with 12% undecided.

Collins has the support of 51% of Obama voters but only 38% among McCain supporters. And the poll suggests that she's much more popular with women voters (51%) than with men (35%), even though she did slightly better with men than with women in 2008.

I'm surprised by how weak the numbers are, frankly, though I suppose they're plausible given the country's dour, anti-incumbent mood.

On the one hand, it speaks volumes that a net +2 approval is the best Collins can muster even with the full cooperation of the submissive Maine media, who treat her more like a sainted celebrity than an accountable public official.

But on the other hand, it's quite an achievement for a senator who's been as conservative as Republicans could have legitimately hoped--and much more partisan than she promised in 2008--to be polling 13% higher among the voters of a president she's worked to wound, weaken and stymie than she is among supporters of the candidate she endorsed and worked to elect.

Clearly, most Mainers aren't paying very close attention. Or what they're paying attention to is mostly slanted and skewed. Or both.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quote of the Day

David B. Offer:

It would be no surprise to see Palin in Maine before the 2012 election, either as a candidate for president or supporting an insurgent campaign against Sen. Olympia Snowe, who will be up for re-election.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diamon: Snowe Profile "Wimpy"

From press critic and columnist Al Diamon, via e-mail:

I think it [Rebekah Metzler's profile of Sen. Snowe] speaks for itself as an example of the kind of wimpy journalism the MTM papers produce. Even a political neophyte would know there had to be more to this story than appeared in print.

LCV: Still No Regrets

Rebekah Metzler at MaineToday gets an answer to a question I asked months ago:

Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the Washington, D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters, said the group doesn't regret endorsing Collins over Tom Allen, her Democratic opponent in the 2008 U.S. Senate race.

"She's been a long-time champion on energy and global warming and a number of other environmental issues. Ultimately, I guess she ended up being the only Republican who is officially on a climate bill," she said
I wonder how LCV members--and especially donors--feel about the organization's willingness to tout the environmentalist credentials of a supporter of the Murkowski resolution--which LCV itself concedes "increases our dependence on oil, overturns sound science, endangers public health, and jeopardizes long-overdue action to hold the biggest polluters accountable for their global warming pollution."

How do the organization's supporters feel about such a person being called a "champion" on global warming issues?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Everybody Love Olympia?

In a slanted 2000+ word profile clearly meant to build up Sen. Snowe rather than examine her performance, Rebekah Metzler at MaineToday rounds up not a single serious in-state criticism of Saint Olympia.

Everybody we hear from--left, right and center--seems to think Maine's senior senator is doing a pretty fantastic job.

And yet it took me no time to track down a dissenter, even on a lazy Labor Day weekend afternoon.

Here's Andrew Ian Dodge (with whom we've spoken about Snowe previously):

A typical puff piece by the Portland Press Herald...

Olympia...is the biggest weak link in the Senate and put together with the other RINOs Collins, Brown and Graham, a continuing thorn in the side of the conservative (of all types) cause.

I have yet to attend an tea party event anywhere where her name does not cause an enthusiastic outbreak of boos from the audience.
I bet there are a few other Mainers out there--maybe even some on the left--who have misgivings about Snowe.

At least a couple of them would probably even be willing to talk to a reporter with a deadline.

UPDATE: We've made a few more observations over at Twitter.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Leadership


With Sen. Lisa Murkowski conceding to Joe Miller in the Alaska Republican primary earlier this week, Senate Republicans are left to choose from only three female senators--Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine--to fill her vice chairman position, which has long been a steppingstone for higher-level leadership jobs.

But none of those three appear likely to lobby for the GOP’s No. 5 spot.

“This isn't a good story to have in American politics, that when one woman leaves, there's no one to step in,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
I wouldn't be surprised if Collins took the gig.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quote of the Day

Ezra Klein:

Olympia Snowe is arguably the most independent Republican in the Senate--and she's stuck with her party on 67.3 percent of votes in this Congress. That is to say, if you knew nothing about Snowe save that she was a Republican, you could predict her vote about 70 percent of the time.

And Snowe is actually uncommonly willing to vote with the other side. Ben Nelson is in Snowe territory, voting with the Democrats 67.6 percent of the time, and so is Susan Collins...The reality is that the single most important thing to know about any politician is which party they'll caucus with. Full stop.

Campaigns are built to fool us into thinking that we're voting for individuals. We learn about the candidate's family, her job, her background--even her dog. But we're primarily voting for parties. The parties have just learned we're more likely to vote for them if they disguise themselves as individuals. And American politics would work better if we understood that.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Two Years

In today's edition of PPH, Rebekah Metzler looks back at the 111th Congress and Sen. Collins' role within it.

On the one hand, the piece isn't Nemitz or Wickenheiser-style hagiography--it's not a gushing, completely one-sided take on the last two years. Critical voices are included and a couple of embarrassing facts even get mentioned.

So in the context of PPH's recent history, it counts as a genuine step in the right direction.

Still, it privileges Collins' point of view, omits key context and engages in revisionism in ways that just about always seem to reinforce Collins' centrist branding.

And while no Maine political reporter who wants continued access to the junior senator is likely to undercut the "Collins-as-moderate-nonideological-pragmatist" narrative too often, Metzler seems to go out of her way to reinforce it. Even when the facts cut against it.

A few observations:

--On the stimulus, Metzler leads off by noting Collins' opposition to new grass for the national mall, implying that a lot of projects she objected to were dubious if not downright frivolous. In truth, the cuts she insisted on were deep and substantive.

--The piece implies that Collins replaced these supposedly frivolous stimulus initiatives with "traditional infrastructure" projects. In reality, Collins voted against $25 billion in highway, mass transit, water and sewer spending. The net effect of her involvement in stimulus debate was massive cuts to (for example) special education funding, LIHEAP and home weatherization programs. Any of which would have been roughly as stimulative as infrastructure spending.

--In Metzler's piece, we learn that Collins was denied votes on several amendments during the health care debate. But we are never told that this happened after the junior senator had spent months working to delay, dilute and kill the bill. Or that the amendments were effectively poison pills since Collins was still committed to voting against the bill even if they passed.

--Metzler never spells out that Collins voted to block even a vote on the health care bill, after characterizing health care as a key issue during her 2008 campaign and calling candidate Obama's plan "pretty good" and one she was open to supporting.

This enormous flip-flop on the biggest policy issue in years has (as far as I know) literally never been mentioned in the Maine media. The silence on the subject from the Maine press is, to put it plainly, scandalous.

--Metzler finds plenty of space to trumpet the junior senator's bipartisan moderate centrist credentials. But there isn't even a passing mention of her disingenuous ultra-partisan ravings in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing.

It wasn't a piece of legislation, but it was an important national story and Collins was at the center of it. It deserved to be included in any survey of her activity since 2008.

We've invited Metzler to share her comments about our thoughts. If she takes up the offer, we'll let you know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Winger Sentenced After Collins Threat

Am I wrong, or is this the first we've heard of this?


An Illinois man was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to five months in prison followed by five months of community confinement for threatening to shoot U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and assault a staffer in her Augusta office during a phone call on Feb. 10, 2009.

John P. O'Neill, 47, of Arlington Heights, Ill., also was sentenced to three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of making threatening interstate communications.


The unemployed ironworker, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, called Collins' Augusta office 17 times between Feb. 9 and Feb. 12, 2009, according to court documents. At first, O'Neill urged the senator to vote against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion stimulus package.

When he learned that Collins supported the bill, O'Neill made the phone call that led to the criminal charge...

O'Neill told the staffer, who is identified in court documents by the initials C.M., that Collins had sold out her country and was a disgrace to the Republican Party. He then said that he was going to "put a bullet in her head" and that he was going to "come to Maine and kick [C.M.'s] teeth in," according to court documents.

The threats were reported immediately to the Threat Assessment Section of the U.S. Capitol Police, which notified the FBI, according to court documents. Agents in Illinois visited O'Neill at his home in a Chicago suburb the same day he made the threats.


After O'Neill serves five months in a federal prison, he will be confined to a community treatment center or group home where he can continue treatment for his mental health and substance abuse problems, Woodcock said.