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.