Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Guess That's A "No"

Wondering if the junior senator will be at President Obama's health care event tomorrow?

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is visiting Qatar and western Europe this week.

The Maine Republican's office says Collins is part of a congressional delegation that planned visits to the U.S. Central Command regional headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

"That's Just Not True, Susan"

If there's one sentence I'd like to hear from President Obama tomorrow, that would be it.

Don't get me wrong: I don't expect the President to launch a blistering attack on Sen. Collins in her own state. That would be undignified, bad politics and it's just not the guy's style.

Further, I understand that since he's hoping for support from Sens. Snowe and Collins on climate legislation and other proposals, he's likely to include some praise for them in his remarks. And that's totally understandable.

But it would be a shame--and a mistake--for the President to allow his speech to feed the idea that Maine's senators are transcendent, non-ideological figures. In fact, he has a unique opportunity to push back against that ridiculous, pervasive myth.

To put it plainly: With extremely rare exceptions, the Maine media simply don't allow criticism of the state's senators to surface anywhere outside letters pages. The notion that either woman might be fallible--let alone motivated by ideology--just doesn't get aired.

So imagine if, in a speech the local media can't help but cover, President Obama said the following:

I applaud Senator Collins for her vote on the stimulus bill. And I thank her for her engagement and hard work on the issue of climate change.

But I've been deeply disappointed with not just her vote on health care reform, but her rhetoric before and after that vote.

During the debate, Senator Collins repeatedly complained about the cost of reform to the federal government, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office had long maintained that the proposal under discussion would actually reduce the deficit.

And now that the law has passed, Senator Collins still isn't being candid with Mainers. Just last week she issued a confusing press release suggesting, or so it seems, that 97% of Maine employers will now be faced with a new, unaffordable requirement to provide health insurance to their workers. But that's just not true, Susan.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of Maine's large employers, the ones who do face a new requirement under the law, already offer health insurance to their employees.

Now, Senator Collins has been willing to cross the aisle more often than many of her Republican colleagues. But I'm afraid that what we have here is partisan jockeying interfering with an objective examination of the facts. And that's a real shame.
It wouldn't change anything over night. But it would plant a seed in the minds of a lot of politically independent and politically incurious Mainers.

And once you plant the seed, who knows where that might lead?

Onward Christian Soldiers

Strangely, I can't seem to find any public statement from Sen. Collins advocating military trials for these terrorists, her support for the military detention of US citizens notwithstanding.

It's almost as if she's got a blind spot in this particular instance.


Will Sen. Collins attend President Obama's health care event in Portland tomorrow?

Seems unlikely to me. On the other hand, it's sort of a natural question for someone in the Maine press corps to ask.

And yet, unless I'm missing something, no one has asked it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Collins Question, Nominee Withdraws


President Obama’s choice to lead the agency that guards United States airports abruptly withdrew his nomination on Friday night amid questions about his work as a defense contractor, the second time the White House has lost a nominee for the critical security post.
The questions, as we mentioned, seemed entirely legitimate and appropriate. And they seemed to be coming, mostly, from the junior senator.

The Fire Next Time

The undead corpse of PPH seems deeply puzzled by the planned Obama visit. And quote machine Mark Brewer is equally flummoxed. (Why is he considered an authority on these things, again?)

But it's actually pretty simple: Both President Obama and health care reform are popular in Maine. At the same time, the state's two Republican senators not only voted against reform but behaved abominably throughout the process--moving the goalposts, working for momentum-sapping delays and spewing misinformation.

So President Obama is coming to Maine, at least in part, to demonstrate that disingenuousness and bad faith have a price. (Though you can be sure he won't put it quite that way.)

He's not looking to wound Sen. Snowe or Sen. Collins, per se. But he is making it clear that intransigence and obstruction aren't freebies. There's the possibility of a political cost.

And whether they admit it or not, that's a message both pols will probably keep in mind in the future.

Give It Up, Already

The health care debate is finally at an end. But Sen. Collins is still trying to confuse Mainers.

She's still working to trick her constituents into thinking the bill--I mean the law--does things it does not do.


Will the President draw attention to her misinformation campaign on Thursday?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama To Maine to Talk HCR

So says The New York Times:

The White House announced that President Obama would step up his defense of the law with a trip next week to Maine.

Representative Chellie Pingree, Democrat of Maine, strongly supported the legislation, as did many of her constituents. But aides to Ms. Pingree predicted that the president would be greeted by some protesters. The senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both Republicans, voted against the legislation, and Ms. Snowe delivered a blistering critique of it on the Senate floor this week.
Sounds delicious. But one wonders why he didn't make this trip months ago.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Longer An Emergency


Remember Jim Bunning's one-man government shut down earlier this month? Remember how everyone--even Republicans--condemned it?

Well, it seems the GOP has had a change of heart...

Raju reports that "several other GOP senators" said they would jump on board with Coburn blockade if the Democrats try to extend benefits without using the pay-go rules to fund them again. Among the supporters, apparently, is Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who attempted to stop Bunning the last time.

"The last time was an emergency situation--but we can't keep doing one-month extensions that aren't paid for," Collins told Politico.
UPDATE: Sorry, I forgot the kicker. Collins voted against PAYGO in January.

Hypocrisy We Can Believe In

By every indication, Sen. Collins is going to continue to hold Democratic and Republican administrations to different standards--on a whole range of issues.

That said, she seems to have a pretty good point here. The fact that she's been indifferent, historically, to GOP-related contracting abuses and Geneva Convention violations doesn't mean she's wrong this time around.

UPDATE: From WaPo:

Collins also revealed on Wednesday that some of Harding's employees worked at a prison where detainee abuse occurred in 2003, contradicting earlier White House statements that Harding's staffers were assigned to another location.
This looks worse and worse for the White House.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Essence of Partisanship

It boils down to having two sets of standards--one for your team and another for the other guys.

And whether the subject is arresting terrorists, budget balancing or Senate procedure, over the last year-and-a-half, Sen. Collins has been a true poster child for this kind of crooked reasoning.

Reconcile This

Sen. Collins now:

Sen. Susan Collins (R., Me.) tells NRO that she sees Democrats’ use of the procedure as an "abuse" that will have a "detrimental impact" on the Senate.
Sen. Collins then:


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Was The Hurry?

After a debate that stretched for more than a year, the most thorough discussion of the Maine-specific impact of health care reform (that I've seen, anyway) arrives the day after the legislation passes.

Gotta love the Maine media.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pick Your Poison

A free Collins Watch subscription to the first reader who can find a quote from Sen. Collins complaining about the poisonous atmosphere created by President Bush in 2003 when he (in the parlance of our times) rammed through his tax cut package via reconciliation.

In case anyone has forgotten, the vote on that deficit-balloning measure was 50-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney breaking the tie so that the rich could get richer.

Needless to say, the junior senator voted in favor of the measure.

Poisoning the Atmosphere

The Hill, today:

One outcome appears certain already: The final vote [on health care reform] won't be bipartisan. Moderate [sic] GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, well-known in the Senate for working across the aisle with Democrats, said it will be a party-line vote that "poisons the atmosphere."
Sen. Susan Collins, in February:
This administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them.

Thought of the Day

If Sen. Collins really was the legislator she pretended to be during the 2008 campaign, health care reform would have passed months ago.

(Special credit goes to the lazy, sloppy, starstruck Maine media for living inside the junior senator's alternate reality.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

The Postal Service needs to focus first on expanding customer services and developing new revenue streams rather than cutting services in order to reduce its red ink.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Good Question

As we all know, Sen. Collins professes to want the health care discussion to focus more on lowering costs. Here's the President:

Monday, March 8, 2010

LCV Still Swooning For Collins

Remember when the national arm of the League of Conservation Voters shelved its own standards and, in a move that betrayed its membership, endorsed Sen. Collins?

Even though she had a far weaker record on environmental issues than her opponent? Even though local Maine LCV officials were lining up against her? And even though the organization was unable to articulate why its own environmental scorecard--"a nationally accepted yardstick"--should be ignored in her Senate race?

Good times.

Fifteen months later, LCV is out with its first new scorecard since the election. And in a Senate where 51 members scored a 100 rating, the junior senator clocks in with a disappointing 64.

So much for rewarding bad behavior.

But does LCV at least regret its decision, in light of a year's worth of new information? Is the organization ready to repent and change its ways?

Of course not.

Rather, LCV Deputy Legislative Director Sara Chieffo told us in a phone interview that she remains, "comfortable" with the Collins endorsement. She touted the junior senator's environmental record as compared to other Republicans. (Talk about grading on a curve!) And she said she was "encouraged" by Collins' "engagement" on environmental issues.

One of the things going on here, of course, is that LCV--a nominally "non-partisan" organization--practices affirmative action for Republicans. That makes it easier to solicit donations from independents and green conservatives, and (ironically) to frame the organization as indifferent to partisan politics.

But another thing that's at work here (and let's hope it's the main thing) is that LCV is trying to make nice to Collins in advance of the climate change legislation debate that's coming later this year. Or in 2011. Or sometime.

The background: Collins has put forward a "cap and dividend" proposal that some people of good will think isn't terrible on substance. So the hope is that she will negotiate in good faith to amend the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham proposal, perhaps incorporating some of her ideas. And that she'll then vote for cloture and final passage.

Of course, the question with Collins is whether and to what degree she's being disingenuous--whether she might just be looking to delay, dilute and/or kill progressive legislation without appearing to do so. Mainers, after all, have been taught for years by the local media to listen to her rhetoric and ignore her actions.

On the climate issue, there's already some reason to suspect Collins of bad faith: In 2008, just months before she faced Maine voters, she supported cloture to advance the Lieberman-McCain cap and trade bill, which had no real chance of passing. But after the election, Collins seemed to change her tune, saying, "It's a complicated issue to tackle at a time when the economy is weak."

In any event, we'll be watching. And we'll be among the first to congratulate LCV if their multi-year, standards-shredding effort to cultivate Collins pays off with a big environmental victory.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quote of the Day


All members of Congress should be concerned that the body routinely passes measures that aren't paid for. But, it seems odd to hold up a $10 billion bill that would help working-class families and the elderly, but not take a similar stand against measures that have added trillions of dollars to the deficit. Sen. Bunning voted for the tax cuts proposed by President George W. Bush and for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bunning isn't the only one.

More Goodies

If I'm reading this right, Sen. Collins was the only Republican to vote to keep a $100+ billion unemployment assistance-themed bill on track yesterday.

I'm all for it. But it does raise the question: Since the junior senator votes for all the spending and all the tax cuts, wouldn't it make sense for someone to ask her how she proposes to balance the budget?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thought of the Day

Sen. Collins will gladly cross the aisle to hand out goodies. But she consistently rails against unpleasant things like service cuts and allowing tax cuts to expire.

She likes to have it both ways. And that's why they call her a moderate.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

All Over The Place

Yesterday, Sen. Collins was blaming Democrats for Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-KY) crusade against unemployment benefits, health benefits and highway programs.

Today she went to the floor to make it clear that she disapproves of his filibuster.

Tomorrow, who knows.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Collins: Blame Dems For Bunning (R-KY)

She sure is a loyal soldier:

Hundreds of jobless Mainers woke up today with the looming threat of losing their unemployment benefits. Benefits expired this weekend, and a measure in Congress to extend them for another month is being held up by one senator, Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican.


But Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, says both parties share the blame for the gridlock. "Had Sen. Reid included it in the bill that we passed earlier this week, we would not be in this situation," she told Capitol News Service.
And if Reid had folded health care reform into the same bill, there would be no uninsured people left in the country.

Shame on Harry Reid!

Hint: War Is Hell

Obviously, that's not the whole story. But sending soldiers off to fight multiple tours in a grueling, misconceived and abysmally planned war--without sufficient resources--can't help.