Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Side of Collins

Michael Grunwald's THE NEW NEW DEAL--a behind-the-scenes look at the 2009 stimulus bill--doesn't add much of substance to the public record of Sen. Collins's often deleterious role in the debate, her frequently contradictory claims about her goals for the bill or the vacuousness at the heart of her approach to the legislation.

But it does provide us with two notable anecdotes that reveal a side of Collins I don't believe the public has seen before. I certainly haven't.


The Recovery Act was a complex bill, and the negotiations to get it through the Senate were complex, too...But as they started cutting a deal in [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid's office that Friday, February 6, the bottom line was pretty simple. The Democrats wanted a stimulus, and they couldn't get one without Specter, Collins and Snowe.

Lieberman was in the room to support Collins--she joked that she needed a Jewish lawyer...

[President Obama's Chief of Staff] Rahm [Emanuel] did try to steer $10 billion back into school construction, but the moderates said no. [Office of Management and Budget Director Peter] Orszag proposed limiting the money to existing schools. Still no. Could states at least use their general education aid to fix schools? That was at least something to talk about...During one technical dispute over how some language would affect Maine's school construction agency, Orszag begged Collins to give ground.

"Please," he said. "Do this for me."

Collins just laughed.

"That's funny," she said. "You still want people to like you."

I'm puzzled by Collins's decision to arrive at negotiations with Lieberman in tow. Is that standard practice?

That said, I'm not suggesting either anecdote reveals anything unseemly. And while Collins's choice of words in reply to Orszag seems more jaded than one might have expected, his comment seems to merit the kind of brush-off she gave him.

Still, the dry, sardonic and politically incorrect sense of humor in evidence here suggests that the portrait of Collins that emerges from public appearances, fawning Maine press coverage and national television interviews is probably incomplete.

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