Friday, December 13, 2013

Quote of the Day

Al Diamon:

[Sen. Susan] Collins' perceived independence is largely a matter of public relations. But it's excellent public relations that allows her to say one thing and vote in the opposite direction, to speak disparagingly of special interests while her husband runs a lobbying firm, to leverage contrasting procedural votes to allow her to claim to have backed whatever side is most politically advantageous at the moment.

Somebody in the GOP who's not suffering from congenital wacko syndrome should be taking Collins to task for her ambiguous record and adroit maneuvering around any position that might conflict with her moderate image.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Quote of the Day

Former Sen. Olympia Snowe speculating about what former Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith would think of the modern GOP:

"Oh my, gosh! She’d be appalled...I don't think she could conceive of how it's all evolved today. Even in my own experience, it's hard to comprehend."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quote of the Day

Markos Moulitsas:

If Wall Street was really smart, they'd start getting the less crazy Republicans, like Mark Kirk and Susan Collins, to switch parties, reinforcing the ranks of Wall Street Dems in Congress and giving the corporatists a functional governing majority. And if that happened, it would be our turn for a good ol' civil war, just like the one the GOP is currently waging.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Collins Open To Social Security Cuts

There's no other way to read this:

Q: Some are concerned that Social Security will be targeted in the next round of budget talks. There are concerns that a change to the so-called chained CPI will erode benefits.

A: Well, I think we have to be very careful as we take a look at the Social Security and Medicare programs. If we change the consumer price index, we could not do so without increasing the minimum benefit for Social Security.

Collins doesn't reject switching Social Security to a chained CPI model, which would slash benefits. She's just saying that the switch should be coupled with an increase to the minimum amount given out by the program.

That might help make up some of the difference for some of the three Maine seniors out of every five who count on Social Security for more than half their income.

But in a state where one in five residents receives Social Security and where the median elderly househould relies on Social Security for 74% (!) of its income, Collins's minor caveat shouldn't provide much solace.

Monday, December 2, 2013

And Then There Were Two?


Republican Sen. Susan Collins won't be unopposed on the primary ballot.

The head of a group that opposed same-sex marriage in Maine says he'll offer a conservative voice in the GOP primary. Erick Bennett, director of the Maine Equal Rights Center, said he’s filing his paperwork Monday.

Predictably, there's already been more focus on Bennett's quirks--particularly from Maine journalists--than there's been on his policy positions, his standing with Maine Republican voters or his high profile activism.

Which is not to say reporters are wrong to paint Bennett as something other than a mainstream figure.

But of course the GOP isn't a mainstream party. And its primary electorate is even further to the right than its leadership.

So no one really knows for sure how this will turn out.

Granted: Collins may beat Bennett in a rout. She certainly ought to given the size of her war chest, the disparity in campaign experience and the amount of time she's had to prepare for exactly this challenge.

But if she wipes the floor with him, it will likely be because she ran a smart campaign--painting herself as inevitable, discrediting Bennett via whispers, playing the Maine media like a fiddle--rather than because she's closer to Republican primary voters on the issues than he is.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins, March 1997:

A classic approach incumbents use to scare off future opponents is to raise a lot of money early.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quote of the Day


The worst (well, a bad bit anyway) part of American politics is the fetishization of bipartisanship. Outside of naming post offices or declaring that puppies are cute, bipartisanship is bad. Politics is a competition. Politicians and political parties offer competing ideas and visions to the public, and this allows voters to make a semi-informed choice about who to vote for. Bipartisanship is just another way of saying "let elites sort this stuff behind closed doors, don't you worry your pretty little heads about these things." Also, too, the Chamber of Commerce rocks!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

August and November


"I think that there are too many filibusters in the Senate," [Sen. Susan] Collins said. "We need to move forward on bills and on nominations and let the Senate work its will." (Emphasis added.)


Sen. King "comfortable" with "reasonable" change to filibuster while Sen. Collins calls it "a terrible mistake."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In Plain Sight

It's a shame and a disaster that the Maine press seems constitutionally incapable of fulfilling its fourth estate obligations when it comes to Sen. Susan Collins--and is instead bent on assuming a stenographic, deferential posture toward her at almost every turn.

But it isn't just embarrassing and corrosive. It also represents a squandered journalistic opportunity of the first order. Because Maine's senior senator has been up to some pretty interesting--and frankly rather skeevy--things in recent years. And she hasn't been terribly worried about hiding her tracks.

One area where she's seemed emboldened lately--and not in a good way--is fundraising:

Lobbyists for Verizon Communications, which is refusing comment on a now-confirmed report that the telecommunications giant turned millions of its customers' records over to the National Security Agency, have thrown fundraisers for members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, records compiled by the Sunlight Foundation show.

According to the Political Party Time database, which tracks candidate fundraising events, lobbyists for Verizon Communications have hosted at least five fundraising events for Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Louis Dupart, of the lobbying firm The Normandy Group, hosted at least three events, two for Mikulski and one for Collins, while Wayne Berman hosted two more for Collins, including a birthday reception in 2010. Both senators voted in 2008 in favor of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which shielded telecom companies, including Verizon, from lawsuits related to an earlier wiretapping controversy.

That lobbyist-drenched birthday party was held at the Fed Ex Townhouse. And if that strikes you as an odd name for a Capitol Hill're onto something:

In the past decade, 18 lobbying firms, corporations and labor unions have purchased town houses or leased office space near the Capitol, joining more than a dozen others that had operated there for years, according to real estate records.

Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers--the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported.


Under federal election rules, groups can provide lawmakers free food, drink and a fundraising venue if they disclose that spending as contributions, usually through their political action committees. Those count against the limits of $10,000 per two-year election cycle for PACs and $4,600 for individuals.

Or they can charge the lawmaker, in which case the expense should show up in election records if it exceeds $200.

In theory, this should mean nearly all events are disclosed, allowing the public to learn which special interests have hosted fundraisers for which legislators. In practice, a list of exemptions prevents that.

The FEC allows lobbyists to give their space to federal candidates, or charge a nominal fee, if they also make it available at little or no cost to charities and civic groups.

FedEx provides its town house free to members of Congress and charities, spokesman Maury Lane said, so there is no public record of the fundraisers. Lane said he didn't know how many events were held.

Offering pay-to-play access to DC lobbyists? Check. Corporate-funded parties that stretch campaign finance rules beyond recognition? Check.

Taking big dollars from folks trying to influence legislation? Check check check.

And in truth, there's plenty more where that came from. But to see it you have to be willing to quit looking the other way.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quote of the Day

Andrew Sullivan on marriage equality:

At some point, even the most cynical of politicians has to understand that this issue is not abstract. It affects your own sons and daughters, brothers and sisters...

What you're seeing here is the Republican elite's hypocrisy finally being called out--in the most public way possible...The ability to pretend that you can do one thing in public and another in private is becoming more attenuated by the day.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Collecting It All

Sen. Susan Collins has been on the record as an enthusiastic supporter of the NSA's bulk data collection program for some time. But Intelligence Committee records indicate that she's now backed up her rhetoric with votes:

While the committee billed the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Improvements Act of 2013 as a means to increase "privacy protections and public transparency of the National Security Agency call-records program," the 15-member panel narrowly defeated a series of amendments senators offered proposing stricter reforms.

One of the reforms--a three-year cap on the retention of telephone records in the main database--went down, 7-8, even though it had the support of Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) The amendment failed in a party line vote where Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, joined the GOP to kill the amendment. (Emphasis added.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baseline: Collins +39%

Public Policy Polling:

Susan Collins has a 14 point lead over Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows...with Democrats. Overall Collins leads 59-20, including a 38 point advantage with independents. Collins continues to be among the 5 most popular Senators in the country with a 61% approval rating to only 27% of voters who disapprove of her.
No doubt about it, Shenna Bellows has a task of Wellstonian proportions ahead of her.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Team Spirit

USA Today:

Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C. to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency to oversee mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at a critical time for the industry.

Democrats fell three votes shy of the 60 required to advance his nomination.

President Obama nominated the North Carolina Democrat in May to replace acting FHFA director Edward DeMarco. Thursday's filibuster marked the first time since the Civil War that a sitting member of Congress was denied a presidential nomination by the Senate.

Senate roll call vote here.

Quote of the Day

Daniel Larison:

It's not true that the conduct of foreign policy should be guided by the principle of "reward your friends and punish your enemies." The priority should always be to secure the country's just interests first, and that may sometimes require reaching agreements with antagonistic states and being at odds with allies and clients on certain issues. It is tempting but misguided to think of international relationships in terms of friendship. States can have productive and cooperative relations, and they can even be allies for many decades, but they aren’t ever really "friends."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Friends and Enemies

After vigorously defending bulk snooping on the private communications of innocent Americans--and other controversial National Security Agency practices detailed in the documents leaked by Edward Snowden--Sen. Susan Collins has apparently drawn the line at spying on leaders of allied foreign governments:

"The reports are very disturbing. Friends don't spy on friends," Collins said before entering a closed Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill. "I think that is totally inappropriate. There's absolutely no justification for our country to be collecting intelligence information on the leaders of some of our closest allies."
How does Collins reconcile her support for the indiscriminate tracking of her fellow citizens with outrage about snooping on powerful foreign officials?

Does Collins understand how tone deaf this seems?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ledger Balancing

Augusta resident Carol Linker in a Portland Press Herald "Another View" column, October 24, 2013:

As a registered Democrat and usual supporter of Bill Nemitz's perspective, it seems to me that he was way off base in his column titled "LePage, Collins' behavior beyond baffling" (Oct. 11).


There is a reason Sen. Collins wins elections in such a convincing manner: She does what is right, despite unwarranted attacks from the fringe extremes of present-day politics!

Maine can be proud of our senator.

Carol William Linker is a financial professional currently employed by LPl Financial LLC in Augusta, Maine with over 26 years of experience. Carol is registered as a Broker-Dealer Agent and is able to buy/sell securities.

"Oil Spill May Be a Lucky Break For Stock Brokers", Forbes, June 17, 2010:

As the financial regulatory reform bill enters its home stretch in conference committee, I can't help but wonder if the top executives at firms like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and even LPL Financial are secretly relieved that we have a horrific undersea oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico?


Behind the scenes product peddling financial firms with large salesforces have been lobbying hard to make sure that the fiduciary rule, which would require your stock broker to act [in] your best interest and disclose conflicts, is either watered down or eliminated from the final legislation...Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins had mysteriously flip flopped on her commitment to keeping the fiduciary standard in the bill...

"Little Guy Still Ripe For Broker Abuse", Forbes, June 3, 2010:

It's no surprise then that [big brokerage and insurance firms] have hired lobbyists to fight the fiduciary standard provision...

Most surprising was the about face that Susan Collins, a Republican Senator from Maine, did recently when she amended her support for fiduciary standard...I have no idea what changed Collin's [sic] view on broker regulation, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with lobbyists...

Here is what Barbara Roper, director of Investor Protection for the Consumer Federation of America, had to say about Senator Collin’s [sic] retreat on the fiduciary issue: "The Amendment paints a target on the backs of senior Americans who are most likely to be targeted with abusive variable annuity sales practices."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Quote of the Day #2

Paul Krugman:

Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency.

Quote of the Day

New York Times:

A mature and responsible political party would do more than prevent a government default; it would offer serious solutions to the nation's most pressing problems instead of running from them.

And it is there that Republicans--whether adults or Tea Party members--continue to let the public down.

At a time when the economy is desperate for federal help and 11.3 million people are still unemployed, the party--and not just its far-right wing--is still pretending that cutting spending and lowering the deficit remain the country's most urgent priorities. Republicans won't acknowledge that tax increases, along with spending cuts they have forced on the country, have already driven the deficit down to 4 percent of the aggregate economy, from 10 percent in 2009.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quote of the Day

Bradygirl2 in a BDN website comment responding to a column from Sen. Susan Collins's spokesman that smeared--without rebutting--Chris Busby's recent critique of the senior senator:

"Chris Busby's recent rant, 'Susan Collins masquerades as moderate,' is so full of factual errors and hostility that it actually makes responding difficult."

Well, you could at least try.

Could you let us know which factual "errors" in this "rant" you find troublesome? The dismissive "tisk, tisk to anyone who does not see my boss as anything other than completely above the fray," tone of this message is typical for those who have been in power for too long. Sir, while Ms. Collins has been in Congress, it has morphed into the most partisan, dysfunctional iteration of itself we have seen in at least a century.

To claim that your boss is totally blameless in this transformation is either a sign of your disingenuousness, or her ineffectiveness.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Battle Is Joined

Shenna Bellows kicks off her campaign:

In her first appearance as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Shenna Bellows on Wednesday morning listed civil rights, campaign finance reform, the environment and the economy as issues she hopes to address if she gets elected to Congress...

With her background with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, where she served as executive director for eight years until last month, civil liberties are expected to figure prominently into Bellows’ campaign platform. On Wednesday, she said that passage in recent years of the Patriot Act, Real ID Act, the NSA electronic monitoring program, and the National Defense Authorization Act represent a "constitutional crisis" in Washington that have infringed on the rights of citizens.

"Politicians in Washington have trampled on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” Bellows told her supporters. "Those [acts] threaten our democracy and if elected I will work to repeal those pieces of legislation and improve on our privacy."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quote of the Day

Gov. Paul LePage:

Let me tell you about Susan [Collins] and Olympia [Snowe]. The only way you survive a long time in Maine politics is you sit the fence.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quote of the Day

Josh Barro on the GOP:

Roughly one-third of this caucus thinks hitting the debt ceiling and shutting down the government are great strategies to try to stop Obamacare. The other two-thirds of the party has realized all along that this strategy sucks, but they could not find any way to stop their party from implementing it — even though these "reasonable" Republicans outnumber the crazies.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hostage Taking

Quick reminder that you don't have to be a dirty hippie (or a Kenyan socialist) to think that the entire DC-based Republican party--not just its right flank--is engaged in extortion:

Sen. Angus King: "This is an attempt to rewrite a major piece of substantive law through holding the government hostage, which is a result that cannot be achieved through the normal democratic and constitutional processes. That's the core of this current situation. That's what's bothering me about it," Senator King said.

"I don't mind negotiating budgets. I do think we shouldn't use the threat of a government shutdown--or, now the reality of a government shutdown, to obtain legislative and policy benefits that we can't otherwise attain through the normal constitutional process."

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

The Democrats keep moving the goal posts.

Yes, it's the Democrats.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On The Other Hand

Where does Sen. Susan Collins stand on the government shut down and debt ceiling crisis? A guide for the perplexed:

Bangor Daily News, September 20:

"I think it is a huge mistake to link the defunding of Obamacare to a government shutdown," Collins said. "We have an obligation to govern in Washington, and it would create chaos if government were to shut down," she added, citing the government shutdowns of the mid-1990s...

"Shutting down does not get us any closer to a fiscal plan to deal with that debt."

Press Herald, September 22:

Friday's House vote to keep government offices open while defunding Obamacare was another move in a high-stakes political chess match that could end with a government shutdown...An email blast late Friday afternoon targeting Maine Sen. Susan Collins illustrates the pressure being applied on Senate Republicans by some conservative groups ahead of the vote.

WGME, September 27:

Maine's U.S. senators were split on a measure to keep government operating past Tuesday.

Republican Susan Collins opposed the measure which, if approved in the House, will avoid a threatened government shutdown.

The Hill, September 30:

"What is abundantly clear is that the American people do not want dysfunction in Washington to lead to another government shutdown," Collins said. "A shutdown will only further damage our struggling economy and reverse an already slow climb out of recession."

Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz, October 2:

Along with every other Republican senator, Collins voted against stripping the Obamacare provisions out of the bill.

Later Monday evening, with the government shutdown only hours away, the House sent the resolution back with a new set of Obamacare conditions attached.

Same result: Collins, who was already on record calling it flawed strategy that endangered the entire U.S. economy, fell in line and once again voted to keep those conditions intact.

Headline of Sen. Collins Youtube upload of her floor speech, October 5:

Senator Susan Collins: "It is time for this shutdown to end."

NPR, October 9:

I certainly don't want to see the United States default on its obligations and not pay its bills on time. On the other hand...

Mother Jones, October 9:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), generally viewed as a moderate, said the October 17 deadline was subject to change because the Treasury "plays games."

Press Herald headline, October 11:

Sen. Collins skeptical of debt-ceiling deadline

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nemitz Comes Alive

Before last week it'd been years since Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz had said much of anything about Sen. Susan Collins. But now he seems to be making up for lost time:

The point here is not the notorious thinness of the senator’s skin or her remarkable ability to appease the extreme elements of the Republican Party while clinging to her image as Maine’s matriarch of moderation.

Rather, it's Collins' startling inability (or refusal) to separate this week's top Republican talking point ("Deadline? What deadline?") from the inescapable truth about the world's already skittish financial markets: Fast-spreading fear, not the precise proximity of the lightning bolt, is what starts a stampede.


Collins, meanwhile, struggles to placate the right-wing extremists in the House of Representatives while presenting herself as the voice of compromise and reason--all as her campaign for a fourth term (remember she vowed she'd serve only two?) looms just around the corner.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Rough Plan

--Politico, October 9, 2013:

Sen. Susan circulating a rough plan to reopen the government, repeal the medical device tax and provide agencies with greater flexibility in implementing the sequester. (Emphasis added.)
--That's My Congress!, November 22, 2010:
Susan Collins isn't up for re-election again for another four years, but she's already swimming deep in lobbyist money. While most Americans will have to make do attending holiday parties with a few home-made cookies, Senator Collins is getting ready to party with some of Washington D.C.'s top lobbyists, who are providing her with big wads of cash as special gifts. It's going to be her birthday soon, after all.

Hosting the lobbyist party for Collins on December 7 is Senator Thad Cochran. He's joined by the following lobbyists who have given especially large amounts of money in order to gain the special attention of Senator Collins:


Michael Bopp, who was once once Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget, but now works as a lobbyist at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher for clients including General Electric, Goldman Sachs, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable.


Vicki Hart of Hart Health Strategies, who lobbies for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Chemed, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Johnson and Johnson, and the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, among others.


The list goes on. There are 22 lobbyists listed as hosts with special access to Susan Collins at her lobbyist birthday party. Other lobbyists and representatives of political action committees who aren’t listed at the level of hosts may also be in attendance. (Emphasis added.)

--Medtronic, Inc. PAC statement, January 1, 2013 - June 30, 2013:
Susan Collins ME [$]1,500 PACs, Senator Susan Collins 2009 - 2014:
Cardinal Health: $1,000
Top 40 Medical Device Companies, MDDI, December 14, 2012
1. Johnson & Johnson

2. General Electric Co.

3. Siemens AG

4. Medtronic Inc.

5. Baxter International Inc.

6. Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. KGAA

7. Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV

8. Covidien plc

9. Novartis AG

10. Cardinal Health Inc.

(Emphasis added.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Quote of the Day

Amy Fried:

Collins, who spoke out in May, recently voted against the continuing resolution that included Obamacare funding. Now she’s made a proposal on medical device taxes that would blow a $30 billion hole in the federal budget and is but another version of attempting to force concessions under threat. Her approach ultimately supports the broader Republican strategy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Early Bellows Reaction

I reached out to some Maine political players today to ask for reaction to Shenna Bellows's entry into the 2014 race. Responses have started to trickle in. I may update as I hear from others. In no particular order:

Mike Tipping, communications director of the Maine People's Alliance:

Shenna is smart, capable and knows what it means to be the underdog. I'm confident she's going to make the most of this campaign.

Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women's Lobby:

Shenna is a very knowledgeable, focused, articulate woman. Should she enter the race for U.S. Senate, Mainers can be assured of a campaign in which the issues get fully addressed. That's healthy for our democracy.

2012 U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Ian Dodge

I think it will make for an interesting match-up. It is possible, of course, to argue that progressive libertarian is a nonsense [phrase]. (Just like libertarian socialists cannot exist.) I am not sure her party will let her be more libertarian than social democrat (aka progressive). I suspect she will have a hard time attracting libertarians running as a Democrat considering the poor record the Democrats have of protecting our individual rights and liberties (esp. under Obama). Collins, of course, has a terrible record on that front as well. When it comes to liberty and freedom they are really the same. Needless to say I shall not be voting for either.

Looks Like She's In

Here's a Shenna Bellows for U.S. Senate website.

Bellows Is In?

Looks like Sen. Susan Collins has a Democratic challenger for 2014:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dodging and Weaving

Check it out: Pat Callaghan comes about as close to grilling Sen. Susan Collins as any Maine reporter has in recent months--or longer.

Faced with a serious question, the senior senator works to explain away the yawning gap between her votes and rhetoric on the government shutdown...without quite succeeding.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Actual Headline

Bangor Daily News:

Sen. Collins’ view on Obamacare funding, shutdown is probably the same as yours

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quote of the Day

Jonathan Chait (via Andrew Sullivan):

[T]he new stop-Obamacare plan now entails filibustering the defunders’ own bill. They can do this with just 41 votes in the Senate, if they can get them.

But consider how terrible this situation is for the Republicans. If they fail, it will be because a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to break the filibuster, betraying the defunders. This means the full force of the defund-Obamacare movement – which is itself very well funded by rabid grassroots conservatives eager to save the country from the final socialistic blow of Obamacare — will come down on the handful of Senate Republicans who hold its fate in their hands.

The old plan at least let angry conservatives blame Democrats for blocking their goal of defunding Obamacare. Now the defunders can turn their rage against fellow Republicans, creating a fratricidal, revolution-eats-its-own bloodletting.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tall Tales

MPBN buried the lede, but this is actually a pretty big deal:

In a weekly GOP address last month, Collins warned that the Affordable Care Act's definition of 30 hours would result in reduced employee hours and fewer jobs, and she cited the Bangor School Department as a prime example.

"A school system in my state of Maine is already preparing to track and cap the number of hours that substitute teachers can work to ensure that they don't work more than 29 hours a week," Collins said. "Fewer hours means less money in the teachers' paychecks, and more disruption for their students."

But the Bangor School Department's director of business services, Alan Kochis, says that in reality, not that many employees in the school ssytem [sic] would be affected.

"We have tutors and substitute teachers who fall into this class, and there aren't a lot now that are working over 30 hours," Kochis says, "and if they are, it's not on a permanent basis."

So Collins gives a national address outlining a supposed Obamacare flaw and trots out a Maine-based example to make her case.

But even that hand-picked example falls apart when you actually look into the details: Bangor just doesn't have a platoon of permanent 30-40 hour substitute teachers on the payroll. (And why would it?)

I actually have no idea whether it makes sense for Obamacare to draw the line at 30 hours or 40 hours for part time work. But Collins's willingness to cut factual corners makes you think twice about what her motives are in proposing a "fix."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Blinkers On

Sen. Collins should be praised for her newfound willingness to buck the GOP consensus. But this seems weird and pernicious:

Collins, who wrote the transportation bill with subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said she had gotten commitments from several Republicans that they would vote for cloture. But when it became obvious the bill would not meet the 60-vote threshold, she told them they should vote no.

The idea seems to be that like-minded "moderate" GOP colleagues should save their GOP-snubbing defections for a bill that actually has a chance of passing.

But that calculation depends on assuming each senator has a finite supply of party-challenging votes at her disposal, to be carefully parceled out--and that it's unrealistic to ask Senate colleagues simply to vote the merits.

Isn't that exactly the blinkered, partisan mindset that Collins is supposed to have been spending the last 17 (!) years working to defeat?

Collins Drifts?

It's too early to tell whether recent actions portend a durable shift in what we can expect from Sen. Susan Collins. But for the first time in our memories, Maine's senior senator is taking concrete, non-trivial steps to oppose the lunatic GOP beltway consensus.


After about 30 minutes of heated discussion, Collins broke the logjam by slipping into the middle of the group, putting her arm around Murkowski and whisking her off the floor for relief and private conversation.

About 15 minutes later, Murkowski returned to the floor and told the clerk she would change her vote.

"Lisa's just a friend of mine," Collins told reporters. "I thought we'd have just a nice little chat about what we had to eat last night for dinner."

More seriously, Collins noted, "I was concerned that she was being pummeled by both sides, and thought she might need a little break."

Collins, a rare GOP moderate, said that while she has concerns about Jones, she believes "the way to express those concerns is to vote no on (the actual) nomination rather than voting no" on a procedural matter.

"I think that there are too many filibusters in the Senate," Collins said. "We need to move forward on bills and on nominations and let the Senate work its will."

There was also this:
Six Republican Senators voted for the [transportation and housing] bill in committee, but conservatives--and McConnell--continue to oppose the bill because its spending levels are higher than those on the House version of the bill. Susan Collins continues to advocate strenuously on its behalf, challenging Tea Party claims about its spending levels, and insisting that Republicans should pass the bill to allow the two chambers to proceed into conference negotiations over the bill.
It will be interesting to see if this trend persists--and if so, whether Collins pays a price either at home with Maine Republicans or within the beltway GOP.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quote of the Month

Sen. Susan Collins on Republican resistance to the nomination of Byron Todd Jones to be Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF):

I believe the way to express those concerns is to vote no on his nominations rather than voting no on cloture. I think that there are too many filibusters in the Senate, and that we need to move forward on bills and on nominations and let the Senate work its will.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quote of the Day


Trying to determine how individual committee members feel about Syria policy can be frustrating. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mark Warner, D-Va., refused to state a clear opinion, citing classification.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Collins Hearts Surveillance

Sen. Collins comes out in favor of the NSA's recently-revealed domestic phone data collection program, a program she concedes was completely unknown to her just days ago, despite the fact that she was ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee until January--and has been a member of the Intelligence Committee since then:

She said the information was tightly held within the NSA, and only a few security analysts had access to the data.

Collins said she doesn't see such programs as inconsistent with people's rights.

"We should not assume a trade-off between liberty and security," she said. "Security ensures our freedom."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flippin and Floppin

Portland Press Herald, March 11, 2013

Maine Sen. Susan Collins had a different rationale for her vote [to filibuster the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit]...

"My vote solely reflects my determination that this seat does not need to be filled by anyone," said Collins, a Republican. If Halligan were to be nominated for a different vacancy, "I would likely vote to confirm her."

New York Times, May 23, 2013
The Senate voted 97 to 0 to confirm Mr. Obama's nominee for a long-vacant seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
If the seat doesn't need to be filled...why vote to fill it?

(The roll call hasn't made it onto the Senate's website yet. But one thing we know about the senior senator is that she doesn't like to miss votes.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quote of the Day

Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI):

"I think that in these states you have to worry about a primary," he said. "That's just a reality. You saw [Sen.] Bob Bennett in Utah lose a primary. [Sen.] Richard Lugar [in Indiana] lose a primary. [Congressman] Mike Castle in Delaware lost a [Senate] primary. That's what you worry about as a Republican. They're going to come at you from the far right. I’m sure that’s what Susan Collins is worried about [on gay marriage].

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Revisiting History

Sen. Susan Collins, in her commencement address to USM students yesterday:

Let me give you an example from my own life. In 1994, I won an eight-way primary but lost a grueling general election to be Maine's Governor. I was unemployed, uninsured, flat broke, and uncertain how I was going to pay my mortgage.
Portland Press Herald, July 28, 2003:
After Collins lost the 1994 gubernatorial race to Angus King, [Bushmaster Firearms owner Richard] Dyke played a big role in finding her next job. Dyke donated $265,000 to his alma mater, Husson College, to establish a center for small business, which hired Collins.

"I told Susan, 'They are looking for an executive director, and that might be a good fit for you until you decide to run again,'" Dyke said.

The arrangement was no secret, says Collins press secretary Megan Sowards. "It is called the 'Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business,' and she was the inaugural director," Sowards said.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Quote of the Day

Paul Krugman:

So they just convincingly voted for Mark Sanford, a man who cheated on his wife, tried to cover his actions with an absurd story about hiking the Appalachian Trail, and trespassed on his ex-wife's property, over an exemplary Democratic candidate. And you know what? Given their preferences, this was the right thing to do.

Look, we have an intensely polarized political system, and in Congress, at least, party affiliation is basically all that matters. When Massachusetts voters chose Scott Brown because he seemed like a nice guy, they were being idiots; his character (which I suspect they misjudged, but never mind) didn't matter, while the loss of that 60th seat in the Senate almost killed health reform.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Of Two Minds

New York Times, January 20, 2013:

"I'm going to support the limitation on the size of the clips," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.
Portland Press Herald, April 17, 2013:
King voted to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines while Collins opposed the measure.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quote of the Day

Dennis Bailey:

She was “furious” that the article portrayed her as an “insensitive demon” (her words). So she did the political equivalent of drunk dialing an old flame after a nasty break up: she called Politico reporter Mike Allen on his cell phone and let him have it. Both barrels.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Courting the 10%

In what looks like a hastily-mounted effort to head off controversy over strange, tone-deaf remarks that came across as a complaint about how the Newtown families forced her to miss the first course at a White House dinner, Sen. Susan Collins backed the bipartisan compromise to expand background checks on gun purchases on Saturday.

Welcome news, and kudos to Collins for doing the sensible thing--even if the decision seemed an attempt to change the subject.

But one piece of her explanation deserves special attention:

Collins described the Manchin-Toomey effort as "a responsible break through from two people who have far better NRA rankings than I have." Both Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, hold "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association. Collins added she knows her yes vote and support is "not a popular thing in my state." (Emphasis mine.)
This is a rather remarkable statement given that support for universal background checks in Maine, far from being unpopular, clocks in at about 90%.

Is Collins simply uninformed? Or is she just conflating the views of Mainers generally with the very narrow slice of the population that makes up the Republican primary electorate?

It's impossible to know. But in either case it's clear that Collins's policy vision is being cramped by a fixation with how proposals play with a very small minority of the population.

Of course, that's a risk Mainers accepted when they elected Collins as senator.

But for anyone uncomfortable withe the idea of the John Birch Society and their fringe brethren having a veto on national public policy, it's an unfortunate reality.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

"The Newtown families were VERY late for their meeting with me. I felt a moral obligation to talk with them. I kept the president of the United States waiting. I mean, how rude is that of me? But I explained to him later that the reason I was 45 minutes late for his dinner was the Newtown families were late--very late--getting to my office, and I just could not leave without talking to them. And he was very gracious about it. He said, ‘Right call. I understand.’"

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Does This Paragraph Mean?

From a Collins press release:

One issue Senator Collins has raised it [sic] that the Administration's complex legal brief filed earlier this year calls for the invalidation of California's ban on same-sex marriages. It would have implications for several other states, but the brief curiously does not challenge the prohibition on same-sex marriages in some 30 states that do not recognize domestic partnerships.
Set aside the obvious distinction between supporting same-sex marriage and believing that banning such marriages is unconstitutional.

The real question is: What exactly is Collins driving at here? Is the subtext supposed to be that President Obama is "soft" on gay marriage, too?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Treading Lightly

New York Times:

Senate Republicans are seeking on Friday to erect potential new obstacles to financial rule-writing at agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation...

The Republican author of one financial amendment--Senator Susan Collins of Maine--argues that new financial rules should tread lightly on the fragile economy...

But consumer advocates predict a fallout for regulators, who are putting the finishing touches on dozens of new rules to rein in the derivatives market and proprietary trading...

"The costs of the financial crisis and benefits of avoiding the next one are crystal clear," said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, a nonprofit government watchdog group. "Having financial regulators jump through more hoops will only further delay the process of making Wall Street accountable to the American public."

I can't believe we're still having this conversation.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

Judicial workload expert Sen. Susan Collins, defending her filibuster of well-qualified judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan, who'd been tapped by President Obama to fill one of the four vacant seats on the 11-seat U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

"My vote solely reflects my determination that this seat does not need to be filled by anyone."

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Sen. Susan Collins on WGAN, Feb. 13, 2013:

An example would be [President Obama's] call for universal pre-Kindergarten for everybody. Great idea...but how is he going to pay for it?
New York Times, February 14, 2013:
In a report released last week, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning research organization, estimated that providing preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds would cost about $98.4 billion in federal spending over 10 years.
Bangor Daily News, Jan. 8, 2012:
The war in Iraq is officially over. The costs will go on...

Direct federal spending on the war through 2012 will reach $823 billion, surpassing the $738 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars the U.S. spent on the Vietnam War, the Congressional Research Service estimated in a March 29 report. Only World War II had a higher direct cost, $4.1 trillion, in current dollars.

Not counted in that is the interest of more than $200 billion the federal government has already had to pay on the resulting debt, said Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer in public finance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Bilmes also estimates the price over the next 40 years of health care and disability compensation for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts will be almost $1 trillion.

Portland Press Herald, Jan. 4, 2008
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine sharpened the distinction with her opponent in this year's election, Rep. Tom Allen, noting on Thursday that she remains opposed to any deadlines for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Susan Collins and Torture

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 6, 2013:

Ms. Collins considers the use of harsh interrogation methods unacceptable.
New York Times, Jan. 13, 2005:
At the urging of the White House, Congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure last month that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers...

The Senate had approved the new restrictions, by a 96-to-2 vote, as part of the intelligence reform legislation. They would have explicitly extended to intelligence officers a prohibition against torture or inhumane treatment, and would have required the C.I.A. as well as the Pentagon to report to Congress about the methods they were using.

But in intense closed-door negotiations, Congressional officials said, four senior members from the House and Senate deleted the restrictions from the final bill...

Both Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican negotiator, and Representative Jane Harman of California, a Democratic negotiator, said the lawmakers had ultimately decided that the question of whether to extend the restrictions to intelligence officers was too complex to be included in the legislation.

New York Times, September 28, 2006
Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on [the Military Commissions Act] that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies.

Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

US Senate, September 28, 2006
S. 3930 (Military Commissions Act of 2006)

Collins (R-ME): Yea

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Somersaults

Lately there have been rumors that Sen. Collins could face a primary challenge in 2014 should she seek reelection. And a new poll strongly suggests that Maine's new senior senator is vulnerable on her right flank.

So Collins's recent about-face on the assault weapons ban is understandable (if reprehensible, cowardly and hypocritical). As is her latest bit of, um, recalibration.

March 14, 2012:

Even the top sponsor of a bill that would cut off lawmakers' pay if they can't--or won't--pass a budget blueprint admits many of his colleagues think it's just a political talking point instead of a serious idea...

Collins is among those opposed to the "no budget, no pay" measure. She points out that there are many rich people in the Senate who might not care whether they get paid or not. A lot of them are liberal Democrats.

"Given how many wealthy members there are--of which I am not one, regrettably--I wonder whether it would really have the kind of impact that its sponsors believe it would," Collins said Tuesday.

January 27, 2013:
"I don't know that it's really fair to members that do not have significant means and have no control over whether a budget is brought to the floor or not," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who noted she fits into that category. "Having said that, if this works it will have been shown to be a good technique."
There's a word for this. And it isn't "centrism."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Somersaults on Guns

What a difference a month makes: December 19, 2012

"Obviously that system is only going to be as effective as the completeness of the data," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who supports banning high-capacity magazine clips and renewing the assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who supported similar legislation in 2004, has indicated she is unlikely to back the proposed ban.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Holding The Line

It appears that Maine's new senior senator has joined the GOP Senate leadership as one of several deputy whips.