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.There was also this:
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."
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.