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.