Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced her intention to retain her seat on Capitol Hill Friday, after months of speculation surrounding her political future.
While speaking at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, Collins told attendees that she plans to remain in the Senate after publicly weighing the possibility of entering the Maine gubernatorial race for several months.
“I want to continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our economy, help our hard-working families, improve our health care system, and bring peace and stability to a violent and troubled world,” she said. “And I have concluded that the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate.”
Collins, first elected to the Senate in 1996, has established herself as a centrist unwilling to subjugate her moderate commitments to right wing party orthodoxy. Most recently, Collins’s independent streak manifested itself in her opposition to Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Collins frustrated multiple Republican health care efforts this summer, distinguishing herself as the Republican who voted against the party most frequently since President Donald Trump took office.
She joined with GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in July in opposing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s first significant attempt at repeal and replace, dubbed “skinny repeal.” Roughly one month later, Collins doomed the so-called “Graham-Cassidy bill,” which represented Republicans’ final chance at accomplishing health care reform before the Sept. 30 budget resolution deadline.
While Collins has criticized the failures of Obamacare, which she voted against in 2012, she rejected Republican leadership’s efforts to drastically cut federal Medicaid spending and criticized their decision to bypass the normal legislative process in favor of trying to pass the legislation under budget resolution rules, which allow for a simple majority rather than the traditional 60 votes required to pass a bill in the upper chamber.
“Expert projections show that more than one trillion dollars would be taken out of the Medicaid program between the years 2020 and 2036,” Collins said of Graham-Cassidy. “This would have a devastating impact to a program that has been on the books for fifty years and provides health care to our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled children and low-income seniors.”
Collins also criticized Trump’s latest offensive against Obamacare Friday, saying she is “very concerned” by the executive order, which experts say could drastically destabilize Obamacare markets.
Having established herself as a likely swing vote on key Republican legislative priorities, Collins’s continued presence in the Senate further jeopardizes Trump’s already stagnant agenda.
“This will be bad news for Donald Trump,” veteran political analyst Stuart Rothenberg told The New York Times, but good news for lawmakers “who are looking for dispassionate, pragmatic leadership and for members willing to cross party lines on important votes.”
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