As Mainers, we have very high expectations of those we elect to represent us in the United States Senate; especially with such giants as Margaret Chase Smith, George Mitchell, and Bill Cohen. No doubt Senator Susan Collins is feeling the pressure to fill some pretty big shoes. How she votes on the final GOP tax bill could be one, if not the biggest, test of how tall she will stand in Maine’s political tradition.
And, yes, the GOP tax bill is that big of a freaking deal.
That said, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is widely seen as a moderate and key swing vote in the US Senate. Mainers have praised her for such things as her votes to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, protect funding for Planned Parenthood, block the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and helping to bring in federal dollars to help grow Maine’s economy.
In the past few weeks, Senator Collins has emerged once again as a coveted vote by either side of the Senate tax bill debate. But she has put at risk her distinction as a moderate by voting to proceed with an ultra-partisan tax bill; while betting on President Trump and Mitch McConnell to follow-through on their promises to ensure health care funding and salvage state and local tax deductions.
And it would seem that Senator Collins is bending over backwards to try and convince us that we can trust Mitch McConnell, tweeting out photos of their letter exchange:
Senator Collins has also been caught pushing out facts that were simply not true and was forced to walk back many of her claims about the tax bill. In one exchange between Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd, Senator Collins towed the party line:
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Economic growth produces more revenue and that will help to offset this tax cut and actually lower the debt. I’ve talked four economists, including the Dean of the Columbia School of Business and former chairs of the councils of economic advisors and they believe that it will have this impact. So I think if we can stimulate the economy, create more jobs that that does generate more revenue.
CHUCK TODD: But why isn’t there a single study? I’m going to show you three studies that we have, sort of a liberal one, a centrist one, and a conservative one right up there. The most conservative one, the most pro-economic growth argument, still adds $516 billion to the deficit over ten years.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Well, talk to economists like Glenn Hubbard and Larry Lindsey and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who used to be head of the C.B.O. And they will tell you otherwise. So I think you will find that economists just don’t agree on this.
Come to find out, two of the three economists stated that they never made the claim that tax cuts pay for themselves through economic growth, as reported by the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin.
Eventually, Senator Collins walked back her claims.
Collins has even gone so far as to try and use a study by Avalere to support one of her amendments.
The Maine Center for Economic Policy was quick to point out that rather than mitigating the harmful effects of a health care repeal, the study actually affirmed that her proposals would not do that.
Topher Spiro, Vice President for Health Policy at the Center for American Progress, tweeted:
The troubling thing is that we know Senator Collins is a skilled senator. But either she is being outplayed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), or perhaps she is being bullied into supporting this deal and has to find some way to justify it.
As the New York Magazine writes:
Susan Collins is an experienced, savvy legislator. She knew when she cut her deals with Trump and McConnell that they would be worthless if the House didn’t go along. She could have demanded assurances from Ryan and conservative leaders, too — certainly she could have demanded the moon at the point where it appeared she might be the decisive vote in the tax bill.
What this series of events shows is that Collins, like the other alleged “holdouts,” really wanted to “get to yes,” as we kept hearing last week. If that meant securing a promise written in vanishing ink, so be it.
But Senator Collins still has time to make the right choice and follow in the footsteps of Senator Margaret Chase Smith and Senator George Mitchell.
This tax bill will test whether she has what it takes.