Friday, March 7, 2014
Special to the Press Herald
WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins has built a reputation in Washington for independence and integrity and for working hard to achieve consensus on the vital issues of the day. It is not surprising, therefore, that she opposes the government shutdown and fully understands its dire consequences.
Disabled veterans should not have to wait because furloughed employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot process their claims. Civilian employees at the Navy’s shipyard in Kittery should not be blocked from proceeding with their work overhauling our submarines.
Small businesses that depend on tourists visiting Acadia National Park should not be losing money due to the park’s closure. Vital biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health should not be disrupted.
She is deeply concerned that these consequences, and many others, will only worsen as the shutdown lengthens and is exploring every avenue to end this impasse.
For Bill Nemitz (“Sen. Collins hardly a profile in courage during shutdown stalemate,” Oct. 2) to blame Sen. Collins for the shutdown and essentially call her a coward ignores and insults her record of bipartisan accomplishment.
You don’t have to look far to see examples of Sen. Collins’ willingness to oppose her party’s leaders when she thinks their policies are wrong.
She was the only Republican to co-sponsor and lead the fight to repeal the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and she was the sole Republican to vote against the Republican leader’s own legislation to block air pollution rules. On that issue, she cast the deciding vote against Sen. Mitch McConnell’s proposal.
Breaking once again with her party’s leadership, she was one of only five Republicans to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. There’s a reason she was named the most bipartisan senator in the country. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Collins has worked all year to draft bipartisan bills to fund government operations responsibly. She is the co-author, along with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., of the only appropriations bill Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has allowed to be considered on the Senate floor.
Her bipartisan transportation and housing funding bill would create jobs in Maine and across our country, improve our infrastructure and help homeless veterans. Unfortunately, action was not completed on this bill, and Sen. Reid did not schedule any of the 11 other appropriations bills for consideration by the full Senate before the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1.
There is fault on both sides of the aisle for the impasse on funding government. Sen. Collins has repeatedly warned that House Republicans should not tie the continued operation of government to the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
She voted against Obamacare and has consistently voted to repeal, reform, and replace it. Common sense tells us, however, that, no matter how one may feel about that law, there is no way a Democratic-controlled Senate would approve, nor would a Democratic president sign, a bill to repeal or eliminate funding for Obamacare. That is why Sen. Collins was one of a group of senators who refused to filibuster a short-term spending bill and, instead, voted to allow its consideration by the full Senate.
The House has since offered several measures that would allow the government to operate, and Sen. Collins has voted to allow the Senate to consider those as well. She also voted in favor of a motion to go to conference with the House to force negotiations. Regrettably, that measure was rejected by Senate Democrats.
Sen. Collins has urged the president and congressional leaders to meet and immediately negotiate at least a stopgap funding measure to avoid a further disruption in the many vital programs benefiting our citizens. A long-overdue initial meeting has now taken place. In addition, she continues to discuss ways to end this dispute with both her Democratic and Republican colleagues with the goal of forging a long-term fiscal plan to address our unsustainable $17 trillion debt without resorting to constant brinksmanship.
Bill Nemitz’s latest partisan attack on Sen. Collins is false and misleading but sadly typical, as he has always demonstrated a perplexing personal animosity toward the senator. It’s exactly the kind of unfair and inaccurate commentary that helps fuel the personal attacks and hyperpartisanship that lead to gridlock in Washington and so frustrate the American people.
For her part, Sen. Collins will continue to work to end this latest stalemate because she knows that’s what best serves the interests of Mainers and our country.