Politics

June 26, 2013

LePage asked Collins to help him lobby

The governor attempted to recruit the U.S. senator to persuade state lawmakers to oppose Medicaid expansion, but she declined.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

Gov. Paul LePage

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Related Documents

Read the LePage - Collins emails

Collins has previously expressed thoughts on Medicaid expansion. On June 28, 2012, she applauded the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled mandatory expansion unconstitutional as originally drafted in the Affordable Care Act.

"Maine already has a generous Medicaid program," she said in the statement. "Had the Medicaid mandate been upheld, financially-strapped states would have been forced to make draconian cuts in other critically important areas such as transportation, education, and many others in order to comply with this expensive federal mandate."

It's unclear if the LePage administration viewed the 2012 statement as Collins' willingness to lobby lawmakers against Medicaid expansion. The administration adopted a no-comment policy last week for stories published by the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Waterville Sentinel.

A spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

Collins told the Press Herald on Tuesday that several lawmakers did take her up on her offer to talk about the federal law.

"I talked to a couple of lawmakers, yes, but those are obviously private conversations," Collins said.

Several of the lawmakers on the list said they were surprised to hear from legislative leaders that Collins would lobby them to oppose expansion. On June 5, the day after McGough's email, several legislators were told to expect phone calls from Collins that evening.

"The call never came," said Rep. Jarrod Crockett, R-Bethel, one of the Republicans who voted in favor of expansion and was on the list distributed by the LePage administration.

On June 6, Crockett called Collins' office to make sure the senator wouldn't try to influence his vote.

"I followed up and, as is typical of Sen. Collins' ethics -- and I believe her position on this issue -- she declined to intervene in this state issue," Crockett said Tuesday. "She wasn't going to improperly influence legislators."

Other Republicans noted that Collins sponsored a federal bill in 2007 that allowed states to expand the State Child Health Insurance Program. In 2008, she voted to override a veto by President George W. Bush on a bill that allowed increased participation in Medicare.

Kevin Kelley, Collins' spokesman, cautioned against drawing any conclusions from the senator's previous votes.

Nonetheless, the LePage administration appears to believe Collins is against expansion. Crockett said leaders in his caucus told him the same.

Fredette, the House Republican leader, said Tuesday that he doesn't know where Collins stands on the issue.

"Quite frankly, she may have said, 'Take the 100 percent for three years," he said. "We don't know."

It's unlikely the administration would have taken that chance. Six of the 12 lawmakers on the list had cast votes in favor of expansion by June 5. The other six had voted against L.D. 1066 but were targeted by Democrats as potential supporters of Katz's amendment.

-- Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller contributed to this report.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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