PORTLAND — Sen. Susan Collins this morning described for a group of business leaders from across New England her role in repealing the law banning gays in the military.

Some of the group said it was a sign she has the political independence and determination to address some of the country’s other pressing issues like entitlement reform.

Collins addressed 70 members of the New England Council, the country’s oldest regional business group, at a congressional roundtable breakfast held at the law firm of Preti Flaherty Beliveau and Pachios in Portland.

In a 30-minute presentation, the Republican lawmaker described the 11th-hour maneuvering against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the waning days of 2010, her work to convince key Republican allies to support repeal and the challenge of opposing a close friend, renowned veteran, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“It was exciting to help lead what I believe to be a historic change for our country, but boy it was not easy to get there,” Collins said.

Members in the group praised her leadership on the issue and her ability to work with Republicans and Democrats. Some said those traits bode well for some of the significant challenges facing the country, such as federal fiscal reform and tempering political extremism.

“If we don’t have courageous politicians willing to take on difficult matters and engage people in serious conversation, the country is set for serious setbacks in the future,” said Shane Flynn, of Cordjia, a company involved in financial services, information technology and construction, after the meeting.

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