The pre-election political season is now in full sway, with unrelenting negative ads that impart no useful issue education, inflame voters and distort voting records.

The latter trend is especially evident in the U.S. Senate race between Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Shenna Bellows. As one who has followed campaigns closely for my 40-plus years in Maine, I do not recall a campaign in which the candidate herself has so misrepresented the positions of her opponent. Perhaps this is because candidate Bellows does not understand the legislative process, having never served in public office. But she has been a registered lobbyist and should know better.

Politics has long been called “the art of compromise.” The American people now recognize that without compromise, opposing extreme positions on the right and left lead to gridlock.

In the past, compromise used to emerge in the committee process. Bills would receive detailed consideration and debate and be brought to the floor for amendment and votes in each house. Differences between the bills passed would be reconciled in an appointed Conference Committee, including members of both houses and both parties, whose job was to compromise on the final version of the legislation.

Unfortunately, in at least the past six years, this process has totally broken down, with committees focused on never-ending investigations and little bill-crafting. Instead, legislation gets drafted by individuals or pickup groups of members and submitted to the majority leader, who decides whether to allow it to the floor or not.

Even when a bill goes through a committee, real debate is blocked. This is what happened with the complicated Affordable Care Act. This law was jammed through without any proper vetting or real amendment process that might have avoided some of the complications and unintended consequences that have arisen.


It has been well reported that Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, exercises tight control over the Senate and allows votes only on those bills of which he approves and is assured of passage. Or, worse yet, he schedules votes on bills to force senators to vote against issues they support. Amendments on the floor are not allowed, so up-or-down votes on flawed proposals are required.

So if Sen. Collins, who has supported an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work, does not agree with the key details of a bill allowed to the floor and cannot amend it, she is forced to vote against it.

This legislative manipulation is politics at its worst. And Shenna Bellows’ allegation that Sen. Collins does not support these two issues, for example, is a serious misrepresentation of the positions of a senator who has worked tirelessly across the aisle to bring important issues to vote in a form that will ensure bipartisan passage. This is how major legislation has been crafted and passed in the past, like the Clean Air Act, which was developed through the consensus-building work of Sen. Ed Muskie

What can we expect of a Sen. Bellows? From what I have seen, it appears we will add another senator with rock-hard positions who will not compromise. Is this really what Maine and the country needs? No, we need more senators like Susan Collins: Widely recognized for her hard work and problem-solving, she’s a bipartisan consensus builder and tireless advocate for good government.

And finally, Bellows’ ads imply that Sen. Collins has forgotten “where she came from.” I have known Susan for more than 35 years, and I can attest that she is solidly grounded in Aroostook County, where her family has operated a small lumber business for generations. Her mother and father, her role models, served in local and state government, and other relatives have also served as distinguished public servants and civic leaders.

Despite her nationally recognized service in Washington, you cannot take The County out of Sen. Collins. To imply otherwise is just one more distortion.

Enough Shenna Bellows!

— Special to the Press Herald

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