In the days leading up to his historic and unexpected victory in the presidential race, Donald Trump and his advisers hinted that they have been keeping a list of Republicans who didn’t give their candidate full-throated support.

The implication was that disloyal Republicans could face repercussions.

Any list, real or imagined, almost certainly includes Maine’s senior U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who criticized Trump’s divisive rhetoric more than once before finally declaring in August that she could not support him.

But Collins, in an interview on Wednesday, said she’s not concerned about her ability to work with the president-elect.

“I have always worked with individuals from across the aisle, including presidents I didn’t support,” she said. “Donald Trump made it clear that he needs to reach out to people who supported him and those who did not. I take him at his word.”

Still, Collins is part of a narrow Republican majority in the Senate and could be in the untenable position of falling in line behind a president she didn’t want or alienating herself from the party to which she has been a longtime member.


She said her goal, as always, is to work with Trump on “issues that unite us.”

“He has talked about rebuilding infrastructure and as chair of the (Senate) Appropriations subcommittee for transportation, I think that’s certainly an area for common ground,” Collins said.

She also said she would work with Trump and other Republicans to make wholesale changes to President Barack Obama’s signature policy initiative, the Affordable Care Act, something Trump has pledged to dismantle.

“There is no question that the Affordable Care Act needs to be altered in a substantial way,” she said. But she also said the law does contain, “provisions where there is consensus for preserving.”

Although Collins did not support Trump – she wrote in House Speaker Paul Ryan for president – she believes it’s important to come together.

Roughly three months ago, in an August 8 op-ed in the Washington Post, the senator concluded that “Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country.” She remarked on his mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter, called his criticism of a Mexican-American judge “absolutely unacceptable,” and rebuked his comments about whether or not Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, was a hero since he was captured.


Her biggest concerns about Trump, though, were his long history of disrespectful and demeaning comments about women.

The New York real estate developer and reality TV star defied all expectations and predictions during his run. But now that he is a president-elect with zero elected experience, his relationship with Congress – the Senate, especially – will be closely watched.

He’ll have Republican majorities in both the Senate and House for at least the first two years of his first term. The Republican edge in the House will be at least 45 seats but much narrower in the Senate, 51-48, with one independent – Maine’s Angus King – who caucus with Democrats.

With just a two-seat advantage in the Senate, moderate Republicans like Collins could have considerable power to either ensure Trump’s priorities are carried out or to stand in his way.

She is not alone among Republican senators who have disavowed Trump. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina each said prior to the election that they did not support Trump’s candidacy. Like Collins, they said he was unfit to serve and did not represent their party.

Now, those same senators will be forced to work with Trump or challenge him at their peril.


James Melcher, a political scientist at the University of Maine at Farmington, said the slim Republican margin in the Senate could make Collins a sought-after vote. But he also said that “her previous centrist role between a Democratic president and a Republican senate may be diminished.”

Collins said now that the heightened emotions of a polarizing election have waned, she doesn’t think working with Trump or colleagues who supported Trump steadfastly will be an issue.

Other Republicans, both in the House and Senate, have tip-toed around Trump – refusing to condemn him or support him. Speaker Ryan is the most high-profile member of that group and on Wednesday he took a clear step closer to Trump, saying the candidate earned a mandate with his historic win.

Collins was reelected to her 4th term in 2014 and would be on the ballot again in 2020 if she chooses to run. She is often floated as a possible candidate for governor in 2018, but has demurred about that possibility. She ran for governor back in 1994 and came in third in a four-way race. The winner, King, is now her colleague in the Senate.

During her 20 years in Congress, Collins has become one of the most popular senators. Her approval rating regularly sits at 65 percent or higher and, in some case, she does better among Democrats and Independents than members of her own party, some of whom label her, pejoratively, as a “RINO,” or Republican in name only.

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