Sen. Susan Collins indicated Friday that she could still withdraw her support for the Republican tax plan if key amendments she drafted are not included in the legislation’s final language.

Although her comments come amid increasing criticism in Maine over her initial yes vote, they are consistent with how the state’s senior senator approaches major legislation.

The House and Senate each has passed competing versions of the tax reform bill that would, among other things, dramatically lower the corporate tax rate. Those measures are now in conference committee, an ad-hoc group made up of members of both chambers that is tasked with reconciling the differences between the two. The group was expected to continue meeting through the weekend.

Collins, a moderate who is increasingly seen as wielding a critical swing vote, will likely play a key role when the Senate returns later this month to cast what Republican leaders hope is the final vote on what would be a major victory for the party.

But, as usual, Maine’s senior senator is not ready to fully commit to legislation that remains fluid.

“She’s going to look at what comes out and is not going to make a final decision until she sees what the final package is,” Annie Clark, Collins’ spokeswoman, said Friday.

Collins’ preliminary yes vote came only after her amendments on property tax, medical expense deductions and helping retirement security for public employees were included. She also has said she secured a promise in writing from House and Senate leaders to remove the threat of a 4 percent cut to Medicare.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has hinted that cuts to Medicare could be coming next to help deal with the deficit, but also has been complimentary of Collins’ amendments.

Since her initial vote to support the plan last week, Collins has been pressured heavily on both sides.

Critics have protested at her offices in Bangor and Portland this week. Some have even been arrested. On the other side, a conservative pro-Trump political action committee has been using social media to thank Collins for her vote.

Throughout her career, Collins has been measured in her votes. She routinely waits to make her position known, sometimes up until the moment she casts a vote.

Colllins has shown a willingness to buck the party and President Trump when she believes legislation is not in the best interest of her constituents.

She was one of only three Republicans who voted this year against a Republican-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, delivering a blow to one of Trump’s major campaign promises.

After that vote, many in Maine praised Collins for being a voice of moderation in an increasingly polarized Congress – only to watch her stay with her party in voting for the sweeping tax overhaul that would provide steep tax cuts for businesses and more modest tax breaks for families and individuals.

While Collins has faced criticism, others have defended her.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage accused Democrats of putting up roadblocks without offering any proposals of their own.

“Maine Republicans appreciate the challenge of the task at hand and are working their tails off to get this done right and allow working Mainers to have bigger paychecks, while Democrats seem content to let government keep more of your money,” he said.

The Retail Association of Maine also lauded Collins this week for her support of tax reform.

With a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and still pass the legislation. Vice President Mike Pence would vote, presumably for the bill, if there were a 50-50 tie. During the initial vote on tax reform, only Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee voted with Democrats.

But some Republicans are seen as tenuous.

Just as Collins cast her vote based on assurances from party leaders, so did her colleague and fellow moderate Jeff Flake, of Arizona. He voted yes after securing a promise that lawmakers would craft a solution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), something many conservatives have strongly opposed.

Now that the legislation is in conference committee, it’s expected that there will be additions and revisions and deal-making that could affect the final vote.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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