Sen. Susan Collins took to the Senate floor Monday to announce her support for the Republican tax reform bill speeding through Congress and headed for final votes this week.

The Maine Republican voted for the Senate version of the $1.4 trillion bill on Dec. 1, and praised many aspects of the Senate-House conference bill after it came out of committee Friday, but did not say she’d vote for it until Monday. The House and Senate versions of the bill differed in several respects and had to be reconciled before final votes in the House and Senate.

Collins, a key moderate in the Senate where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority, has been under much scrutiny during the tax reform debate. She was one of three Republican senators to cast key votes against the party’s Affordable Care Act repeal this summer, and it failed to pass. Republicans have been trying to repeal the ACA since former President Barack Obama helped muscle the controversial bill through Congress in 2010.

The tax bill would make sweeping changes to the tax code – reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, giving modest tax cuts to many middle- and lower-income families, and providing larger tax cuts for many wealthy Americans.

Collins said the tax bill includes significant benefits for Maine households.

“A couple with no children, earning $60,000, will see their taxes fall by more than $900,” she said Monday. “And a couple with two children earning $60,000 will get a tax cut of about $1,700, a reduction of more than 100 percent. The bottom line is that most Maine households will see their taxes lowered.”


The bill would also increase the national debt by at least $1 trillion over 10 years after accounting for economic growth, according to an official congressional analysis.

Tax cuts for individuals would expire after nine years, while corporate tax cuts would be permanent.

Maine’s Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, remains a staunch opponent of the tax bill.

The bill, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday, wouldn’t eliminate the ACA, but it would repeal its individual mandate, which would lead to 13 million more uninsured Americans and higher health insurance premiums, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Collins struck a deal with President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to mitigate the effects of repealing the ACA mandate, although two bills to do so are almost certain to be voted on after final votes on the tax reform bill. McConnell has said he intends to attach those two bills to must-pass year-end spending bills, but there hasn’t been a similar commitment from House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Collins has said she’s confident the House and Senate will approve both bills, but critics say Ryan has little incentive to include them, and Collins would lose her leverage once the tax bill has been approved.


Collins has repeatedly said her preference would be to vote on the ACA stabilization bills before voting on tax reform, but Monday she was confident that the ACA bills would pass.

The two bills would mitigate the mandate’s repeal with $5 billion per year for two years of reinsurance, which would help alleviate the cost spikes of having fewer young people in the insurance pools. Another bill, Alexander-Murray, would restore the “cost-sharing payments” to insurers that the Trump administration halted this year.

The tax bill would also trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare per year, which Collins also opposed. McConnell and Ryan issued a joint statement Dec. 1 saying those cuts would be waived by Congress, although Ryan has pledged to try to cut Medicare and Medicaid next year.

Collins has been under intense pressure for her vote. Protests have been held in Maine and Washington urging her to vote no, and groups on both sides have run ads attempting to influence her vote on the tax bill.

Collins touted the amendments she secured to the tax reform bill, including two years of more generous deductions for those who have large out-of-pocket medical expenses, and a more generous deduction for state and local taxes.

In Monday’s floor speech, Collins emphasized that she believes the tax bill will provide a boost to business.


“This legislation will provide tax relief to working families, encourage the creation of jobs right here in America and spur economic growth that will benefit all Americans,” she said.

A group of Maine business interests, including the Maine State Chamber, the Maine Auto Dealers Association, the Maine Motor Transport Association and the Retail Association of Maine wrote a letter to Collins on Monday touting the benefits of the tax bill and urging her to vote for it.

“Tax reform would double the standard deduction for individuals and families to $12,000 and $24,000, respectively. Due to that, the average American family of four making the median family income of $73,000 per year would see their taxes decrease by approximately $2,220 per year. More money in the paychecks of middle class families means more options, whether it’s paying down the mortgage or saving for college,” the letter said. “We need this kind of reform, and this kind of optimism to continue to grow our economy and lift up hard working Maine families and small businesses.”

But Collins was panned by left-leaning grass-roots groups.

“What Susan Collins is voting for is kicking people who are already down, and helping people who don’t need the help,” said James Cook of Rockport, a coordinator with Midcoast Maine Indivisible. “Those aren’t Maine values. That’s not how we do things in Maine.”

Cook said Collins is “voting yes to 13 million fewer people with health insurance. She’s voting ‘yes’ to undo the ACA.”


Cook recalled how Collins was hailed as a hero at the Bangor airport in July after voting to preserve the ACA, but slammed this winter for “not listening to her constituents.”

“It’s an astonishing contrast to see her votes and her promises in the summer and to compare them to her actions in December,” he said.

King, in a Senate floor speech, slammed the process that resulted in the tax reform bill.

“It was a closed process done with unprecedented speed with virtually no hearings, no real hearings on the bill, no serious outside experts, no analysis of what’s in it. We have been given a 500-page bill that we’re going to vote on probably in a day or so,” King said.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said in a statement that Collins is supporting a “deficit-exploding, corporation-enriching bill.”

“By supporting this proposal, Senator Collins has betrayed working Maine families and she did so based on false Republican talking points, debunked economic arguments, and plain old flimsy logic. Her vote will result in higher taxes for middle-class Maine families in the long run, higher health care costs, and a higher deficit that our children will have to confront years from now,” Bartlett said in a statement.


But U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, a tax reform supporter, praised Collins for supporting the bill.

“I look forward to continuing our work this week to get this landmark tax reform proposal across the finish line to help our Maine families keep more of their hard-earned money and to giving our small businesses, the backbone of Maine’s economy, relief so they can grow and create more jobs for our fellow Mainers,” Poliquin said in a statement.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at: or at 791-6376

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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