So it’s been just over a month since the election, and we’ve been making calls for the last three weeks. Where do we think Sen. Collins’ head is at with regard to Trump and the Republican party?
Regarding Trump’s many nominations, she has only made statements–all supportive–about three of them:
- Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, based primarily on her “knowing him for 20 years” as a colleague in the Senate.
- Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation, based on her qualifications and character. Indeed, Chao is clearly the most qualified Trump cabinet nominee thus far, having been Labor Secretary for Bush II and Deputy Transportation for Bush I. She is also Mitch McConnell’s wife. Furthermore, Collins chairs the Subcommittee that allocates funding for the Transportation department, so it makes complete sense she would make a statement on this nomination.
- Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, based on his…um…”decades of world-renowned service in the medical community“? Seems a stretch. The subcommittee she chairs is also responsible for funding the Housing Department, so it makes sense she might make a statement. It seems quite likely, though, that she only made a statement after a reporter mistakenly attributed a quote criticizing Carson to her.
So which Trump nominations has she most conspicuously NOT made public statements about?
- Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services, even though he has been an ardent foe of ObamaCare, Medicaid, AND Medicare. Collins’ most powerful role in the Senate is as Chair of the Committee on Aging, so she has an obligation to take a strong stance on Medicare. She went on the record with the Portland Press Herald as having “a number of reservations” about the idea of privatizing Medicare, but she clearly needs to be pushed to go further.
- Scott Pruitt for Director of the EPA, an agency he has personally waged war with at the behest of the oil industry. Collins has an extremely strong record on the environment for a Republican, and has long been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters.
There are plenty of other folks for her to be concerned about in Trump’s cabinet of deplorables, but those seem the two that she would feel most obligated to speak out about.
From observing this long record of non-statements, her strong inclination seems to be to lay low, see what the Trump Administration ends up looking like, and hope that it will turn into a semi-normal Republican administration.
The good news is that she has made two encouraging policy statements recently when asked to take a position by the media:
- She indicated hesitation about Obamacare repeal and deep reservations about touching Medicare
- She just indicated support for a bipartisan congressional investigation into the Russian election hacking.
This shows that, while she doesn’t always like to stick her neck out, she will state a position when pressed. So let’s keep calling to encourage her to take a stand, and thank her when she does.