UPDATE: Alas, Collins voted to confirm Price in a strict party-line vote in the wee hours of the night Thursday. A new action item will be posted Sunday night.
Sadly, Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education yesterday, since no third Republican could be peeled off to stop the nomination, despite millions of calls to Senators across the country.
Calls from Mainers clearly had an impact on Collins in getting her to vote no in the final vote, which itself was a huge accomplishment. But Collins could have had a much greater impact if she’d voted no on DeVos in committee, depriving DeVos of the committee’s recommendation. The nomination would still have been taken to the full Senate, but a failed committee vote might have been enough to persuade another Republican to jump ship, or persuade DeVos to withdraw. There were reports that Collins and Murkowski only decided to vote no when it was clear that there would still be enough firm votes to confirm her, allowing them both to appear moderate back home without seriously threatening the confirmation.
I want to try to avoid psychoanalyzing Sen. Collins on this site, so will leave discussions about her true motives in this case to others. Regardless of what she really believes, more than anything, she is a politician whose driving objective is to look good to both Republican primary voters and the general Maine electorate. For decades, she has gotten a pass as a moderate voice for common sense without the media or the public paying very close attention to her actions. Our job now is to 1) pay attention to what she says and does, 2) let her know how we want her to act, 3) thank her when she does the right thing, and 4) call her out when she doesn’t.
With the Trump wing of the Maine GOP firmly against her, she will not win statewide office again without strong support from Dems and Independents, so she knows she can’t take us for granted. We just need to train her to act consistently in a way that will earn our votes. The Democratic caucus would do a good job of this if she ever decides to caucus with them, but until then, we’ll need to do the training, issue by issue.
Which brings us to Tom Price, whose vote is slated next, likely happening very early Friday morning. He is one of the most fervent opponents of the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid, and so would be about the most dangerous person to be put in charge of running those programs, not to mention the concerns about his insider trading. Collins has not made any statements about how she will vote on Price, but as Chair of the Senate Committee on Aging, she should have serious concerns about putting him in charge of Medicare. And with the Dems seemingly unified against and Angus King announcing he will vote no, she may be gettable on Price.
So let’s give it a shot. Call Collins Thursday to vote NO on Price! We’ll switch back to Pruitt–where Collins seems much more gettable–next week.