[Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine),] a key swing vote on the tax package, accused reporters of ignoring her influence over the final legislation and unfairly criticizing her efforts to pass a pair of Obamacare stabilization bills.
“I believe that the coverage has been unbelievably sexist, and I cannot believe that the press would have treated another senator with 20 years of experience as they have treated me,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “They’ve ignored everything that I’ve gotten and written story after story about how I’m duped. How am I duped when all your amendments get accepted?”
As one of those who has sharply criticized Collins’s vote, I find that ridiculous, not to mention counterproductive in stemming the backlash against her.
To recap, Collins was one of two Republican senators who objected to the various Obamacare repeal bills on substance. (Sen. John McCain of Arizona objected to the irregular process, which we and others have noted is inconsistent with his earlier support for the tax bill. He was not able to vote on the final bill, instead returning home for the holidays and cancer treatment.) The other was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). If Collins’s complaint is that she is receiving more criticism than Murkowski did, that would be one thing. (Murkowski candidly accepted an Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling provision as her “inducement,” not a deal I agree with but within the realm of horse-trading that goes on in the Senate.) But then “sexism” would be a bogus charge.
No, Collins is unique. She is the only senator who staked her continued presence in the Senate (forgoing a run for governor) on bridging the divide between the parties and who vowed to protect the Obamacare exchanges. What she got was a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to pass two partial offsets that would mitigate some of the harm done by repeal of the individual mandate. She also at the time stated that she’d have a vote on those bills in hand before voting for the tax bill. She doesn’t have that promised vote and likely won’t get the bills through the House (which objects to anything shoring up Obamacare). Collins nevertheless will vote for a bill that included repeal of the individual mandate without receiving any offset. Her vote in that regard is no different from that of other Republicans who vowed to rip up Obamacare root and branch. Her constituents and local media are understandably very upset with her.
She might not like the characterization that she was “duped,” but there is no other way to describe the “deal” she made to secure her vote on a bill that does harm to many of her constituents, perhaps pricing them out of the individual insurance market.
Collins wants praise for pressing for unrelated tax changes (e.g. deductibility of state and local property taxes up to $10,000) that she thinks helps her constituents. Those changes have been noted in most stories concerning her vote but do not in any way mitigate the accurate charge that in the tax bill she is voting to inflict damage on the exchanges that she vigorously fought against in the Obamacare bill. It’s for this reason that some have concluded she was “duped.” (She has not helped her cause by falsely citing economists for the proposition that tax cuts would pay for themselves or for incorrectly claiming that the two health-care bills would more than make up for repeal of the individual mandate.)
Listen, if it makes her feel any better, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has been getting plenty of criticism, too, for reversing himself on the bill. If Collins is upset by her fall from grace and loss of the applause she received for defense of the Obamacare exchanges, she has no one but herself to blame.