This article has been updated.
At the end of a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday morning, someone sitting near Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) didn’t switch off a microphone. Collins was recorded discussing the federal budget and President Trump’s lack of familiarity with the details of governing with a colleague — apparently Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee.
After Reed praises Collins’s leadership of the hearing, she laments the administration’s handling of spending.
“I swear, [the Office of Management and Budget] just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out,” Collins says. “With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible.”
“Yes,” Reed replies. “I think — I think he’s crazy,” apparently referring to the president. “I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.”
“I’m worried,” Collins replies.
“Oof,” Reed continues. “You know, this thing — if we don’t get a budget deal, we’re going to be paralyzed.”
“I know,” Collins replies.
“[Department of Defense] is going to be paralyzed, everybody is going to be paralyzed,” Reed says.
“I don’t think he knows there is a [Budget Control Act] or anything,” Collins says, referring to a 2011 law that defines the budget process.
“He was down at the Ford commissioning,” Reed says, referring to President Trump’s weekend event launching a new aircraft carrier, “saying, ‘I want them to pass my budget.’ Okay, so we give him $54 billion and then we take it away across the board which would cause chaos.”
“Right,” Collins replies.
“It’s just — and he hasn’t — not one word about the budget. Not one word about the debt ceiling,” Reed says.
“Good point,” Collins replies.
“You’ve got [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall. Then you’ve got [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin saying it’s got to be clean,” Reed continues. “We’re going to be back in September, and, you know, you’re going to have crazy people in the House.”
In a more salacious part of what was recorded, Collins then addressed a radio interview in which Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) suggested that if Collins were a man, he’d have challenged her to a duel for opposing the Senate Republicans’ Obamacare overhaul bill.
“Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” Collins asks.
“I know,” Reed replies. “Trust me. Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? ‘Cause you could beat the s— out of him.”
“Well, he’s huge,” Collins replies. “And he — I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive it’s unbelievable.”
“Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this Playboy bunny?” she continues, referring to an infamous photo of Farenthold, below.
At that point, the mic went dead.
Update: Following publication of this story, Collins sent the following statement to The Post.
“Neither weapons nor inappropriate words are the right way to resolve legislative disputes. I received a handwritten apology from Rep. Farenthold late this morning. I accept his apology, and I offer him mine.”
Her spokeswoman Annie Clark also released a statement:
“Senator Collins is worried about the elimination of transportation and housing programs in the President’s budget request that are critically important to local communities across our country, such as: TIGER, CDBG, Essential Air Service, HOME as well as major reductions to FAA, Amtrak, and rental assistance, which serves predominantly older and disabled individuals.”
This article was also updated to reflect that it’s unclear whose microphone was left on.