‘I very much oppose the administration’s plan to repeal the clean power act’

Sen. Susan Collins won’t run for governor, will remain in U.S. Senate

Speaking before 230-plus business owners at Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast
Posted:  Friday, October 13, 2017 - 9:00am

ROCKPORT — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine), greeted members of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce at a Friday morning business breakfast, Oct. 13, and before the crowd of approximately 230 business owners, plus television film crews and reporters, she announced that she will not be campaigning for the state’s governor’s office this coming year.

She said that she will remain in the U.S. Senate.

She prefaced her morning remarks by commenting on the importance of bipartisanship, and national health care systems.

Collins was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, and she has remained as one of Maine’s representatives in Washington, D.C. since then.

“Let me address the elephant in the room” she said, at 8:20 a.m.,” Collins then said she will remain in the Senate and not run for governor, as has been the subject of much discussion and speculation.

She made her decision not to run as Maine’s next governor after great deliberation, she said.

Collins has never missed a roll call vote during her 20 year tenure in the U.S. Senate. She serves on numerous committees, including the Special Committee on Aging, the Transportation Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Committee, where she said she holds position of seniority.

Collins said that when she was initially sworn in to the U.S. Senate she was Number 99 in seniority, she is now number 15, and holds the distinction of being the most senior Republican woman in the senate.

Addressing a crowd at the Samoset Resort in Rockport on Oct. 13, Collins said that overcoming partisanship has been a “great impediment to progress” as healthcare reform legislation evolves.

Collins addressed the tremendous impact of bills including the “So-called ‘Skinny Repeal’” (H.R. 1628) and the Graham-Cassidy Bill, stating that she felt both were not good choices for Mainers. She also acknowledged the flaws in the affordable care act, and stated that when it was passed on Christmas Eve in 2009 it was “rammed through on a straight party line” with only Democratic votes favoring the legislation.

“There’s nothing affordable about it,” she said, quickly noting that access to affordable healthcare is crucial for Mainers and Americans.

 Susan Collins’ complete remarks on her decision to remain in the U.S. Senate.

"As most of you know, I have been deliberating for some time about whether or not to seek the Republican nomination for Governor. Shortly after I was re-elected to the Senate in 2014, many residents of our State began urging me to consider running for Governor. I am touched that many of our residents believe that I could provide our state with thoughtful and effective leadership, particularly in providing greater economic opportunities and more jobs throughout our state. The 'hands-on' nature of the Governor's job is very appealing to me. 

"Many who stopped me on the streets, in stores, at church, and in countless communities have also suggested that I could help heal the divisions in our State. And, on a personal note, I would love being in Maine full time where most of my family and so many of my friends live.

 "Were I to be successful in a campaign for Governor, it would, of course, mean giving up my seat in the United States Senate. When I was first sworn in, I was 99th in seniority. I am now 15th. 

"I hold a senior position on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee where I have been able to accomplish a great deal for the people of our State. My seniority – along with my persistent advocacy – have allowed me to secure funding for important programs including vital transportation and community development projects, providing seed money for programs at the University of Maine and our community colleges, advocating for Acadia National Park and our wildlife refuges, ensuring funding for Navy ships built at Bath Iron Works and the submarine overhauls at the shipyard in Kittery, pressing for accessible health care for our veterans, and securing research dollars for iconic Maine products like potatoes, blueberries, and lobsters.

"I am also proud of the work that I have done to overhaul our homeland security after the 9/11 attacks, to dramatically increase funding for the National Institutes of Health – especially for diabetes and Alzheimer's research – and to repeal the discriminatory 'Don't Ask/Don't Tell' law.

"I could not have accomplished what I have done without my wonderfully supportive family, most notably my husband Tom Daffron, and my hardworking staff, headed by Steve Abbott. 

"The voters of Maine have rewarded this effort by re-electing me three times, by ever-increasing margins, and for these votes of confidence, I will be forever grateful. 

"I take the time to mention all these factors to let you know that this decision has not been an easy one. Ultimately, I have been guided by my sense of where I could do the most for the people of Maine – and our nation.

"These are difficult times in our country, and the Senate reflects the discord and division that characterize our nation today. One of my Senate colleagues wrote me a lovely note urging me to stay in the Senate, saying: 'The institution would suffer in your absence. While the temptation might be to walk away and leave the problems to others, there are very few who have the ability to bring about positive change. You are such a person.'

"As I thought about this Senator's words, I realized how much remains to be done in a divided and troubled Washington if we are to serve the people of our states. I have demonstrated the ability to work across the aisle, to build coalitions, and to listen to the people of my state and my country. The challenges we face today are enormous – from frustrated families with stagnant wages and expensive health care to a nuclear-armed North Korea and Russian interference in the very fabric of our democracy, our elections.

"I am a congenital optimist, and I continue to believe that Congress can – and will – be more productive. I want to continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our economy, help our hard-working families, improve our health care system, and bring peace and stability to a violent and troubled world.

"And I have concluded that the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate."

She noted that when Medicare passed there were discussions and hearings, generating support and opposition from both parties.

Collins emphasized the importance of bipartisan leadership, referring to partisanship as a “pre-existing condition,” a remark that was one of many that elicited laughter and cheers from the audience.

“In order to get healthcare reform right, we have to start the process right,” she said. She stated that the legislative process is messy, but produces better results, noting that some recent bills have bypassed the standard, transparent legislative process.

She referred to the “very dramatic late night session” on July 28, 2017 where Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) provided the necessary votes to defeat H.R. 1628.

She said people often ask her when she and Murkowski found out that McCain would join them in voting nay on the bill. She recalled that the three U.S. senators were talking the night of the vote, and McCain pointed at the women.

“‘You know, you two are right,’” Collins recalled McCain saying. He would go on to join them in voting against the bill later that night.

She said that some Democrats won’t “enter into negotiations” on fixing the flawed affordable care act due to their concern for being criticized for working with Republicans. Conversely, she said some Republicans refuse to acknowledge the benefits of affordable healthcare legislation.

She said that both the H.R. 1628 and the Graham-Cassidy Bill would have resulted in hardships for Mainers. Those hardships would include job loss, soaring costs, and more.

Collins said she saw the bills as “give with one hand and take with the other,” stating that both would have resulted in different, but devastating, long term cuts.

Healthcare reform “must be handled thoughtfully and fairly,” she noted. Adding that she is “concerned about the executive order that [President Donald Trump] issued yesterday.”

She noted that it was important to act quickly to stabilize healthcare markets.

“We’ve got to take action now to address the cost of healthcare,” she said. Prescription drug costs are adding to the problem with “spiraling costs,” she said.

“We must stop allowing partisanship be a pre-existing condition,” she stated. Noting present bipartisan legislation that she is co-sponsoring.

About 20 minutes into her remarks, Collins paused. Referring to the rumor that she would make a long awaited announcement about whether she would seek to be Maine’s next governor.

“Let me address the elephant in the room,” she said, to another round of laughter. “I thought it was a pretty good pun!” She said with a chuckle.

She lauded the “hands on nature” of being governor, and that she would love to live in Maine full-time. She noted that Maine people have been approaching her since 2014 and encouraging her to run for governor. She went on to say how flattering and meaningful that feedback from Mainers was to her.

She said she had deliberated greatly on where she could do most good for Maine and the nation at large. She noted the important work she is doing in Washington —both past and continuing. She noted several Maine-centric accomplishments including advocacy for Acadia National Park and wildlife refuges, as well as working to secure Naval shipbuilding contracts for Bath Iron Works.

She also noted that she had worked on the overhaul of Homeland Security following the tragic events of September 11, 2001; and had worked alongside former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, (D-Connecticut), to repeal the “discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.’”

Maine Voters, she said, have rewarded her efforts in the U.S. Senate by reelecting her.

“It is a privilege and an honor to represent Maine in the United States Senate,” she said.

She read an excerpt from a note she received from a colleague who she did not identify. The note said that the senate would “suffer” in Collins’ absence were she to pursue a gubernatorial run, and that “very few have the ability to bring about positive change, [Collins] is such a person.”

With that, she announced that she would not seek a bid for governor. A standing ovation followed.

“I’m a congenital optimist,” Collins said. She said she believes congress will make progress and do good for citizens, and she looks forward to continuing to play a role. She said that she also looks forward to working toward peace and stability.

Questions from the audience followed, including a question about the limitations on H2B Visas which have dramatically impacted Maine’s workforce, particularly in the hospitalities industry.

Collins responded that she has heard from many small business owners who have had to shut down wings of their their operations, shorten their seasons, and more to accommodate the worker shortage.

“That hurts American workers, too,” she said.

She spoke about the returning workers who have developed strong bonds with their American hosts, even storing items from year to year at their homes. She said that the income foreign workers earn on H2B Visas is important to their families at home as well.

She called increasing the H2B Visa cap a “high priority” and said some increase had been achieved in 2017, but came too late.

She said that she has had “three very good conversations with the Secretary of Labor” about the issue, and is encouraging him to visit Maine with her. She did note that the program had seen “some abuses” and used an example of Texas landscaping businesses using it as a way to recruit year round workers, which is not what it was designed for.

“We’re working on this hard, but it’s really tough,” she said.

She tries to tell her colleagues that H2B Visas have “nothing to do with illegal immigration,” she added.

She addressed a question on tax reform, “I think the American people want tax reform,” she answered.

The presentation ended with a question from one of the regional high school students in attendance. The student asked Collins what is being done to decrease emissions to slow warming, an issue that he stated is having an impact on Maine’s lobster industry.

“I believe human activity contributes to climate change,” she replied. “I very much oppose the administration’s plan to repeal the clean power act.”

While Maine only has one coal burning plant according to Collins, she is aware that pollution from other areas is impacting Maine.

“We’re seen Acadia, our treasure, suffer” from air pollution, she said. Maine asthma rates are higher than the national average. She noted that pollution has both public health and environmental consequences.

She recalled visiting Alaska where she witnessed firsthand the effects of global warming. There, she said, telephone poles are leaning over because the permafrost is melting. Natives told her that the fish run has changed and that insect species that they have never encountered are arriving.

“I will continue to oppose efforts to undo important regulatory steps to prevent global warming,” she said. 



Reach Jenna Lookner at news@penbaypilot.com