Posts tagged with "Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)"

Trump intervenes with Netanyahu, blocking Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel

August 19, 2019

“I don’t know why they would,” President Donald Trump said last week, when asked whether he thought that Israel should provide entrance to two U.S. Democratic representatives for a fact-finding visit.

The freshman lawmakers—Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota—are Muslims who have been disparaged, even by many of their fellow Democrats, for their posture on Israel; including their support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global campaign designed to press Israel on human rights issues surrounding the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nonetheless, it has been Israel’s position, as a close ally of the United States, to allow members of Congress to freely visit the nation—including the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The visit of the two lawmakers would have followed a visit by the largest-ever U.S. delegation—a group of 41 Congressional Democrats and 31 Congressional Republicans—who traveled to Israel to express solidarity with the Jewish state, following what they characterized as anti-semitic remarks by Tlaib and Omar.

However, U.S. President Donald Trump intervened to urge Israel to block the upcoming admission of the two Muslim observers.

According to a report by The Hill, President Trump “broke new ground [last] Thursday when he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deny two Muslim congresswomen entrance to the country for a fact-finding visit, accusing them of harboring hatred toward “Israel & all Jewish people.”

The move reverberated across Washington, as pro-Israel groups condemned the president for threatening U.S.-Israel relations; foreign policy experts chimed in with warnings of frayed diplomatic ties; and stunned Democrats issued waves of statements denouncing Trump for pressuring a foreign government to deny his American political opponents rights of free passage.

Indeed, in a surprise response on August 16, even BDS condemned the move. The  statement from the opposition organization left no doubt that even the Palestinians object to the U.S. president’s unprecedented intervention.

“The Palestinian-led BDS movement condemns the far-right Israeli government’s McCarthyite decision to prevent Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar from visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territory over their support for Palestinian freedom. We call for cutting US military aid to Israel,” BDS said in its official release, adding, “Israel’s far-right government, with Trump’s collusion, has again put itself on par with apartheid South Africa in the past, and other rogue regimes in the present.”

The statement ended with kudos for the two Muslim lawmakers. “We salute Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, and we call for escalating pressure on Congress to implement the Leahy Law, which conditions U,S, military aid to other governments on their respect for human rights, by cutting U,S, military aid to Israel.”

 “I can’t think of any other president, Democrat or Republican, doing something as outrageous as this,” Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Hill on August 15 during a phone interview. “If this is just providing cover for Netanyahu, that’s wrong. If this is Donald Trump playing politics, that’s wrong.

“Once again, Donald Trump is denigrating the office of the presidency,” he added.

Some Republicans also broke ranks to criticize the president’s intervention. “Israel is a U.S. ally and a thriving bastion of democracy and hope for freedom-loving people of the world. It would benefit all of us for Reps. Tlaib and Omar to see that firsthand,”  Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said to Reuters’s Patricia Zengerle.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), a staunch ally of Israel who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, called Israel’s decision a “mistake,” while Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) singled out the Trump administration for urging Israel to deny the women entry.

Research contact: @thehill

Democrats: Trump’s move to terminate Obamacare gives us a gift ahead of 2020

March 28, 2019

In a move that has appalled his own advisers, and alarmed the G.O.P. as a whole, President Donald Trump on March 27 began a legal effort to “essentially terminate” the entire Affordable Care Act ―including its heretofore sacrosanct pre-existing conditions protections.

About half of Americans—133 million—have a health issue that qualifies as a pre-existing condition. Under the ACA, also known as Obamacare, insurers have been banned from denying coverage for (or from charging more for plans that cover) pre-existing conditions.

And American voters have made it clear that they like it that way. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation just before the midterm elections last November, fully 58% of Americans said they were “very concerned” that Republicans would remove this safeguard—and expose them either to higher costs or no coverage at all.

In fact, at that time, healthcare was top-of-mind for U.S. voters—and indications are that it continues to be.

According to a report by the Huffington Post,  Democrats are saying that the president’s extreme position on the ACA will matter far more to voters in 2020 than anything coming out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

And while Republicans have said for years that the ACA should be “repealed and replaced,” they are not so sure that the issue should be revisited at this time.

It comes down to this: On March 25, the Department of Justice asked federal courts to throw out all of Obamacare, not just one part of it, as it had done previously. If the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is weighing the lawsuit, agrees with the government, the matter will almost certainly go before the Supreme Court, which has already turned away two major challenges to the 2010 healthcare law, the Huffington Post notes. With two new Trump-picked justices on the high court, however, there is no telling whether the law would survive a third.

“This move by the Trump administration to take away health care will prove far more detrimental to the administration and the Republican Party than any gains they might have made by the issuance” of Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing the findings of Mueller’s investigation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York.) said on March 26.

 “They are literally teeing this up as an issue for Democrats for the next year and a half. They’re not even making a laughable attempt to save the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act,” Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) told reporters on Tuesday.

Vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020, whose seats Democrats need to win in order to take back control of the Senate, are likely to face additional attacks over healthcare following the Trump administration’s new stance on the lawsuit. But GOP leaders say they have confidence in their members to fend off attacks over Obamacare going into the 2020 election.

By contrast, the Huffington Post reports, G.O.P. senators facing tough re-election fights in 2020 said they support popular elements of the Affordable Care Act even as they continue to maintain that the law should be repealed ― a delicate rhetorical balancing act that failed to save many GOP members of Congress in the 2018 midterm election.

“I support coverage for pre-existing provisions, and Congress should act to make sure that happens. I think what we need to do is make sure we have affordable health care,” Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), who is facing a tough campaign, told reporters.

Only Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted against repealing Obamacare in 2017, criticized the decision to argue in court that the entire law should be struck down as unconstitutional.

“It is highly unusual for the [Department of Justice] not to defend duly enacted laws, which the Affordable Care Act certainly was. This decision to even go more broadly in failing to defend the law is very disappointing,” Collins said.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Pelosi urges House members on both sides of aisle to terminate Trump’s ‘national emergency’

February 22, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is backing a legislative effort to block President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.

A week ago, on February 15, the president proclaimed a national emergency in order to secure more funding for his southern border wall— but admitted that it was not a truly urgent situation, saying, “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

Now, Democrats are bringing a bill to the floor intended to terminate he emergency mandate—and Pelosi is urging House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support the resolution, according to a letter obtained by Politico on February 20.

“I write to invite all Members of Congress to cosponsor Congressman Joaquin Castro’s privileged resolution to terminate this emergency declaration,” Pelosi wrote, noting that the House will “move swiftly to pass this bill.”

“The president’s decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated,” she added.

“We have a solemn responsibility to uphold the Constitution, and defend our system of checks and balances against the President’s assault,” Pelosi wrote.

According to the Politico report, aides for Castro circulated an email Wednesday afternoon, announcing plans to introduce the resolution of disapproval after Trump’s declaration was published in the Federal Register this week.

Word-of-mouth is that the resolution will be introduced on the House floor today. As soon as the House votes on the resolution, the clock starts for Senate GOP leaders, who are required under law to put the measure to a vote within 18 days.

It would take just four GOP senators to join with Democrats to approve the resolution, which appears quite plausible, given Republican concern with Trump’s emergency declaration, Politico said.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Wednesday became the first GOP senator to publicly say she would support the Democratic resolution, according to the AP. Speaking at a Coast Guard ceremony in her state, Collins said Trump’s move “completely undermines” the role of Congress.

Trump would be certain to issue the first veto of his presidency over the measure, Politico says. To override him in the House, more than 50 Republicans would need to join with Democrats to secure the needed 288 votes.

Research contact: @heatherscope

Senate axes Trump policy that allowed political nonprofits to hide names of donors

December 14, 2018

In a rare rebuff to the White House, the U.S. Senate passed legislation on December 12 to reverse a Trump administration policy that limits donor disclosure requirements for political nonprofits, Politico reported.

In a 50-49 vote, the Senate approved a Resolution of Disapproval introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to repeal a controversial new rule—Returns by Exempt Organizations and Returns by Certain Non-Exempt Organizationswhich they said allowed “dark money groups to hide the identities of their donors.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)—who is not known for facing off with her Republican colleagues in final votes—joined every Democrat in support of the measure, which required only a simple majority to pass under the Congressional Review Act.

“These dark money forces are a threat to our democracy and they must be reined in,”Tester commented, adding, “Today’s action sheds more light on the wealthy few who are trying to buy our elections and drown out the voices of regular folks. We must wrestle our country back and continue to bring transparency and accountability back to political campaigns.”

Tester had been optimistic earlier this week about the resolution’s prospects.“I think it’s gonna be close but I think we’ve got the votes,” he said on December 11, according to Politico.

“Today the Senate voted on a bipartisan basis to throw out Trump’s dark money rule and bring transparency back to our elections,” Wyden saidThis is a huge first step in America’s fight against anonymous political insiders looking to tighten their grip on Washington. I urge [House Speaker] Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to act swiftly on this issue of great importance and lead the House in reversing course on the Trump administration’s reckless decision.”

Predictably enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was opposed to the vote, remarking that the resolution was an “attempt by some of our Democratic colleagues to undo a pro-privacy reform. … In a climate that is increasingly hostile to certain kinds of political expression and open debate, the last thing Washington needs to do is to chill the exercise of free speech and add to the sense of intimidation.”

The measure is unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled House—and it was opposed by conservative groups, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Politico reported.

“We are committed to enhancing government transparency, protecting the privacy of American citizens, and the freedom of association enshrined in the Constitution,” Brent Gardner, AFP’s chief government affairs officer said in a statement “S.J. Res. 64 fails on all of these fronts.”

Research contact: @marianne_levine

Collins refuses to be final naysayer on Kavanaugh, ensuring SCOTUS nomination

October 8, 2018

In a déjà vu moment for the Trump administration, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) once again supported her GOP colleagues—and disappointed liberals nationwide—on a crucial vote on October 5.

Just as she had promised to say “nay” on both the healthcare and tax reform bills—and then waffled at the last minute—Collins said on Friday afternoon that she would vote to seat nominee Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court after she previously admitted to serious doubts about his honesty and allegations against him of sexual assault.

As late in the process as October 4, Collins had insinuated that she might not be a swing vote, saying that the supplemental FBI investigation, which probed the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, was “very thorough.”

Earlier in the day Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had announced her intention to vote against an administrative motion to move forward Friday morning—later calling the cloture vote “a mistake.” Had Collins also supported that same position, Kavanaugh would not have had the support on the floor to win the October 6 vote.

A small handful of legislators — Collins, Murkowski, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) had been considered potential swing votes on Kavanaugh up until Friday morning. But both Flake and Manchin both voted “yes” to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor, leaving Collins as the only possible outlier.

However, referring to the “outlandish allegation” made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Senator Collins said that certain fundamental issues, including the “presumption of innocence,” should come into play.

She also noted that nobody had corroborated Ford’s statements during the abbreviated and circumscribed FBI investigation started on September 28. “None of the individuals Professor Ford says were at the party has any recollections at all of that night,” she said, explaining her decision to vote for Kavanaugh.

Research contact: @thomcraver