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Susan Collins: Last of the New England Liberal Republicans | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US Republican Senator Susan Collins. (AP)

London – In the recent days, the US Senate voted twice to end former US President Barack Obama’s healthcare program. The first vote, which was more of a standard procedure, saw Vice President exercise his right to vote in order to break the deadlock at the Senate after two members of the Republican majority stood with the Democrats. They voted against their party and President Donald Trump’s drive to end the program before agreeing on an alternative.

The two Republicans who had gone against their party were Susan Collins of the northeastern-most state of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of the northwestern-most state of Alaska. The two moderate liberal senators were joined in the second vote by veteran Republican Senator John McCain. Together, the three of them thwarted the Republican and White House plan to stop the Affordable Care Act.

Murkowski had wavered in whether to vote with or against her party, but Collins had from the beginning of deliberations announced that she could not vote for ending a program without finding an alternative that would preserve the rights and health of Americans.

There is a form of unanimity in Washington that Collins is considered the most moderate Republican at the Senate and the closest to striking agreements with the rival Democrats.

She is a senator of one of six New England provinces, which cover the northeastern corner of the United States. The Republican party had in recent decades shifted towards social and religious conservatism, which appeals to the rural areas of the US, mainly in its cotton and tobacco belts, that were up until the mid-20th century been conservative Democrat hubs.

Collins’ stance actually represents the stances of the Republicans as it was and not as it is now.


Susan Margaret Collins was born on December 7, 1952 in the town of Caribou in Maine near the border with Canada. She grew up among six siblings in a well-off family that dealt in politics, as well the lumber trade. Her father was the mayor of his town and a member of Maine’s legislative councils. Since 2012, she has been married to Thomas Daffron, the CEO of Jefferson Consulting Group.

Since her schooldays, Collins displayed an interest in public, social and student affairs and was elected head of the student council. In her senior year, she took part in a special youth program at the US Senate, which allowed her to visit Washington DC for the first time. There, she had a two-hour meeting with veteran Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith, one of the most famous politicians from her home-state of Maine.

After high school, Collins enrolled in the prestigious Saint Lawrence University in New York where she studied political science and graduated with honors.

She kicked off her career in public service in 1975 by serving as a legislative aide in moderate Republican Senator William Cohen’s team. She remained in the position until 1987. In 1981, she was appointed staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee on the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. She remained in that post until 1987 as well.

That year, Maine Governor John McKernan appointed her Commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Five years later, President George H. W. Bush appointed her regional director for the Small Business Administration where she became based in Boston.

In 1993, Collins, while still in Boston, was chosen as Deputy State Treasurer of Massachusetts. In 1994, she returned to Maine where she ran for governor on behalf of the Republican party. She became the first woman to be nominated by one of the two major American parties to run for governor in the state even though conservatives stood against her. Ultimately, she came in third out of four candidates who were running.

At the Senate

1996 marked Collins’ real rise where she won Congressional elections and took the Senate seat that was previously occupied by her mentor, Cohen, who resigned to take up the post of Secretary of Defense. Collins retained her seat in the 2002, 2006 and 2014 elections with a big margin of the votes.

Since entering the Senate, she managed to prove herself, through her strength of character, moderation and ability to debate and reach compromises with rivals. She is also one of the most active members of the Senate and by 2015, had voted 6,000 times, on various bills. This is the second highest vote rate in the history of the Senate, which demonstrates her commitment and constant presence to fulfill her duties. She has not once missed a vote.

As for her ties with her party, Collins bolstered her moderate reputation throughout the long years she shared Maine representation with her colleague Senator Olympia Snowe. She was active over the years in several organizations that championed liberal causes within the Republican party, including environment, abortion and human rights.

Moreover, Elle magazine chose her in March 2014 as one of the most powerful women in Washington.

Refusal to condemn Clinton

Perhaps one of Collins’ most famous stances, which brought her to national prominence, was her refusal to condemn former President Bill Clinton for submitting a false testimony under oath over his personal relations. The Republican party had in the 1990s sought to condemn the Democratic president for lying under oath.

When it came to vote for his impeachment, Collins, Snowe and two other Republicans, John Chafee and Jim Jeffords, found that Clinton was not guilty of the charges against him, thereby costing the conservative Republicans the opportunity to oust the president.

Last summer, on August 8 in particular, Collins announced that she would not be voting for Trump for the Republican nomination ahead of the 2016 presidential elections. Her stance, she was said was “based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics.”

Later on, however, she stood by Trump and backed his decision to remove Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey from his position.

In January, Collins was among six Republicans who opposed Trump’s temporary travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries. She also spoke strongly against the religious aspect of the proposal, saying: “As I stated last summer, religious tests serve no useful purpose in the immigration process and run contrary to our American values.”