Sen. Collins’ opposition to health care repeal highlights Rep. Poliquin’s awfulness

Sen. Collins’ opposition to health care repeal highlights Rep. Poliquin’s awfulness

Following weeks of speculation and an inundation of calls and office visits from impassioned constituents, earlier this week Maine Republican Senator Collins announced that she would not be voting in favor of moving the Senate GOP’s Obamacare “repeal and replace” plan forward for a vote before the Senate adjourns for its July recess, despite appearing to leave the door open for further negotiations to bring her back to the ‘yes’ column for the bill.

Understandably, Mainers impacted by the bill, which would throw 22 million people off of their insurance over the next five years, are celebrating Collins’ decision. Citing the massive multi-billion dollar cuts that the Senate bill makes to the Medicaid program, and the devastating impact that the bill would have on already-struggling rural hospitals, Collins went on the record saying: “It’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill.”

Attentive readers will know that I am not Sen. Collins’ biggest fan, and the fact that it took her nearly a week to come out fully against the current bill, given that the contours of the bill—hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicaid, massive tax breaks for the wealthy, huge cost-shifts to low and middle class American—were already crystal clear, is somewhat less than laudable. It was in fact only when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put a hard number behind those massive cuts that Collins finally took a position. Seemingly, it was the scope of how badly this would hit Mainers (and our overwhelmingly negative reaction to the bill) and not the awful principles underpinning the bill that ultimately swayed Collins. Say what you will, but Our Senator™ tends to recognize a losing issue in Maine when it’s staring her in the face.

With that in mind, it’s worth remembering that only a few weeks ago Republican Bruce Poliquin, Our Congressman™, in the Second District, stared down a bill somehow even more destructive than the Senate bill that Collins just passed on—one that would have kicked 23 million people off of their insurance, cut over $800 billion from the Medicaid system, and shifted an even greater burden of cost onto older and more rural Americans than the Senate bill does—and did the exactly opposite, casting a critical vote in support of the bill before a CBO score was even available to put hard numbers on how forcefully the bill would gut-punch the people in his district.

Seemingly, Poliquin believed that there was no price too high to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax breaks for millionaires such as himself and cuts to health care programs he will never have to use. Given that Poliquin’s only defense of the bill was that it only negatively impacts 7% of the people in his district (which is a massive, clear, lie), it’s possible that Poliquin, fundamentally, doesn’t care if his tax cuts will be paid for through the deaths of people who voted him into office. Poliquin, who represents one of the oldest, poorest, and most rural congressional districts in the country, has a constituency with even more to lose in this bill than Collins, who holds a statewide office that includes the relatively more affluent and urban first congressional district. And yet, Poliquin blindly threw his support behind the House repeal bill.

Voters in the Second District, who are represented by both Poliquin and Collins, ought to be asking themselves this question: What does it mean that it was the numbers and not the underlying bad principles of the bill that convinced Collins to vote no while Poliquin voted yes with no idea how bad the numbers would be?

My best guess on the answer: sometimes it’s better to be represented by someone with no principles than someone terrible ones.

About author

Grady Burns
Grady Burns 43 posts

Grady Burns is an activist on issues involving young Mainers. He serves on the Auburn City Council and is president of the Maine Young Democrats.

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