Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) unloaded on Democrats Monday afternoon — accusing them of playing politics instead of voting on a COVID-19 bill that she argued urgently needs to be passed. But despite Collins’s impassioned speech from the Senate floor, critics were quick to point out that Collins in 2009 played a key role in striking more than $870 million in pandemic preparation funding from the U.S. economic stimulus package.
“I cannot believe that the answer to this crisis – as we move to address the economic consequences that are so severe for the people of this country – that the answer from our friends on the other side of the aisle is delay, delay, delay. No sense of urgency. No hurry,” Collins said Monday after the GOP-backed bill failed to gain enough support from Democrats.
She then made direct comparisons to previous stimulus packages passed in the aftermath of 9/11 and the 2008 financial meltdown.
“Here we are facing an enemy that is invisible but equally devastating to the health of our people and to the health of our economy,” Collins said. “And yet unbelievably the Democratic leader objected to my even being able to speak this morning. Is this what we’ve come to? The Democratic leader objected to our convening at 9 o’clock this morning so that we could begin working in earnest.”
Politico editor-at-large Michael Grunwald reported about the behind-the-scenes negotiations taking place at the time.
By late evening, the group had hashed out $110 billion in cuts, about half in education, with a final goal of slimming the package to $780 billion. Collins insisted on deleting the entire $16 billion for school construction, a presidential priority. [Joe] Lieberman tried to broker some middle ground, but Collins wouldn’t budge. ‘Look, she wasn’t going for it,’ Lieberman says. ‘So what could we do?’ Collins also declared pandemic flu preparations a nonstarter, but Lieberman persuaded her to shift that $870 million to community health clinics rather than kill the bill outright.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Collins can “keep her crocodile tears.”
“She voted and fought HARD to strip pandemic prep funding. She helped drive the lack of preparation that we had leading up to this,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “What’s actually disgraceful is her ‘I’m a Moderate Lady’ dance to cover up brutal policies and votes.”
Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse similarly remembered Collins’s previous vote against pandemic funding.
[Image via Zach Gibson_Getty Images.]
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