With a reputation for sometimes crossing party lines to help Democrats clear crucial legislation, moderate Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) is perhaps the most unlikely of Republicans to criticize President Barack Obamas health care reform agenda.
Collins, weeks after Obama was inaugurated, was one of only three Congressional Republicans to support the presidents $787 billion economic stimulus package. But on health care reform, the former state insurance regulator has so far resisted appeals from Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to come aboard. And, in so doing, Collins has taken a different tack than fellow centrist and Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
Republicans close to Collins say they are not surprised, and say health care policy not the independent political leanings of her state will likely dictate her vote on any final reform package. They say Collins thinking on health care has been shaped by her previous job as state Commissioner of Professional and Finance Regulation, which included oversight of Maines Bureau of Insurance.
In another twist, Collins was appointed to that position by then-Gov. John McKernon (R), Snowes husband.
Susan Collins is as conservative a Senator as can be elected from Maine, a former GOP Senate leadership aide said. She is wired differently than Sen. Snowe. Susan Collins will over-think every aspect of this, but will do whats in her gut in the end.
Given Collins concerns with the bills approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Finance panels the latter won a yes vote from Snowe in committee Maines junior Senator might not support the forthcoming Senate floor bill. Reid is charged with producing that final product, a merger of the Finance and HELP bills.
On Tuesday, Collins echoed the most conservative of her Republican colleagues in describing her problems with the legislation. She remains opposed to a public insurance option and said some Mainers change their mind about the proposal after she explains its implications.
Both of the Senate bills would have the unintended but very real effect of actually driving up the cost of health insurance for middle-income families, Collins said. That is the opposite of what most people want to have occur, but its what I believe would be the result.
Neither bill takes strong enough steps to reform the health care delivery system to lower the cost of health care. The cost of health care is the major barrier for the unemployed. Its the major reason that small businesses and middle-income families are struggling, she added.