Susan Collins’ deal-making earns kudos, causes headaches for Maine Dems

Maine’s Susan Collins is getting a lot of ink – and praise from colleagues – from her role in helping craft a compromise deal to get the federal government up and running again. It’s the kind of thing that drives liberals mad and, coincidentally, virtually seals up her 2014 re-election campaign.

It’s not that Collins, a Republican, wrote the final deal, but she got the ball rolling when – as the story goes – she got fed up listening to her colleagues bicker on the floor Saturday, Oct. 5. So, sans staff, she typed up a three point plan and hit the floor.

“It is time that both sides come out of their partisan corners, stop fighting, and start legislating in good faith,” Collins said. “The shutdown represents a failure to govern and must be brought to an end.”

At  the end of the day, it was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that got the ball across the goal line, but scores of publications from Time Magazine to the Boston Globe are singling out Collins’ willingness to stand up to the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the shutdown effort over a desire to defund and derail President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

Fellow Maine Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, praised Collins’ on the Senate floor following the announcement of a compromise.

“I happened to be presiding the day that she made her speech last Saturday, and it was really her initiative to stand up and take a risk and say, let’s try to work something out,” he said on the Senate floor. “I was interviewed recently on the radio, and they — somebody said, well, don’t you think Senator Collins may be subject to some criticism from some corner or another about her role in all this and I paused for a minute and I said, that’s what leadership is. It’s the willingness to bare bear criticism, to stick your neck out.”

Collins, like her former colleague Olympia Snowe, has been identified as a party moderate since her election in 1996. She was one of three Republicans to support Obama’s stimulus package and the only one still in office. She worked in lockstep with former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent, when the two co-chaired the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

While there’s no doubt she genuinely believes in both doing right by Maine and the country as well as her conservative principles, there’s also a political reward in Maine for doing so. It’s something lacking in many other states, placing her in a unique position among her colleagues who are more apt to be concerned about out-partisan-ing potential primary opponents than winning a general election.

And for all intents and purposes, it’s the reason why Democratic candidate Shenna Bellows has a near impossible row to hoe when it comes to challenging Collins. More than any policy differences, Maine voters like leaders who show independence and competence – after the shutdown showdown, it’ll be hard for Bellows to make a partisan case against Collins.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.