After months of organizing polite, persistent meetings at her Bangor office, Food AND Medicine (FAM) was granted a rare meeting with Senator Susan Collins in Bangor on Wednesday, April 12. This was a brief, closed meeting, limited to eight people. We made the difficult choice of seven people (plus one of FAM’s Organizers), each prepared with one issue that is personally important – from the Muslim ban and the bombing of Syria, to health care, to child care. The issues were presented, Senator Collins responded, and even gave us additional time so that she could defend her recent votes/actions. A list of written questions and concerns from other constituents who were unable to attend was handed to the Senator.
FAM Organizer Sandy Joy asked Senator Collins to co-sponsor the Providing Affordable Child Care for Everyone (PACE) Act, introduced by Senator Angus King. Sandy conveyed the importance of quality, affordable child care through her personal story as a single mother who only through a child care subsidy was able to put her son in quality care while she worked; he is now a senior at Harvard. Senator Collins said that she would review the bill and let us know her thoughts. Senator Collins’ office called FAM on Wednesday afternoon to inform us that she WILL indeed co-sponsor the PACE Act. While there is still much to do, we consider this a huge victory! We don’t always agree with Senator Collins’ positions or votes, but we thank her for meeting with us and for agreeing to co-sponsor this progressive childcare bill.
Below are more specific recaps of the issues presented in our meeting. There is a video of the meeting, and we hope to post the video soon. Senator Collins’ responses to particular questions that individuals put forth:
I was the only one of two Republican senators who supported a hearing and vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. I believed he deserved a vote. He called to thank me for that after President Trump was elected.
Neil Gorsuch is well qualified. I met with him for an hour. I am disturbed that the Supreme Court has become so political.
On her vote against Scott Pruitt:
I care deeply about the environment. Scott Pruitt does not believe in the EPA. I am concerned about the 31% cut in the EPA budget.
On the budget cuts to senior citizen programs:
I love seniors.
On the Russia Investigation:
We are vigorously investigating Russia. I pledge to follow evidence where it leads.
On requests for a town hall meeting:
I do forums all of the time. I did one at Husson College last year, CMMC in Lewiston and recently at Bates and Bowdoin Colleges. No one in the Maine delegations meets more with constituents one on one than me.
In a town hall meeting it’s unlikely that each of you would get your voice heard (I am not sure if this is exactly what she said). I am consistently meeting with thousands of individuals. I don’t understand why people say that I am inaccessible.
I supported the strike. It struck an area where Sarin gas was emitted. This is an internationally banned gas and morally we can’t stand by.
With President Obama, I supported diplomacy and Russians said they would get rid of all chemicals and I was critical of Trump when he said no Muslims. Our vetting needed to be strengthened. We can’t take everyone but we can’t say no one from Syria can come.
On Health Care:
I, with my co-sponsor, worked hard on healthcare. I opposed the house bill early on because 1. Many would have lost insurance, 2. It would have cost seniors more money and 3. The Medicaid changes, shifting costs to hospitals and long-term care facilities.
I know the Patient Freedom Act is not perfect. I have concerns about individual mandates and higher costs to elderly (I am not sure this is what she said exactly).
My act would auto enroll people who are uninsured. They have the freedom to opt out. This would broaden the pool, to pressure down prices. She said something about default; enrolled in insurance (need to check the video for exact wording).
It will allow pre-existing conditions, no caps and 26 year olds can stay on parents insurance, and it has the basic ACA insurance protections.
Maine had invisible high-risk pool assigned to insurers. The pool is financed by this assignment. It is solvent with a five million dollar surplus. We should look at this as a model.