|United States Senator|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 1997
Serving with Angus King
|Preceded by||William Cohen|
|Chair of the Senate Aging Committee|
January 3, 2015 – February 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Bill Nelson|
|Succeeded by||Bob Casey Jr.|
|Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee|
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Joe Lieberman|
|Succeeded by||Joe Lieberman|
Susan Margaret Collins
December 7, 1952
Caribou, Maine, U.S.
|Relatives||Samuel Collins (uncle)|
|Education||St. Lawrence University (BA)|
U.S. Senator from Maine
Born in Caribou, Maine, Collins is a graduate of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Beginning her career as a staff assistant for Senator William Cohen in 1975, she became staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee of the Committee on Governmental Affairs (which later became the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) in 1981. Governor John R. McKernan Jr. then appointed her Commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation in 1987. In 1992 President George H. W. Bush appointed her director of the Small Business Administration's regional office in Boston. Collins became a deputy state treasurer in the office of the Treasurer and Receiver-General of Massachusetts in 1993. After moving back to Maine in 1994, she became the Republican nominee for governor of Maine in the 1994 general election. She was the first female major-party nominee for the post, finishing third in a four-way race with 23% of the vote. After her bid for governor in 1994, she became the founding director of the Center for Family Business at Husson University in Bangor, Maine.
Collins was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. She was reelected in 2002, 2008, 2014, and 2020. She chaired the Senate Special Committee on Aging from 2015 to 2021 and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs from 2003 to 2007. Collins is the most senior Republican woman in the Senate, the dean of Maine's congressional delegation, and the only New England Republican in the 116th and 117th Congresses. She has been called a moderate Republican and is often a pivotal vote in the Senate. To date, Collins is the longest-serving Republican woman in the Senate.
One of six children, Collins was born in Caribou, Maine, where her family operates a lumber business established by her great-great-great-grandfather, Samuel W. Collins, in 1844. Her parents, Patricia (née McGuigan) and Donald F. Collins (1925–2018), each served as mayor of Caribou. Her father, a decorated veteran of World War II, also served in the Maine Legislature, with one term in the House, and four in the Senate.
Collins's mother was born in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, to American parents. Collins has English and Irish ancestry. Her uncle, Samuel W. Collins Jr., sat on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1988 to 1994 and served in the Maine Senate from 1973 to 1984.
Collins attended Caribou High School, where she was president of the student council. During her senior year of high school in 1971, she was chosen to participate in the U.S. Senate Youth Program, through which she visited Washington, D.C. for the first time and had a two-hour conversation with Maine's first female United States Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, also a Republican. Collins is the first program delegate elected to the Senate and holds the seat once held by Smith. After graduating from high school, she continued her education at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Like her father, she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society. She graduated from St. Lawrence magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in government in 1975.
Early political career
Following graduation, Collins worked as a legislative assistant to U.S. Representative and later U.S. Senator William Cohen from 1975 to 1987. She was also staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee on the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs from 1981 to 1987.
In 1987, Collins joined the cabinet of Governor John R. McKernan Jr. as Commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. President George H. W. Bushappointed her the New England regional director for the Small Business Administration in 1992. After briefly serving in this post until the 1992 election of President Bill Clinton, she moved to Massachusetts and became Deputy State Treasurer of Massachusetts under Joe Malone in 1993.
Returning to Maine, Collins won an eight-way Republican primary in the 1994 gubernatorial election, becoming the first woman nominated by a major party for governor of Maine. During the campaign, she received little support from Republican leaders and was criticized by conservative groups for her more liberal views on social issues. She lost the general election, receiving 23% of the vote and placing third behind Democrat Joseph E. Brennan and the winner, Independent candidate Angus King, her future Senate colleague.
In December 1994, Collins became the founding executive director of the Center for Family Business at Husson College. She served in this post until 1996, when she announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by her former boss, William Cohen, who retired to become United States Secretary of Defense under President Clinton. With Cohen's public endorsement, she won a difficult four-way primary and faced Brennan, her opponent in the 1994 gubernatorial election, in the general election. She defeated him, 49% to 44%.
Collins was reelected in 2002 over State Senator Chellie Pingree, 58%–42%, in 2008 over Representative Tom Allen, 61.5%–38.5%, and in 2014 over Shenna Bellows, 68.5%–31.5%. In her first three reelection campaigns, she carried every county in Maine.
In 2020, Collins was challenged by Democratic State House Speaker Sara Gideon. The hotly contested race became the most expensive in Maine history, with Collins spending $23 million and Gideon nearly $48 million. The race also had national implications, as defeating Collins was a key part of the Democrats' strategy to achieve a Senate majority. Despite trailing Gideon in every public poll of the race, Collins defeated Gideon by a decisive margin.
In 2009, Collins was called one of "the last survivors of a once common species of moderate Northeastern Republican". She is considered a centrist Republican and an influential player in the Senate.
Although she shared a centrist ideology with Maine's former senator, Olympia Snowe, Collins is considered a "half-turn more conservative" than Snowe. She was consistently endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT rights organization, until 2020. She supported John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. She became the state's senior senator in 2013 when Snowe left the Senate and was replaced by independent Angus King, who defeated Collins in the 1994 governor election.
In the 1990s, Collins played an important role during the Senate's impeachment trial of Bill Clinton when she and Snowe sponsored a motion that would have allowed the Senate to vote separately on the charges and the remedy. The motion failed, and Snowe and Collins voted to acquit, believing that while Clinton had committed perjury, that was not grounds for removal from office.
In March 1997, the Senate adopted a broader investigation into White House and Congressional campaign fund-raising practices than Senate Republicans initially wanted. Collins said there were "a number of allegations that may or may not be illegal, but they may be improper."
In a May 1997 interview, Collins stated her support for a proposal by Tom Daschle banning all abortions after the fetus is capable of living outside the womb except to save the life of the woman or protect her from physical injury. Of an alternative measure proposed by Rick Santorum that would ban partial-birth abortion, Collins said it "ignores cases in the medical literature involving women with very serious physical health problems".
In 2001 Collins authored a measure that granted the United States Secretary of Education authority to grant waivers that would relieve reservists and members of the National Guard from making federal student loan payments during active duty and grant the same privileges to victims and families of those affected by the September 11 attacks. The bill passed the Senate and House in December 2001.
In November 2002, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the creation of the Department of Homeland Security while a Democratic effort to remove the bill's provisions fell short on a 52-to-47 vote that came after President George W. Bush lobbied against the vote. Collins and other senators said that Senate and House Republicans, as well as the White House, had given them an "ironclad promise" to essentially rescind provisions in the first spending bill to pass Congress the following year.
In 2004, Collins was one of the primary sponsors of legislation overhauling the U.S. intelligence community by creating a new post, Director of National Intelligence, to oversee budgets and most assets of the spy agencies, and mandating that federal agencies establish minimum standards for states pertaining to issuing driver's licenses and birth certificates along with directing the United States Department of Homeland Security to form standards for ID used to board airplanes. The bill passed in the House and Senate in December. Collins said, "This was the most difficult bill to bring from conception to birth that I can imagine being involved with. But that makes the victory doubly satisfying." Bush signed the bill, formally known as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, on December 17, 2004.
In May 2005, Collins was one of 14 senators (seven Democrats and seven Republicans) to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus allowing the Republican leadership to end debate without having to exercise the nuclear option. Under the agreement, Democrats agreed they would filibuster Bush's judicial nominees only in "extraordinary circumstances"; three Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate; and two others, Henry Saad and William Myers, were expressly denied such protection (both eventually withdrew their names from consideration).
In October 2008, Collins criticized robocalls by the McCain campaign claiming that Barack Obama "has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans", asserting that those "kind of tactics have no place in Maine politics" and urging McCain to cease the calls immediately.
In 2009, Collins was criticized for blocking flu relief funding during the swine flu pandemic. She said she had done so on procedural grounds, because the funding did not belong in a stimulus bill: "while worthwhile, [it does] not boost our economy," and "it does not make sense to include $870 million for pandemic flu preparedness." Her actions were further criticized and scrutinized during the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic.
In April 2010, Collins and Senator Joe Lieberman issued a subpoena seeking documents and interviews associated with the American government's investigation into the conduct of investigators during their interactions with Nidal Hasan before the Fort Hood shooting. The Pentagon announced that the Obama administration would not authorize Senate investigators to question intelligence agents who reviewed e-mails between Hasan and an extremist Islamic cleric before the shooting. Collins and Lieberman issued a statement accusing the Departments of Justice and Defense of refusing "to provide access to their agents who reportedly reviewed Major Hasan's communications with radical extremist cleric Anwar al Awlaki and to transcripts of prosecution interviews with Hasan's associates and superiors, which DOD already provided to its internal review."
In May 2010, Collins and Snowe were the only two Republicans to vote for an unsuccessful Democratic measure that would have prevented bailouts, highlighted financial products of complexity and toughened consumer protection.
In February 2013, Collins announced her opposition to the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for United States Secretary of Defense, citing her belief that Hagel's "past positions, votes and statements [do not] match the challenges of our time." The announcement came as a surprise, as Collins was considered a possible supporter of his nomination, and it occurred while the nomination was being filibustered. The filibuster on Hagel's nomination was defeated, and he was confirmed later that month.
In May 2013, following a report that the Internal Revenue Service had put additional scrutiny on conservative groups, Collins said the revelation "contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government" and added that she was disappointed that Obama "hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out".
In April 2014, the Senate debated the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737; 113th Congress). The bill would have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over two years. The bill was strongly supported by Obama and many Democratic senators but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House. Collins tried to negotiate a compromise bill that centrist Republicans could agree to but was unable to do so.
In May 2016, the Senate passed an appropriations bill containing an amendment by Collins that she said would help prevent the Department of Housing and Urban Development from gaining "national zoning authority for every neighborhood in our country". The legislation was given a veto threat by the White House, which was said by the Office of Management and Budget to oppose "the inclusion of problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation".
In 2016, Collins authored the Safe Treatments and Opportunities to Prevent Pain Act, a provision intended to encourage the National Institutes of Health to further its research into opioid therapy alternatives for pain management, and the Infant Plan of Safe Care Act, which mandated that states ensure safe care plans are developed for infants who are drug-dependent before they are discharged from hospitals. These provisions were included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, legislation that created programs and expanded treatment access alongside implementing $181 million in new spending as part of an attempt to curb heroin and opioid addiction. Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act into law on July 22, 2016.
On August 8, 2016, Collins announced that she would not vote for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election. She said that as a lifelong Republican she did not make the decision lightly but felt he was unsuitable for office, "based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics". She considered voting for the Libertarian Party's ticket or a write-in candidate.
In January 2017, Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski voted for Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, within the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, passing DeVos's nomination by a vote of 12–11 to allow the full Senate to vote. Collins justified her vote, saying, "Presidents are entitled to considerable deference in the selection of Cabinet members." Later, she and Murkowski were the only Republicans to break party lines and vote against DeVos's confirmation. This caused a 50–50 tie that was broken by Senate President Mike Pence to confirm DeVos.
In March 2017, Collins said she could not support the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans' plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. She announced she would vote against the Senate version of the Republican bill to repeal Obamacare. Collins also clarified that she opposed repealing the ACA without a replacement proposal. On July 26, Collins was one of seven Republicans in voting against repealing the ACA without a suitable replacement. On July 27, she joined two other Republicans in voting against the "skinny" repeal of the ACA. In October, Collins called on Trump to support a bipartisan Congressional effort led by Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to reinstate insurer payments, saying that what Trump was doing was "affecting people's access and the cost of health care right now".
On December 14, 2017, the day the FCC was set to hold a vote on net neutrality, Collins and King sent the FCC a letter asking that the vote be postponed to allow public hearings on the merits of repealing net neutrality. They expressed concerns that repealing net neutrality could adversely affect the U.S. economy. As part of this drive, Collins is reported to support using the authority under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the FCC's repeal vote. In 2018, Collins was one of three Republicans voting with Democrats to repeal rule changes enacted by the Republican-controlled FCC. The measure was meant to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules.
In 2017, The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Senator Richard Lugar released a bipartisan index in cooperation with Georgetown University that ranked Collins the most bipartisan senator during the first session of the 115th Congress (and the only U.S. Senator from the Northeast ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan senators).
In January 2018, in response to the Trump administration's not implementing congressionally approved sanctions on Russia, Collins said it was confirmed Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, adding, "not only should there be a price to pay in terms of sanctions, but also we need to put safeguards in place right now for the elections for this year." She noted that the legislation received bipartisan support and predicted Russia would also attempt to interfere in the 2018 elections. In January 2019, Collins was one of 11 Republican senators to vote to advance legislation intended to block Trump from lifting sanctions on three Russian companies. She said she disagreed with "the easing of the sanctions because I think it sends the wrong message to Russia and to the oligarch and close ally of Mr. Putin, Oleg Deripaska, who will in my judgment continue to maintain considerable [ownership] under the Treasury's plan."
In 2018, Collins and Senators Tim Kaine, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Shelley Moore Capito authored the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act, legislation centered on providing a public health approach to Alzheimer's. The bill would authorize $20 million annually to establish the "Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias Public Health Centers of Excellence" and aid statewide efforts to promote brain health and reduce cognitive decline. It passed the Senate and House and was signed by Trump in January 2019.
In September 2018, Collins authored two bills as part of the Opioid Crisis Response Act, a bipartisan package of 70 Senate bills that would alter programs across multiple agencies in an effort to prevent opioids from being shipped through the U.S. Postal Service and grant doctors the ability to prescribe medications designed to wean opioid addictions. The bills passed 99 to 1.
In February 2019, Collins was one of five senators to sponsor legislation authorizing the Treasury Department to mint coins honoring George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush under the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 and introduced the Reviving America's Scenic Byways Act of 2019 along with Ben Cardin. The bill required the Secretary of Transportation to request nominations and make determinations in regard to roads that would be designed under a voluntary, community-based program and was signed into law by Trump in September of that year. After the Senate Intelligence Committee held a closed-door meeting with Michael Cohen, Collins said senators "clearly need to re-interview some witnesses whose accounts [Cohen] contradicts". Her comment was seen as hinting at the Intelligence Committee's interest in speaking with Donald Trump Jr. again. In June, Collins cosponsored an amendment to form the John S. McCain III Human Rights Commission, which would hold hearings and briefings on human rights violations ahead of collaborations with the Trump administration to address the violations, and be included in a defense authorization bill McCain had helped create as Armed Services Committee chairman.
In her May 2019 commencement speech at Maine Maritime Academy, Collins said getting the Senate to approve funding for a new training ship for the academy was her "number one priority" and that funding was included in Trump's proposed budget while she would still seek further funds through other measures.
In July 2019, Collins cosponsored the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act, a bill introduced by Ben Cardin and Rob Portman that would create a new, privately funded memorial that would be constructed on federal lands in Washington, D.C. in order to honor journalists, photographers, and broadcasters who died in the line of duty. Collins called freedom of the press "one of our fundamental constitutional rights" and spoke of the risks of reprisals faced by reporters around the world for their work.
On January 6, 2021, Collins was participating in the certification of the Electoral College vote count when Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol. She was on the Senate floor listening to speeches related to the objection to counting Arizona's votes when the Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. Senate and U.S. Capitol Police removed Vice President Mike Pence and Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. She called the experience "frightening and appalling." Collins later called the storming "a dangerous, shameful, and outrageous attack on our democracy" and blamed Trump for "working up the crowd and inciting this mob". She called on him to call off the rioters. When Congress reconvened after the Capitol was secure, Collins voted to certify the count.
- United States Senate Committee on Appropriations
- Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Defense
- Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
- Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (Chair)
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Select Committee on Intelligence
- Special Committee on Aging
In 2013, Collins sided with Obama's position 75.9% of the time, one of only two Republicans to vote with him more than 70% of the time. As of September 2020, according to FiveThirtyEight, she had voted with Trump's positions about 68% of the time, the lowest among all Republican senators. During Trump's presidency she voted with the Republican majority on party-line votes much more often than during Obama's presidency.
Collins voted to acquit Trump of all charges at his first impeachment trial. She said she did not think Trump's request that the Ukrainian President announce an investigation into Joe Biden met the "high bar" for "removing a duly elected president". She said Trump had "learned from this case" and "will be much more cautious in the future." Shortly after his acquittal, Trump fired witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. In the following months, he fired inspectors general of the State Department and the intelligence community. Collins criticized the firing, provoking a retaliatory response from Trump.
Collins is one of three current Republican U.S. Senators, along with Shelley Moore Capito and Lisa Murkowski, to describe themselves as pro-choice, or pro-abortion rights, and to support Roe v. Wade. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America and Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, she "has supported over 90% of Trump's picks for federal judge positions, including 32 nominees who have indicated they oppose abortion rights". Collins has defended her votes to support these nominees by citing her support for both of Obama's Supreme Court appointments. She voted to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying she did not believe he would overturn Roe. She said she felt "vindication" in 2018 when Kavanaugh voted with the court's four Democratic-appointed justices and Chief Justice John Roberts not to hear cases against Planned Parenthood from Kansas and Louisiana, although Planned Parenthood disagreed with her assessment of the situation. In 2020, Collins faced renewed criticism of her vote when Kavanaugh said states should be permitted to severely reduce access to and availability of abortion in his dissent in June Medical Services LLC v Russo.
In 2004, Collins expressed concerns about how the Bush administration wanted to implement its proposed plan to cut taxes. She cited deficit concerns as a reason for opposing the plan, but ultimately voted in favor of the Bush tax cuts in 2003 and for their extension in 2006. Collins was one of just three Republican lawmakers to vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, prompting heated criticism from the right for crossing party lines.
In December 2017, Collins voted to pass the 2017 Republican tax plan. The bill greatly reduces corporate taxes while reducing taxes for some individuals and increasing them for others by removing some popular deductions. The bill also repeals Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, leaving thirteen million Americans uninsured and raising premiums by an estimated additional 10% per year. After the vote, Collins said she received assurances from congressional leaders that they would pass legislation intended to mitigate some of the adverse effects of the individual mandate's repeal. When asked how she could vote for a bill that would increase the deficit by an estimated $1 trillion (over ten years) after having railed against the deficit during the Obama administration, Collins insisted that it would not increase the deficit. She said she had been advised in this determination by economists Glenn Hubbard, Larry Lindsey, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote that Hubbard and Holtz-Eakin denied saying the plan would not increase the deficit.
After voting for the tax plan, Collins became the top recipient of political donations from private equity firms. Blackstone chief executive Steven Schwarzman donated $2 million to Collins's PAC, and Ken Griffin of the hedge fund Citadel donated $1.5 million.
In 2008, Collins joined the bipartisan Gang of 20, which sought to break a deadlock on a bill allowing offshore drilling that would devote billions in proceeds to renewable energy development.
In February 2017, Collins was the only Republican to vote against undoing an Obama administration rule that required coal mining companies to avoid contaminating local waterways. She was the only Republican to vote against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, and later Andrew Wheeler, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2017, Collins voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, after unsuccessfully attempting to remove that part of the bill.[better source needed]
Foreign policy and national security
In 2003, Collins voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution authorizing President Bush to go to war against Iraq. In November 2007, she was one of four Republicans to vote for a Democratic proposal of $50 billion that would condition further spending on a timeline for withdrawing troops, mandating that a withdrawal begin 30 days after the bill was enacted as part of a goal of removing all U.S. troops in Iraq by December 15, 2008. The bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. In April 2008, Collins and Senators Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh met with Bush's advisor on Iraq and Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, and expressed support for a prohibition on spending for major reconstruction projects, the proposal requiring Iraqis to pay for its security forces to be trained and equipped and reimburse the American military for the estimated $153 million a month the military spent on fueling in combat operations in Iraq. Collins said after the meeting that while the administration did not have a view entirely similar to the senators', it at least seemed open to their proposal. In June 2014, while growing violence erupted in Iraq under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Collins said the violence would have been slower had a residual NATO force been present in Iraq and that the question was whether airstrikes were effective.
In September 2009, Collins said she was unsure whether sending more American troops to Afghanistan would help end the Afghanistan War, but cited the need for "more American civilians to help build up institutions" and growth of the Afghan army. In 2010, she called for the removal of Arnold Fields as Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, citing his repeated expressing of concern for the SIGAR and his disappointment with the Obama administration's "ongoing failure to take decisive action". In August 2017, Collins commended Trump for providing clarity after years of the U.S. lacking a "clear focus and defined strategy" with respect to Afghanistan and said he made the case that the Afghan government must participate "in defending its people, ending havens for terrorists, and curtailing corruption".
Before Obama met President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping at an informal retreat in June 2013, Collins cosponsored legislation that would authorize the Commerce Department to investigate whether currency manipulation is a form of subsidization. In April 2018, she said the U.S. needed "a more nuanced approach" in dealing with China but gave Trump "credit for levying these tariffs against the Chinese, with whom we've talked for a decade about their unfair trade practices and their theft of intellectual property from American firms", adding that while the U.S. needed to toughen its stance against China, it would need to do this in a manner that did not create "a trade war and retaliation that will end up with our European and Asian competitors getting business that otherwise would have come to American farmers".
In March 2015, Collins was one of seven Senate Republicans not to sign a March 2015 letter to the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran attempting to cast doubt on the Obama administration's authority to engage in nuclear-proliferation negotiations with Iran. She announced her opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement later that year, saying it was "fundamentally flawed because it leaves Iran as capable of building a nuclear weapon at the expiration of the agreement as it is today", and predicted Iran "will be a more dangerous and stronger nuclear threshold state" after the agreement expires. In June 2019, after the United States nearly launched an airstrike on Iran after Iran downed an American surveillance drone, Collins said the U.S. could not "allow Iran to continue to launch this kind of attack" but warned that miscalculations by either side "could lead to a war in the Middle East".
In March 2017, Collins co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.270), which made it a federal crime, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government.
In March 2018, Collins was one of five Republican senators to vote against tabling a resolution that would cease the U.S. military's support for Saudi Arabia's bombing operations in Yemen. In December, she was one of seven Republican senators to vote for the resolution withdrawing American armed forces' support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and an amendment by Todd Young ensuring midair refueling between American and Saudi Air Force did not resume. Collins was one of seven Republicans to vote to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen in February 2019, and, in May 2019, she was one of seven Republicans to vote to override Trump's veto of the resolution on Yemen. In June 2019, Collins was one of seven Republicans to vote to block Trump's Saudi arms deal providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan and one of five Republicans to vote against an additional 20 arms sales.
In May 2020, Collins voted to confirm U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence. Ratcliffe is a Trump ally who had little experience in national security or national intelligence and who had embellished his prosecutorial experience in terrorism and immigration cases. In 2019, there was bipartisan opposition to Ratcliffe's nomination. The Washington Post called Collins's support for Ratcliffe "key" to his 2020 confirmation.
Collins voted for the Manchin–Toomey bill to amend federal law to expand background checks for gun purchases. She voted against a ban of high-capacity (more than ten rounds) magazines. She has received a C+ grade on gun rights from the NRA, and D- from Gun Owners of America. In 2018, Collins was a cosponsor of the NICS Denial Notification Act, legislation developed in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that would require federal authorities to inform states within a day after a person failing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System attempted to buy a firearm. In February 2019, she supported the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act, legislation enabling the attorney general to deny the sale of a firearm to people on the no-fly list or selectee list.
In May 2017, Collins was one of six senators to introduce the Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion Act, legislation that would allow treatment facilities with up to 40 beds reimbursement by Medicaid for 60 consecutive days of inpatient services and serve as a modification of the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease law, which authorized Medicaid coverage only for facilities with 16 or fewer beds.
Collins voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act in September 2017. Later that year, she voted with Republican senators to repeal the individual mandate of the ACA. The absence of the individual mandate weakened the ACA's legal stability, leading the Trump administration in 2020 to seek to have the ACA ruled unconstitutional by the courts (in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2012, Chief Justice Roberts upheld the ACA by citing the individual mandate).
In December 2017, Collins was one of nine senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer describing opioid use as a nonpartisan issue that was "ravaging communities in every state and preys upon individuals and families regardless of party affiliation" and requesting that they "make every effort to ensure that new, substantial and sustained funding for the opioid epidemic is included in any legislative package".
In April 2019, Collins cosponsored the Protecting Jessica Grubb's Legacy Act, legislation that authorized the sharing of the medical records of patients being treated for substance use disorder among healthcare providers if the patient provided the information. Cosponsor Shelley Moore Capito said the bill also prevented medical providers from unintentionally providing opioids to individuals in recovery.
In 2007, Collins voted against the bipartisan McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform proposal, which would have given undocumented immigrants (including those brought into the United States as minors) a pathway to citizenship if they met certain requirements, while also substantially increasing border enforcement. In 2010, she voted against the DREAM Act. In 2013, Collins was one of 14 Republicans to vote in favor of a comprehensive immigration bill that included border security and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She opposed Obama's decision to achieve immigration reform through executive action, which gave deportation relief to as many as five million undocumented immigrants through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
In 2017, Collins opposed Trump's executive order to ban entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, saying, "The worldwide refugee ban set forth in the executive order is overly broad and implementing it will be immediately problematic." In 2019, she introduced bipartisan legislation to oppose Trump's declaration emergency at the southern border in order to build a wall. She was one of a dozen Republicans who broke with their party, joining all Democrats, to vote for the resolution rejecting the emergency declaration. In September 2019, she again voted with 10 other Republicans to overturn Trump's emergency declaration on the border.
In 2004, Collins was one of six Republicans who voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. She voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and was the primary Republican sponsor of the repeal effort. In 2015, she was one of 11 Republican senators to vote to give Social Security benefits to same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage was not yet recognized.
In 2017 and 2019 Collins co-sponsored bills with Democratic senators to prevent Trump from banning transgender people from the United States military and prohibit anti-LGBT housing discrimination. She was the only Republican co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which aims to comprehensively prohibit LGBT discrimination.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which rates politicians' support for LGBT issues, gave Collins a score of 85% during the 114th Congress (2015–17), and a score of 33% during the 115th Congress (2017–19). She received a 49% score in the 116th Congress. In 2020, the HRC endorsed an opponent of Collins for the first time since 1996, citing her votes for judicial nominees, particularly Brett Kavanaugh.
United States Postal Service
In 2006, Collins sponsored the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which passed the Senate unanimously. The bill requires the USPS to prepay 50 years' worth of employee health and retirement benefits.
Honors and awards
On May 7, 2014, The National Journal recognized Collins as the senator with "perfect attendance", noting that she had not missed a single vote since her election to the Senate in 1997.
In 2014, Elle magazine named Collins one of its "10 Most Powerful Women in D.C".
Collins received the Publius Award from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress on March 12, 2014.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars gave Collins its 2017 Congressional Award, which is annually given to one member of Congress for their significant legislative contributions on behalf of military veterans.
|Location||Date||School||Degree||Gave commencement address|
|Bangor, Maine||1997||Husson University||Doctor of Public Service||No|
|Biddeford, Maine||1999||University of New England||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)||Yes|
|Castine, Maine||2007||Maine Maritime Academy||Doctorate||Yes|
|Waterville, Maine||September 13, 2014||Colby College||Doctorate||No|
|Augusta, Maine||May 9, 2015||University of Maine at Augusta||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)||Yes|
|Middlebury, Vermont||May 29, 2016||Middlebury College||Doctorate||No|
|Canton, New York||May 21, 2017||St. Lawrence University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)||Yes|
|Lewiston, Maine||May 28, 2017||Bates College||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)||No|
Collins is married to Thomas Daffron, a lobbyist who worked as chief operating officer at Jefferson Consulting Group in Washington, D.C. from 2006 to 2016; he consulted on Collins's 1996, 2002 and 2008 Senate campaigns. They were married on August 11, 2012, at the Gray Memorial United Methodist Church in Caribou, Maine. She is Roman Catholic.
Collins has been on the general-election ballot six times in Maine: once for governor, five times for U.S. senator. She has been defeated just once, in her 1994 campaign for governor.
Notes and references
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- Senator Collins official U.S. Senate website
- Susan Collins for Senate
- Column archive in the Bangor Daily News
- Susan Collins at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress