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Political Notebook

Feud between Schumer and Collins goes public

Senator Susan Collins responded quickly to criticism from Senator Chuck Schumer.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

A long-simmering feud between Senator Susan Collins and Senator Chuck Schumer flared in public on Wednesday, as the moderate Maine Republican accused the New York Democrat and majority leader of standing in the way of bipartisanship.

In remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Collins lashed out at Schumer for comments he made about her on CNN Tuesday night, in which he said Collins deserved some of the blame for an insufficiently large economic rescue package Democrats pushed through in 2009 amid the Great Recession.

“We made a big mistake in 2009 and ’10 — Susan Collins was a big part of that mistake,” Schumer said. “We cut back on the stimulus dramatically and we stayed in recession for five years.”

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His remarks were then shared on Twitter by Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff.

Collins, one of only three Republicans who supported the 2009 stimulus after insisting that its size be pared back, unloaded on Schumer for the comments, suggesting that he held a political grudge against her.

“President Obama urged me to vote for a stimulus bill that passed that year, and indeed called me afterwards to thank me for my vote,” Collins recalled. “For Chuck Schumer, who was intimately involved in the negotiations as the assistant leader, to somehow criticize me for taking the same position that he did is simply bizarre.”

“I think it reflects, regrettably, his inability to accept the fact that despite pouring $100 million into defeating me, the people of Maine, said ‘no,’ and reelected me to a historic term,” she added.

The bitter back-and-forth reflected the anger among moderate Republicans at being cut out of the stimulus negotiations, and how difficult it will be for Schumer to persuade them to cross party lines and join him on other proposals that will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

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It also highlighted a nasty rivalry between the two senators that has persisted for years, as Schumer has sought Collins’s vote on crucial legislation while repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — trying to recruit a candidate who could unseat her in what has become an increasingly blue state. It grew particularly toxic this past year after Schumer attacked her during her latest reelection race. She rarely misses a chance to remind him of her victories.

“Chuck Schumer has tried to take me out three times now,” Collins said in a recent interview with The New York Times, in which she called ads he ran against her in 2020 “deceptive” and “shameful.” “I know he’s a baseball fan. I hope he remembers three strikes and you’re out.”

She also noted that she has a close relationship with President Biden, whom she served with in the Senate and regards as open to bipartisan compromise, but sees Schumer as an impediment.

“I am going to continue to work with President Biden and his administration,” she said on Wednesday, naming a major infrastructure initiative as a common goal. “I just hope that Senator Schumer does not continue to be an obstacle to bipartisanship.”

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said Biden should speak out against what Schumer had said about Collins.

“It doesn’t help bipartisanship when Chuck Schumer goes on Anderson Cooper, as he did last night, and attacks the most bipartisan member of the US Senate, who is Susan Collins,” he said. “That’s not a way to work together with people or find common-ground solutions.”

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New York Times

House chaplain offers lawmakers harsh critique

Margaret Grun Kibben, the chaplain to the US House of Representatives, on Wednesday delivered a blistering critique of lawmakers, who she said are “failing” to overcome partisanship and unite to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Kibben, a retired Navy rear admiral, made the remarks in her opening prayer at the start of Wednesday’s House session.

“Almighty God, as these lawmakers take their sides on this factional bill before them, we pray your mercy,” Kibben said. “Forgive them, all of them. For when called upon to respond to a once-in-a-century pandemic that has rocked our country, upended its economy and widened the chasm of partisan opinion, they have missed the opportunity to step above the fray and unite to attend to this national crisis.”

Kibben’s remarks came hours before the House gave final approval to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, largely along partisan lines.

In her prayer, Kibben lamented that lawmakers have chosen to engage in “argument, disparaging words, and divisiveness” rather than “employing the preventive measures of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

“In failing to address the acrimony and divisions which have prevailed in this room, the servants you have called to lead this country have contributed to the spread of an even more insidious contagion of bitterness and spite,” Kibben said.

She added, “Merciful Lord, rebuild this House, that their labor will not be in vain.”

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Washington Post

Trump seeks mail-in ballot in local election

Former president Donald Trump recently requested a mail-in ballot for a municipal election in South Florida, according to Palm Beach County records, voting again by mail despite months of repeatedly promoting false claims of election fraud without evidence.

Records from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, first reported by the Palm Beach Post, show that a mail-in ballot for the town’s local election this week was requested on Friday for the former president’s residence at Mar-a-Lago, his private club on Palm Beach.

Trump’s latest request for a mail-in ballot is yet another instance in which the former president’s actions have sharply contrasted with his rhetoric on vote by mail, often lobbing baseless claims that election fraud was responsible for his loss to President Biden.

Despite his history of falsely claiming that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud, it’s at least the third time Trump has voted by mail in recent years — the first in New York in 2018 and the other last March for Florida’s primary. Much as with Trump’s voting for the Palm Beach municipal election, an associate was allowed last year to pick up and deliver the absentee ballots for him and his wife, Melania, during the primary.

Washington Post

Expert on racketeering law joins Ga. investigators

ATLANTA — An expert on Georgia’s racketeering law was sworn in Wednesday to help the prosecutor who’s investigating potential efforts by former president Donald Trump and others to influence last year’s general election.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has engaged John Floyd to serve as a special assistant district attorney to work with lawyers in her office on any cases involving allegations of racketeering, her spokesman Jeff DiSantis said. A Fulton County Superior Court judge swore him in Wednesday morning.

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Willis’s office has confirmed that the investigation into potential efforts to influence the election includes a Jan. 2 phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state. Willis has also said she has questions about a call Senator Lindsey Graham made to Raffensperger, the sudden departure of a top federal prosecutor, and statements made before Georgia legislative committees.

Associated Press