Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced Monday night that she would vote against a procedural motion on the Senate health care repeal bill and said that unless the bill changed significantly she would vote against the bill itself.
Majority leader Mitch McConnell should not even try to negotiate with Collins.
Politically, she has no incentive to ever vote for a health care bill like this.
In legislating, it’s always easier to say no. And Collins seems particularly against the details of this bill, namely the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 22 million would no longer have health insurance in a decade should the Senate bill become law.
The current “Senate bill won’t do it,” she wrote on Twitter Monday night.
McConnell’s decision on Tuesday afternoon to delay the vote on the bill until after the July 4 holiday will give Republicans time to try to change Collins’s mind, but judging from her comments just after the announcement of the delay, that’s a longshot.
“It’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill.” Collins told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
Indeed, there are three reasons why Collins will likely stay a no regardless of how much the bill may change in the coming days.
The bills remain deeply unpopular
As much as politicians claim they focus only on policy, they are, of course, influenced by politics. The Senate bill is largely modeled after the House Republican bill, which even President Trump called “mean.” The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed just 16 percent of Americans thought the House health care bill “was a good idea.” Especially interesting is that only 34 percent of Republican poll respondents backed the plan.
For Collins, a no vote mirrors where voters are at.
Opposing the bill is smart if she runs for governor
Collins has said she is considering a run for Maine governor next year. Voting for this plan could mean that she would have to defend this vote, and that could hit her hard. According to the CBO estimate, the loss of insurance coverage would hit older, rural, and low-income people the hardest. Maine has a lot of residents in those demographics.
Opposing the bill is smart is she wants to stay in the Senate
For Collins and other Republicans in most New England states, there is an important dynamic at play: whether their reelection comes in a midterm year when it is easier for Republicans to win, or in a presidential year where they have to win despite a Democratic presidential candidate likely winning their state on the same day.
Collins is up for reelection in 2020, a presidential year. While Trump did pick off an electoral vote in that state’s Second Congressional District last year, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state overall. That’s not good news, even for a moderate like Collins.
Even if Collins has any thought about voting yes to a bill this unpopular, she must know it will figure prominently in her reelection campaign, and that can’t sit well. Besides, Collins has already parted with her party’s Republican base. When she announced she would not vote for Trump in the general election, Maine Governor Paul LePage, a fellow Republican, said “I am not a Susan Collins fan.”
Don’t expect a yes vote even after the July 4 break.