In exchange for her surprising expected vote in favour of the Republican Party tax bill, Senator Collins received commitments from both the Trump Administration and Senate leaders to back two separate bills to fund Obamacare.
Collins has nothing to gain from such a deal and everything to lose. She should vote against the GOP measure, for the following reasons:
- The so-called “commitment” received from the Senate leadership is worthless. Even if the Senate leadership is faithful to the commitment, it only means that the leadership will try to have its members pass the bills Collins wants passed – there is no guarantee. Collins need look no further than her own refusal to back the Senate leadership’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, killing the bill despite Senate leadership’s efforts to the contrary.
- The so-called “commitment” received from the Trump Administration is less than worthless. Trump is notoriously mercurial, often changing his mind on a whim, and almost certainly suffering from impulse control. Of even more concern, Trump has made a lifetime of sacrificing his friends, betraying “commitments” he made to many. He even threw his allies in the House under the bus after they voted in favour of his favourite pet project: destroying Obamacare! (More on that, later.) Why would Senator Collins put any stock into a “commitment” from Trump?
- Speaking of, hasn’t Senator Collins been paying attention? Nothing animates Trump more than his hatred for Barack Obama, and nothing is more important to Trump in erasing his predecessor’s legacy than the dismantling of Obamacare. So, does Senator Collins realistically think that Trump will actually honour his “commitment” to help shore up Obamacare, the very thing he has dedicated his first year in office trying to destroy?
- Even if the commitments Senator Collins has received from the Senate leadership and the Trump administration are genuine, and even if both really do try to help Senator Collins shore up Obamacare (despite efforts by both the Senate leadership and Trump administration throughout the year to do the exact opposite), both pieces of legislation championed by Senator Collins would have to pass the Republican Party controlled House – and, that is never going to happen because the House skews far more to the right than the Senate and the Freedom Caucus (the one group that may hate Obama and Obamacare just as much as Trump and Senator majority leader McConnell) would never allow either bill to pass the House.
- Let’s also not forget the fact that politics is a dirty sport. Senator Collins national profile rose considerably during the Obamacare repeal effort when she resisted her own party and voted in line with her constituents wishes. There are plenty of politicians in Washington that will want to cut Senator Collins back down to size, and this would be the perfect opportunity: manipulate Senator Collins to vote against her constituents’ wishes, in line with the Party, and then leave her all alone in the cold by not passing the two bills she bartered away her votes for in the first place.
- Let’s be clear. The majority of Americans oppose the GOP tax bill. Only 22% of the people of Maine support the the GOP tax bill (less than the national figure, interestingly). In a perfect world, Senator Collins would feel obliged to vote in line with the majority of her constituents. But, even in an imperfect world, Senator Collins will end up expending significant political capital merely to vote against the wishes of her own constituents without anything of significance (see above) in return.
- Most importantly, though, is that the Republican Party doesn’t need her vote! With Senator McCain convalescing in Arizona, the Republican Party still has 51 senators versus 48 senators – even if Senator Collins voted against the measure it would still pass 50-49, and Senator Collins would preserve her political clout. Although his office has promised he would return for the tax vote, even if Senator Thad Cochran were to miss the vote for some reason, Senator Collins could still vote against the measure to preserve her political clout while ensuring its ultimate passage because Vice President Pence has skipped his planned Mideast trip to stay in Washington for the GOP tax vote allowing him to cast the deciding tie-breaking vote in favour of the bill: 50(+1)-50.
In the final analysis, Senator Collins gets absolutely nothing for voting in favour of the GOP tax plan that will pass without her support anyways.
In fact, she will get less than nothing – the damage to her political clout (dropping her from ‘atop the pack’ to ‘just another politician’) will be staggering in the current political climate.
But, if Senator Collins votes against the measure, she will maintain her political clout (if not increase it to emerge as an influential “swing vote“, entrenching her as an independent centre of power within Washington) while still letting the bill pass into law.
For these reasons, Senator Collins should vote against the GOP tax plan.