At times, it’s difficult to reconcile the power that moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins wields with her rather awkward, frumpy appearance. However, when the Senate must decide on the most controversial, contentious questions, hers is often one of the true swing votes. Unlike her colleague Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Collins appears to gather all of the facts and to examine them carefully. Often, she is one of the last Senators to come to a decision or at least one of the last to announce it.
Her vote has been critical in many Senate decisions. The final vote for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation, which she ultimately voted for, was 50-48. Had she voted against him, the final vote would have been 49-49. Vice President Mike Pence would have cast the deciding vote, which would have been less than ideal for a Supreme Court nominee. Although it’s hard to imagine, it would have cast even more “illegitimacy” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Clearly, Collins support was important.
According to Vox, Collins’ vote against the repeal of Obamacare, along with Murkowski’s, “made McCain’s unforgettable thumbs-down possible.”
Collins’ vote for the Republican tax bill in 2017 was critical as well. Again, although she was not the deciding vote, hers was one of a handful of votes that decided the issue. The bill passed 51-48.
The people of Maine are watching her vote on President Trump’s impeachment very closely. Last month, Collins, 67, announced she will be seeking reelection for what would be her fifth term this November. Many voters in the increasingly blue New England state are still angry that she voted for Kavanaugh’s confirmation in October 2018. Her seat is important in maintaining the current balance of power in the Senate. Democrats are going to be fighting mightily to flip Collin’ seat. If she were to lose, Republicans would be only two seats away from losing their majority. There will be 33 Senate elections in November
Anyway, Sen. Collins clearly knows there’s been a lot of speculation about her vote regarding the process the Senate will follow for the impeachment trial and it was important to her to clarify her position. Thus, she prepared a statement which appears in full below.
The most noteworthy point she makes is that, “Prior to hearing the statement of the case and the Senators asking questions, I will not support any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses. Instead, that issue should be addressed at the same point that it was in the 1999 trial.”
This was a key reason Nancy Pelosi chose to withhold the articles of impeachment for one month following the House vote. She and other House Democratic leaders had wanted this question settled from the get go. Collins’ position on this question had previously been unknown. And, much to the Republican’s relief, she favors waiting until both sides have presented their cases to vote on whether witnesses are required, a decision which I’m sure pleases the Republicans.
She states she is in favor of following the model used during the Clinton impeachment trial. Both sides should be able to state their cases and any questions would be asked through Chief Justice Roberts.
Following that phase of the trial, as in the Clinton trial, she is in favor of holding another vote on whether or not to to subpoena witnesses and admit additional materials. She notes that she voted in favor of this during the Clinton trial.
So, the real takeaways from Collins statement are that the vote on calling witnesses should not come at the beginning of the trial, but after both sides have made their cases and that the Senate should follow the same course as they did during Clinton’s trial.
That’s good to know.
There has been a lot of mischaracterization and misunderstanding about my position on the process the Senate should follow for the impeachment trial.
Rather than have my position relayed through the interpretation of others, I wanted to state it directly:
1. From the outset, I have said that we should follow the model that we used with the Clinton impeachment trial.
2. That process provided for the opportunity for both sides to state their case and for Senators to ask questions through the Chief Justice.
3. At the conclusion of that phase of the 1999 trial, the Senate voted on a motion to subpoena witnesses and admit additional materials after the case had been heard and the questions had been posed. I voted in favor of that motion subpoenaing witnesses.
4. For this trial, as was done in 1999, both sides should have the opportunity to state their case and the Senators should have the opportunity to pose questions. Then, the Senate should have an up-or-down-vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents.
5. While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.
6. Prior to hearing the statement of the case and the Senators asking questions, I will not support any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses. Instead, that issue should be addressed at the same point that it was in the 1999 trial.
7. I have not made a decision on any particular witnesses. When we reach the appropriate point in the trial, I would like to hear from both sides about which witnesses, if any, they would like to call.