Number of Trump's extremist judges Collins has confirmed as of Oct. 20, 2020.
Collins' Legislative Scorecards
ABOUT THIS PAGE
Why make a case against Collins?
This page uses publicly available information to provide background on aspects of Sen. Collins’ voting record that you may be unaware of, and the negative impact her votes have had on Mainers and people around the nation. We have also highlighted harmful actions taken by those Collins has confirmed to the judicial and executive branches. Because her vote helped put these individuals in power, Collins shares responsibility for their actions. The information presented here demonstrates that Collins’ record does not align with her claim of being a moderate who puts Mainers’ interests ahead of those of Trump, McConnell, and other leaders in the Republican party. Read more about why we created this resource HERE.
Who created and maintains this page?
As with all resources on this website, the content on this page is produced and maintained by Suit Up Maine members and administrators. Suit Up Maine is unfunded, all volunteer, all Mainer, and completely independent. Learn more about our group from the links at the top of this page.
Does this site include all of Collins' votes?
No. We leave it to Collins’ Senate and campaign staffers to promote the votes the senator likes to tout. Instead, we highlight those that contradict her carefully stylized but inaccurate branding as a moderate. Every vote included here is verified with links to official roll calls or committee reports.
How should I use this information?
- Get informed: We want Mainers to have as much information as possible when they head to the polls on Nov. 3, 2020. The roll calls, context, and donor information provided here offer a view of Collins’ record that you won’t find in her press releases or statements.
- Write letters to the editor: Help inform other Maine voters by using the information found here to write letters to the editor at local and statewide media outlets. Learn more in our Letters to the Editor Guide.
- Tell your neighbors: Progressive organizations and the Maine Democratic Party will be canvassing around the state over the next year. Use this information to guide conversations with anyone who isn’t familiar with Collins’ voting record.
- Use our Collins Toolkit: Check out the shareable, printable graphics and PDFs and other resources under the Collins Toolkit tab above.
Will this site be updated?
How can I learn more?
Want to learn more about Collins’ votes and donors? Here are a few nonpartisan sites we recommend:
- Senate.gov. Posts roll calls within one hour of votes.
- Senate calender. Lists upcoming votes.
- GovTrack. See Collins’ sponsored bills and key votes. Sign up to track legislation and receive vote alerts by email.
- Vote Smart. See Collins’ public statements, voting record, donor information, and speeches.
- Federal Elections Commission. See who’s donated to Collins’ campaigns and who she supports with her leadership PAC.
- Trump nominee tracker. Lists all Trump nominees for judicial and executive positions. Updated daily.
- Represent. Includes all of Collins’ bills, votes, statements, and voting record compared with other senators.
- Judicial Nominees
- Executive Nominees
- Reproductive Rights
- Tax Bill
- Health Care
- Gun Safety
- Civil Rights & Social Justice
- Workers' Rights
- Funding Sources
- But Wait, There's More...
- Collins Toolkit
THE CASE AGAINST COLLINS
When Sen. Susan Collins (R) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, she pledged to serve no more than two terms. She has now announced that she will run for her fifth term in 2020. Our message to the senator: Your two terms are up. To assist Mainers as they prepare for the 2020 Senate race, we created this resource highlighting Sen. Collins’ disappointing and increasingly partisan voting record. We also highlight the harmful actions taken by those Collins has confirmed to the judicial and executive branches. Because her vote helped put these individuals in positions of power, Collins shares the responsibility for the harm they cause. To understand Collins’ true place on the political spectrum, look at her votes and follow the money.
» Click on the issue-specific tabs to find votes, action, and funding info.
» Visit the Collins’ Toolkit tab for PDFs, graphics, and our LTE Guide.
» Learn more about this page under the drop-down boxes in the left column.
» Collins helped position latest far-right Supreme Court justice. Amy Coney Barrett has been sworn in as an associate justice on the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Barrett, a far-right Federalist Society member who opposes marriage equality, reproductive rights, and the ACA, ascended to her current post on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals with assistance from Collins, who confirmed her in 2017. Collins voted against Barrett’s confirmation, citing her belief that no confirmation should have been held until after the election. But she did not announce her decision until after McConnell announced he had the votes to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. Regardless, Collins’ support of Barrett’s far-right leanings was made clear with her 2017 vote. Read more about Coney Barrett and the other extremist Trump judges Collins has confirmed under the Judicial Nominees tab above.
» Collins funds QAnon supporters. Collins’ leadership PAC donated to the campaigns of two Maine legislature candidates who openly support QAnon, a far-right internet conspiracy following that seeds fictitious and cryptic claims about Trump saving the world from a “deep state” cabal of cannibal pedophiles. Last year, the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat, saying that the spread of the group’s theories would drive extremists to carry out violent acts. Learn more about Collins’ partisan donor history under the Funding Sources tab above.
» BIW call on Collins to pull false campaign ad. Collins angered workers at Bath Iron Works by falsely implying in a campaign ad that she played a role in ending a contentious strike last summer. Not only did she play no role in ending the BIW strike, she also helped a competitor and mega donor land an $8 million defense contract, who has since been charged with fraud and is under investigation for campaign finance violations. Learn more about Collins’ hostile voting record on issues affecting workers and her partisan donor history under the Workers Rights’ and Funding Sources tabs above.
» Arctic Refuge open to drilling, with Collins’ help. The Trump administration has opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to oil and gas drilling, a move made possible by the 2017 GOP tax bill, which Collins supported. Leases could be sold for drilling on 1.57 million acres in the refuge as early as the end of this year, a move cheered by the oil industry despite scientists’ concerns over the potentially devastating environmental impact, including analysis by Trump’s own administration that drilling could cause the extinction of 67 bird species. Click on the Environment tab above to learn more.
» Collins played key role in current Postal Service crisis. In 2006, Collins introduced the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the United States Postal Service (USPS) to pre-pay retiree health care benefits for the next 75 years, a hefty financial burden that applies to no other public or private entity. As a result, the USPS is saddled with $120 billion in debt, which Donald Trump has exploited to attack the agency in an effort to block absentee voting in November. Maine letter carriers say Collins’ bill created a financial crisis that USPS opponents have used to call for privatizing the agency. Click on the But Wait, There’s More tab above to learn more.
» Collins opposes extending UI lifeline to laid-off workers. Collins wants to slash the $600 additional Unemployment Insurance assistance, which has been a lifeline to 80,000 Mainers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Collins has joined other Republicans in saying the additional assistance is a “disincentive” to getting back to work, even though that claim was debunked recently by separate studies from the Chicago Federal Reserve and Yale University. Despite these findings, Collins continues to imply that Mainers would rather draw UI than return to work. Collins has a long history of opposing issues important to workers, including voting against a minimum wage increase and collective bargaining rights and supporting the repeal of worker safety and fair pay protections. Click on the Workers Rights tab above to learn more.
» Kavanaugh rules against LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. Brett Kavanaugh, confirmed by Collins in September 2018 over the objection of a majority of her constituents, offered a number of rulings in the latest session to strip rights from LGBTQ+ workers and to limit abortion access and contraceptive coverage. Click on the Civil Rights and Reproductive Rights tabs above to learn more.
Amy Coney Barrett has been sworn in as an associate justice on the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Barrett, a far-right Federalist Society member who opposes marriage equality, reproductive rights, and the ACA, ascended to her current post on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals with assistance from Collins, who confirmed her in 2017. Collins voted against Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, citing her belief that no confirmation should have been held until after the election. Collins did not announce that position until after McConnell announced he had the votes to confirm the nominee. Regardless, Collins’ support of Barrett’s far-right leanings was made clear with her 2017 vote. A longtime member of the Federalist Society, Barrett supports the judicial philosophy of Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she once clerked and sided with in his narrow interpretation of the Commerce Clause, which he used to argue that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and should be struck down. Arguing from the teachings of the Catholic church, she is deeply opposed to abortion (“always immoral”) and LGBTQ rights (speaks of “complementarity of men and women”). She has articulated an unusual degree of comfort with departing from judicial precedent and has expressed support for overturning Roe v Wade. (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Supreme Court. (See the roll call)
Following his nomination in July 2018, nearly 200 civil and human rights organizations and more than 400 faith leaders urged the Senate to oppose Kavanaugh—including dozens of groups in Maine. This unprecedented level of opposition was based on his prior arguments, opinions, writings, and speeches on a range of issues, including reproductive rights, executive powers, the environment, the Affordable Care Act, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, gun reform, voting rights, and religious liberty. Kavanaugh had also previously asserted that presidents should not be subject to investigation, should not have to answer subpoenas, and should be allowed to fire special counsels. In September, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward with credible accusations that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teens. Other women later made similar reports of assault by Kavanaugh. Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of September, followed the same day by rebuttal testimony from Kavanaugh. (Watch their testimony.) During his appearance, Kavanaugh conducted himself with open partisan hostility toward Democrats and evaded questions. It also appears likely that he lied to the Senate under oath, since several facts in his testimony were later contradicted. Bending to public pressure, the Trump administration ordered the FBI to re-open its background check of Kavanaugh, with several restrictions: agents were not allowed to talk to Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh, or key corroborating witnesses. The truncated inquiry was over in less than a week. Two days later, Collins offered a 45-minute defense of Kavanaugh on the Senate floor, in which she said that Blasey Ford’s accusations did not seem to reach a threshold of “more likely than not.” Kavanaugh was confirmed 50-48. Following her vote, Collins had the best fundraising quarter of her career, with almost all the donations coming from out-of-state, dark-money groups that had supported Kavanaugh.
Neil Gorsuch, U.S. Supreme Court. (See the roll call)
More than 100 civil and human rights organizations had strongly opposed Gorsuch’s confirmation, citing many rulings and views that were well outside the judicial mainstream. Gorsuch has a long history of favoring corporations and opposing the rights of individuals, including dissenting opinions in cases involving workplace discrimination, a worker electrocuted to death on the job, workers denied wages, and a firing in violation of whistleblower protection laws. His record also included a history of ruling against children with disabilities. Just prior to his confirmation, the Supreme Court overruled a decision he made about eligibility for children with disabilities to receive assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, drawing a rare unanimous rebuke from the Supreme Court for the standard he applied in that case. As judge, he wrote or joined opinions that favored the defunding of Planned Parenthood or allowed employers to deny women access to contraception based on the employers’ religious beliefs. He supported police who used excessive force, even when it violated department policies, and expressed disdain for LGBTQ individuals’ use of the courts to enforce their civil rights, and for environmental regulations. At his confirmation hearings, he called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” and refused to say whether he thought several landmark cases had been correctly decided. These included Gideon (requires states to provide lawyers to defendants in criminal cases who can’t afford one); Heller (affirms individuals’ right to bear arms; clarifies that the right is not unlimited and that states can adopt restrictions); Citizens United (on money in politics). He also refused to discuss his views on dark money in elections, warrantless surveillance, LGBTQ rights, immigration bans, or the Emoluments clause. (Source: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
CIRCUIT COURTS OF APPEALS
David Stras, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call).
Stras has a far-right judicial philosophy and has criticized the Supreme Court’s “venturing” into issues including school integration, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. He has written in praise of a New Deal-era judge who voted against the minimum wage and voted to strike down social security. (Source: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
Stuart Kyle Duncan, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
Duncan has a long history of promoting conservative religious causes and defended discrimination against LGBTQ people and Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the ACA contraception mandate. He has fought to make it more difficult for people of color to vote and has indicated he won’t respect legal precedent when he disagrees with the outcome of a previous case. (Source: Alliance for Justice)
Leonard Steven Grasz, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
Grasz was the first appellate court nominee since 2006 to receive a unanimous “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. Despite pledging that she would never vote for a nominee deemed unqualified by the ABA, Collins confirmed him. He sat on the board of an organization that supports conversion therapy, proposed a city rule allowing discrimination against LGBTQ job applicants, fought to deny Medicaid coverage to a woman who sought to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape, and holds troubling views about the separation of church and state. (Source: Alliance for Justice)
John K. Bush, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
Bush has compared abortion to slavery, mocked climate change, sneered about women, and spread the birther claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. He used an anti-LGBTQ slur in a speech at a private Kentucky club and criticized a State Department decision to alter the wording on passport applications to allow for same-sex parents. He sought to invalidate campaign finance laws and has questioned a pivotal ruling on the freedom of the press. He represented Reagan in the Iran-Contra scandal, arguing for sweeping executive powers. (Source: Alliance for Justice)
Eric Murphy, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
Murphy worked as State Solicitor in Ohio, where he fought for a voter purge of the state’s eligible minority voters and argued against marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. He also filed an amicus brief to support Texas’s TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws designed to shut clinics down and ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court. (Source: People for the American Way)
Gregory Katsas, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
An ultra-conservative, Katsas is a longtime member of the Federalist Society and a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. For the Bush Justice Department (2001-2009), he worked on at least five major cases involving executive power, pushing for positions that the D.C. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court rejected as abuses of authority. He has worked to limit women’s access to abortion and to contraceptive coverage from employers, defended executive orders punishing cities for refusing to use their resources to advance ICE’s work, and argued against rights for LGBTQ citizens, including marriage equality. Through legal advice and amicus briefs, he has contributed to the current administration’s efforts to argue that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not protect workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the ban on transgender people serving in the military, and the Pence-Kobach voter suppression commission. (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
Neomi Rao, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
Rao holds troubling views on sexual assault, feminism and women’s rights, race, LGBTQ rights, and environmental protections. Prior to her appointment to the court, she was Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2017-2019, where she proposed new rules to roll back Title IX protections related to sexual harassment and sexual assault; helped block the release of guidance that would help address sexual harassment in the workplace; halted a rule requiring large companies to reveal what they pay by race, sex, and ethnicity; worked to undermine fair housing and disparate impact protections in Housing and Urban Development; helped implement rules rolling back disability rights; supported weakening protections against mercury pollution; supported a repeal of the Clean Power Plan; and worked to make it easier for employers to refuse to cover contraception. (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
Michael Park, Second Circuit Court of Appeals. (See the roll call)
Park’s extreme views earned him rare opposition from both of his home state’s senators. A nominee’s home state senator may object to the nomination with a “blue slip”. Traditionally, blue slips stop a nomination from moving forward. Under McConnell, however, the blue slip tradition has been ignored. Despite her claims to support “regular order,” Collins joined McConnell in shunning this longstanding Senate tradition and voted for Park. Park’s history includes working at what was known as the “go-to” law firm for conservative ideologues on issues ranging from voting rights to abortion to affirmative action. He represented Kansas in its efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and defended the current administration’s attempts to block two undocumented young women from receiving abortions. He also wrote an amicus brief supporting the addition of a citizenship question in the 2020 census and asserted that the Department of Justice had requested the addition of this question. Evidence later surfaced that this had been a lie. (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
Patrick Wyrick, U.S. District Court in Oklahoma. (See the roll call)
As Solicitor General in Oklahoma, Wyrick worked closely with then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt to undermine environmental protections; defended a death penalty procedure criticized for resulting in painful botched executions; defended an anti-Muslim referendum; opposed Native American sovereignty; sought to limit women’s access to reproductive health care; and argued against a workers’ compensation law. He was also called out from the bench by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for making unsubstantiated statements in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
Michael J. Truncale, U.S. District Court in Texas. (See the roll call)
In past speeches, Truncale advocated abolishing the Department of Education; argued for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; criticized safety net programs including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood; expressed bias against LGBT people; and scoffed at unions and environmental protections. (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)
John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence, May 2020. (See the roll call.)
Collins sided with her party to confirm Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to be the new director of national intelligence (DNI), despite his significant lack of experience and evidence that he inflated his resume. By law, nominees for DNI must have “extensive national security expertise.” Last summer, when Trump first nominated Ratcliffe for DNI, Senate Republicans balked, noting that he did not meet that threshold. As a result, Ratcliffe withdrew his name less than a week later over his lack of qualifications and the discovery that he had exaggerated his roles terrorism and immigration enforcement. Less than a year later, Trump re-nominated Ratcliffe for the same post. During his confirmation hearing, Ratcliffe refused to say whether he backed analysis by the U.S. intelligence community and the Senate Intelligence Committee that found Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. Ratcliffe follows a number of far-right conspiracy theorists on social media, including QAnon, which the FBI classifies as domestic terrorism threat. Ratcliffe, who was a member of Trump’s impeachment defense team, received more “no” votes than any DNI since the office was created in 2015.
Eugene Scalia, Secretary of Labor, September 2019. (See the roll call)
Prior to his nomination by Trump, Scalia’s long track record of fighting against workers’ rights was so problematic that the Senate declined to confirm him as the Labor Department’s chief lawyer under President George W. Bush. His more recent nomination was strenuously opposed by labor leaders like the president of the AFL-CIO, who said his pick is “insulting, it’s dangerous, and workers are not going to forget it.” The president of the NEA said that “confirming him is no different than leaving the fox to guard the henhouse.” And consumer watchdogs called him “the most conflicted labor secretary pick in recent memory.” Labor leaders pointed to Scalia’s 20-year tenure as a high-profile corporate lawyer where he helped Walmart and other corporations avoid contributing to employee health care plans; supported Boeing’s union-busting “right-to-work” threats to move jobs to another state; and defended UPS against widespread discrimination claims, HSBC mega-bank against sexual harassment claims, and casino mogul Steve Wynn against accusations of tip theft. He even worked to make sure Sea World didn’t bear any responsibility when one of its orca trainers was killed by an orca. Scalia campaigned to overturn Clinton-era ergonomics rules, sought to narrow ADA protections, opposed minimum wage requirements, and sued the government repeatedly on behalf of big banks to unravel Dodd–Frank consumer protections after the Great Recession.
William Barr, attorney general, in February 2019. (See the roll call)
Barr was widely known as a fervent defender of broad presidential power, including allowing the president to authorize the military without the approval of Congress. During his first stint as AG, under President George H.W. Bush, Barr helped create a Justice Department policy supporting mass incarceration, and praised moves by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to roll back criminal justice reforms initiated under President Barack Obama. Barr publicly supported the Muslim travel ban in 2017 and the decision by Sessions to allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. During his confirmation hearing, he expressed disagreement with Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault, and refused to say whether he thought birthright citizenship is guaranteed by the 14th amendment. Shortly after taking office, Barr grossly misrepresented the findings of the Mueller Report, claiming that the report exonerated Trump, which members of Mueller’s team quickly denied. He blocked efforts by Congress to receive copies of the unredacted report and blocked DOJ employees from testifying before House subcommittees. His efforts to undermine the Mueller report continued in the fall of 2019 when he traveled to England, Italy, and Australia to seek their help in casting doubt on the legitimacy of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election. In November, Barr once again voiced his support for unlimited presidential powers during a speech before the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, where he challenged Congress’ authority to question the president’s actions in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The whistleblower’s complaint, most of which has been corroborated by other sources, indicated that Barr seemed to be involved in the bribery of Ukraine and its cover-up. We expect more details to come to light in due time.
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, in April 2018. (See the roll call)
Former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo was first nominated by Trump to serve as CIA Director and later tapped to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Many of his actions as a Congressman led human rights organizations to strenuously oppose his nomination, including his support of NSA programs that spy on Americans, people accused of torture and the methods they used, and attacks on American Muslim leaders after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. While in Congress, he also co-sponsored legislation that would have banned all refugee admissions, made abortion illegal nationwide in nearly all cases, denied marriage equality, and restored wide spying powers on Americans. Even though Collins has claimed to oppose this type of legislation, she confirmed Pompeo anyway. Since his confirmation, Pompeo has slashed the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to a record low of 18,000; defended Trump’s China tariffs, which have crippled Maine’s lobster industry; backed the Trump administration’s continued support of Saudi Arabia despite outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; and supported Trump’s withdrawal of American troops from Syria, which opened the door for attacks by Turkey on U.S. Kurdish allies. Pompeo is now deeply enmeshed in the Trump impeachment inquiry. He appears complicit in the effort by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to lead a shadow diplomatic effort that went against longstanding U.S. foreign policy and sought to leverage military support for a critical ally in order to benefit Trump in the 2020 election. Pompeo is now under scrutiny for failing to respond to Congressional requests for documents, attempting to block State Department staff from testifying before House committees, and for lying about his knowledge of Trump’s actions. As a result, Pompeo now faces a revolt within the State Department as confidence in his leadership erodes.
For more information on how Pompeo has eroded civil rights protections, see the Civil Rights & Social Justice tab above.
Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in January 2018. (See the roll call)
Azar was a deputy secretary for HHS under George W. Bush and was president of Eli Lilly, one of 3 drug companies to be sued for colluding to increase the price of insulin. Despite Azar’s vocal opposition to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act and arguments against his nomination from dozens of patient advocacy, civil rights, and medical groups, Collins joined McConnell and other Republicans to confirm him. During his first year as secretary, Azar implemented a rule first introduced by his predecessor Tom Price that allows health care providers to deny patient care that they object to for religious reasons, such as services for LGBTQ individuals and abortion care. Azar also issued a proposed rule to remove protections for LGBTQ individuals from the ACA’s primary anti-discrimination clause and approved Medicaid work requirements in a number of states. Federal judges have issued injunctions against the work requirements in New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Azar also led the Trump administration’s attack on Title X family planning funding with new regulations that deny funding to thousands of health care centers around the country that provide abortion care or referrals for abortion services. Title X provides funding for more than 4,000 health care clinics around the nation that service low-income patients. Nearly two dozen states and clinics around the country have filed lawsuits to block the Title X gag rule, but a federal judge ruled in June 2019 that the changes could go into effect while the cases wend their way through the courts. The policy’s impact is already having far-reaching effects on patient care around the country, including in Maine. Collins has spoken out against the Title X ban implemented by the HHS secretary she confirmed in January 2018.
Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, in December 2017. (See the Roll Call)
STATUS: Resigned in April 2019.
Before she was tapped to oversee one of the nation’s largest federal departments, Nielsen had spent less than a decade working in government and was best known for her role in the deadly slow response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster that killed nearly 2,000 people. As DHS secretary, Nielson became the public face of Trump’s family separation policy at the southern border. Nielsen lied to Congress about the policy, and continued to separate children from their parents, even after a court ordered reunification. She also oversaw the continuation of other harmful agency practices, including enforcing a Muslim ban, eliminating DACA and TPS protections, denying asylum to victims of gang and domestic violence, slashing refugee admissions, using tear gas on immigrant mothers and children, arresting immigrants at “sensitive” locations like hospitals and court houses, using refugee children as bait to arrest parents and caregivers seeking to reunify with unaccompanied migrant children, warehousing immigrant children in tent cities, planning an unnecessary border wall and orchestrating a fake national emergency. Under her watch, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection ramped up abusive and cruel enforcement tactics against long-settled immigrants and their children, resulting in numerous deaths. Her agency also maintained lists of reporters, lawyers, and activists to detain and question at the border, and she supported sending troops to the southern border in a political stunt aimed to influence the 2018 elections. Nielson was forced to resign on April 7, 2019 because Trump considered her weak on immigration.
For more information on Nielsen’s record on immigration, visit the Civil Rights & Social Justice tab above.
Alex Acosta, Secretary of Labor, in April 2017. (See the Roll Call)
STATUS: Resigned in July 2019.
During his nomination hearings, Acosta fielded questions about a deal he made as a federal prosecutor wealthy financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, In exchange for pleading guilty to a lighter state charge, Acosta agreed not to indict Epstein in federal court, despite his own staff’s recommendations that federal charges were warranted. Still, he was confirmed easily. In his first two years on the job, Acosta eliminated time-and-a-half compensation from millions of low-wage earners, made it harder for tipped workers to ensure they are fairly compensated, and reversed workplace-safety reporting rules. He also proposed a budget for the Labor Department that slashed funding for human trafficking issues by nearly 80%. And now he is again under fire for the deal he cut with Epstein, who was charged in early July in federal court with operating a sex ring that targeted girls age 13-17 in New York and Florida. Acosta resigned July 12, 2019 in the wake of renewed criticism of the Epstein deal.
For more details on actions he took to repeal worker safety and fair labor practices, see the Workers’ Rights tab above.
Rick Perry, secretary of the Department of Energy, in March 2017. (See the roll call)
STATUS: Resigning at the end of 2019.
Rick Perry served as governor of Texas for 14 years, during which time he questioned the science behind climate change and wanted to eliminate the department Trump later tapped him to lead. Perry had no relevant background for the energy secretary post, including no experience on nuclear weapons policy, a central part of the position. Until shortly before his confirmation hearings, he served on the board of directors for the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline. As secretary, he promoted the false idea that the U.S. energy grid is in crisis and argued for increased production from coal and nuclear sources. He submitted a department budget that included steep cuts in programs related to renewable energy and national security, while also creating a new office dedicated to artificial intelligence. This raised concerns with government ethics watchdogs because his wife is a major stock owner in three companies involved in artificial intelligence. Perry has been named in testimonies in the impeachment inquiry as one of three key U.S. officials negotiating a meeting between Trump and the new Urkainian president. When Zelensky was trying to secure congressionally allocated U.S. funding, Perry proposed one of his political supporters as an energy adviser for Zelensky. That man and another Perry supporter were subsequently awarded a lucrative 50-year contract for oil and gas exploration in Ukraine. Perry has refused to testify before Congress. Perry has submitted his resignation and will leave his position at the end of 2019.
Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in March 2017. (See the roll call)
Trump’s pick to lead HUD came as a surprise not only because it was announced in a tweet, but because Carson, a neurosurgeon, had no experience with housing or urban development. His only mention of the issue came in a 2015 editorial that described efforts to eliminate discriminatory housing practices as “social engineering.” Despite his lack of qualifications, Collins supported his nomination. Carson’s tenure as HUD secretary has been marked by reports of incompetence, ethical lapses, and failure. And despite an urgent need nationwide for affordable housing, Carson has proposed an 18% budget cut for his agency and has called for tripling public housing rents and cutting funding for public housing repairs. He recently announced a rule, heavily lobbied for by the home insurance and mortgage industries, that would raise the bar for filing a housing discrimination lawsuit against lenders and landlords to an impossibly high standard. He also announced plans to allow federally funded shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men. His history of making disparaging remarks about transgender people has angered HUD staff and led to repeated calls for his resignation.
For more information on Carson’s efforts to undermine civil rights protections, visit the Civil Rights & Social Justice tab above.
Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior, March 2017. (See the roll call)
STATUS: Resigned in January 2019.
A former Montana congressman whose donor base is comprised heavily of oil and gas companies, Ryan Zinke was described after his nomination as “all over the map” on core issues because he sometimes spoke in favor of conservation efforts. However, at the time of his nomination the League of Conservation Voters had given him a lifetime score of just 3%, and days before his nomination was announced, he described the science on climate change as “unsettled.” Susan Collins nevertheless voted to confirm him. One of the chief promoters of Trump’s rollback of environmental protections. Zinke questioned the work of nearly 300 scientists from 13 agencies who authored the federal government’s major climate report. He oversaw the largest rollbacks in federal land protections in U.S. history and opened up unprecedented swaths of the East Coast to drilling. He promoted the fossil fuel industry and weakened the Endangered Species Act. The president of the League of Conservation Voters called him “the most scandal-plagued interior secretary in recent memory” because Zinke also became known for using tax-payer funds for questionable purposes, such as $139K to upgrade doors in his office and $12K to charter a plane after a talk to a hockey team owned by one of his donors. His family entered a real estate deal with the chairman of Halliburton, whose oil company would benefit from Zinke’s decisions on fossil fuel. At least 18 federal investigations arose into Zinke’s conflicts of interest and abuses of office and public funds. Zinke was forced to resign in January 2019.
Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce, in February 2017. (See the roll call)
Nicknamed the “bankruptcy king,” billionaire Wilbur Ross has spent his career in the finance industry, first for the investment bank Rothschild, Inc. and then as the head of his own company, WL Ross & Co. His specialty is debt, and he has a long history of buying distressed companies and presiding over mergers and acquisitions, including that of Bethlehem Steel. Ross became Secretary of Commerce following a 25-year association with Trump, during which he had helped Trump climb out of bankruptcy by arranging for more favorable terms for structuring his casino debt. The Office of Government Ethics found that his financial disclosure forms had “inconsistencies” and that he had failed to divest of his assets upon taking executive office. In 2017, the Paradise Papers revealed that he has ties to a shipping company linked to a Russian energy company owned by Putin. It is against U.S. law to do business with another customer of that shipping company, Venezuela’s state-run oil business. Ross is the one who decided to place a citizenship question on the upcoming census (a move ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote). After he defied a subpoena from Congress to explain his decision to add the citizenship question to the census the House took the unusual move of declaring him in criminal contempt. Ross has been a cheerleader for tariffs and the trade wars, defending them at a hearing with nervous congressional leaders and assuring them that no harms were coming from the trade wars. But Maine’s lobster, blueberry, and dairy exports have seen dramatic declines.
Mick Mulvaney, Director of Office of Management and Budget, in February 2017. (See the roll call)
Mick Mulvaney was a Republican Congressman from South Carolina and the founder of the House Freedom Caucus. He supported shutting down the federal government over the budget and opposed a relief bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy. He has long advocated cuts to Social Security (by raising the retirement age to 70) and Medicare. He said he wasn’t sure whether the government should fund scientific research. Mulvaney has held three positions in the current administration. In the first, as Director of the Office of Management and Budget, he proposed a federal budget with severe cuts to the EPA, the Department of State, and safety net programs such as SSDI (social security disability), CHIP (for children’s health insurance), food stamps, the child tax credit and Meals on Wheels. In his one-year tenure as acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he scaled back an investigation into the Equifax data breach, relaxed restrictions on payday lenders, and terminated some financial protections for the military. Mulvaney has retained his appointment (and his salary) as Director of OMB, but now is also serving as Acting White House Chief of Staff, where he has been an active facilitator of the conspiracy by Rudy Guiliani and others (the “three amigos”) to extort and endanger an ally to benefit Putin and Trump. He even admitted that Trump withheld money to Ukraine, money that Congress had allocated, in order to pressure Ukraine, but defended this extortion as totally normal.
Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury, in February 2017. (See the roll call)
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who served as the Trump campaign’s national finance chair, is a former Goldman Sachs banker who failed to disclose almost $100 million in assets in the Senate paperwork required of nominees and also failed to mention that he directs an investment fund tax haven with an official address in the Cayman Islands and Arguilla. He was CEO of OneWest Bank, which engaged in illegal and predatory policies during the mortgage foreclosure crisis, resulting in many people losing their homes, especially the elderly. Due to its questionable practices, OneWest was responsible for 39% of all foreclosures nationwide even though it held a much smaller percentage of the mortgages. Mnuchin has been called the “foreclosure king.” When Trump named him as the nominee, Angus King said that it was an odd way to be draining the swamp, since he was “bringing in a new alligator.” In office, he helped push the Republican tax scam of 2017, promising that the tax cuts to the rich would pay for themselves, later doubling down on that claim when they didn’t. In August 2017 he achieved notoriety for using taxpayer money to fly himself and his wife to Kentucky to view the solar eclipse. Regularly choosing the most expensive travel options, as of March 2018 he had bilked taxpayers out of $1 million. Mnuchin has violated the law on several occasions, blocking the IRS from releasing Trump’s tax returns for congressional investigations and defying a Congressional subpoena. In fact, he is the first Treasury Secretary in history to intervene when Congress has requested an individual’s tax returns.
Thomas Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in February 2017. (See the roll call)
STATUS: Resigned in September 2017.
During his confirmation hearings, Price was grilled by the Senate over his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of Medicaid to help poor Americans access health care, and his dozens of suspiciously timed health care stock trades while he served on a congressional committee related to health care policy. During his brief tenure at HHS, he oversaw the development of the agency’s 2018-2022 strategic plan, in which he defined life as beginning at conception. He was charged with shepherding the Republicans’ ACA repeal through Congress. When that effort failed, he used his position as secretary to undermine the program in other ways, slashing promotional budgets by 90% and eliminating $23 million in support to community navigators who help people sign up for insurance. He cut the enrollment period from 90 days to 45 days and took the ACA sign-up website offline during peak usage times. He also oversaw a massive propaganda campaign that made false claims about the ACA. And he did all the background work on a new rules to allow employers to deny contraceptive care coverage to employees if they have religious objections. Trump announced that rule shortly after Price stepped down, but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction soon after it was announced. After losing in lower courts, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. Just seven months after being sworn in as the HHS Secretary, Price resigned amid an ethics investigation into the more than $1 million in taxpayer funds he used for personal and government travel.
Jeff Sessions, attorney general, in February 2017. (See the roll call)
STATUS: Resigned in November 2018.
Ten years before he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, Sessions was denied a judgeship in 1986 because of a history of racial slurs. During his Senate tenure, he opposed fair pay for women and other civil rights for women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color. Nevertheless, Collins called him a “person of integrity” when she introduced his nomination for attorney general. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he did not meet with Russian officials during Trump’s presidential campaign, a claim later proven to be false. In less than two years in office, Sessions led the effort to end DACA and implemented the “zero tolernace” policy prompting the forced separation of immigrant families at the southern border. He created a task force to roll back protections for LGBTQ individuals, defended the Muslim ban, supported initiatives to block voting rights, and allowed federal agencies to use religion as justification for discrimination in hiring, contract decisions, and programs. He also halted civil rights investigations of police departments. Despite this, Collins never wavered in her support, calling him a “leader of integrity who served our country well.” Sessions was forced to resign in November 2018.
For more information about how Sessions undermined civil rights, see the Civil Rights & Social Justice tab above.
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, in February 2017.
Note: Although Collins eventually (and unsuccessfully) opposed DeVos’s confirmation in the floor vote, we are including her on this list because she supported DeVos in committee, where her vote could have been used to stop the nominee’s advancement.
Now regarded as one of Trump’s most unpopular cabinet members, billionaire Republican donor DeVos was nominated despite having no experience in public education or public service, and despite her long track record of using her vast wealth to influence policy in a way that undermined public education and benefitted religious schools. Many were also concerned about her ties to brother Erik Prince, founder of the deadly mercenary firm Blackwater, who was later referenced in the Mueller report for financing an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails and meeting with a Putin-allied Russian banker shortly before Trump took office. DeVos narrowly won her confirmation battle, despite a hearing widely considered disastrous. Since then, DeVos has gone on to validate her detractor’s fears by rolling back protections for LGBTQ students, proposing to slash almost $7 billion and 29 programs (including the Special Olympics) from the education budget while boosting spending on private school vouchers and other school choice plans, allowing its Office of Civil Rights to dismiss complaints from disabled students that it finds burdensome or expensive, and dramatically narrowing the kinds of sexual misconduct claims that colleges and universities are required to investigate. Judges have ruled that she illegally delayed a rule that required states to address racial disparities in special education programs, illegally denied debt relief to student’s defrauded by for-profit colleges, and held her in contempt of court for continuing to defy the judge’s order to provide debt relief to defrauded students. More lawsuits are pending, including one by the American Federation of Teachers, alleging that DeVos’s department is breaking promises to teachers by rejecting 99% of their applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
For more information on how DeVos has eroded students’ civil rights protections, visit the Civil Rights & Social Justice tab above.
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, in February 2017. (See the roll call)
STATUS: Fired in March 2018.
The former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson had no experience in public office when he was confirmed. As the head of ExxonMobil, Tillerson worked closely with Russians to open up a $500 billion oil drilling project in the Kara Sea, and was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship Prize from Vladimir Putin. After Russia invaded Ukraine and President Barack Obama placed economic sanctions on the nation, Tillerson reportedly opposed the action because it would cost his company millions in losses. In July 2017, just five months after Tillerson’s confirmation, the Treasury Department fined ExxonMobil $2 million for violating those Russian sanctions, during Tillerson’s tenure as CEO. In addition, during his time at Exxon, the company eliminated anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ employees and benefits for their same-sex spouses, and it developed oil wells and pipelines on sacred lands of Indigenous Peoples. As Secretary of State, Tillerson had his differences with Trump. But Trump supported Tillerson’s efforts to gut the State Department. When Tillerson took office, he announced plans to cut its budget by one-third, dramatically scaling back funding for refugee assistance, promotion of democracy, women’s rights, and HIV prevention while increasing it for military initiatives. Congress rejected the budget cuts, but Tillerson found other ways to decimate the department. By the time he left office, 60% of the most experienced career diplomats had left the department, and new applications had fallen by half. He left unfilled such important positions as assistant secretaries for Asia and the Middle East, and he eliminated the department that tracks war crimes and an office dedicated to cyber programs. The effects of these moves will be longstanding and will weaken U.S. influence and hinder the nation’s ability to achieve diplomatic solutions around the world. Tillerson was fired in March of 2018.
- Voted to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Collins voted in favor of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which exchanges environmental protections for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. The bill also opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for industrial oil drilling. Collins’ vote helped the Senate pass the bill by a vote of 51-48 and Trump signed it into law in soon after. In August 2020, the Trump administration announced it had opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to oil and gas drilling. Leases could be sold for drilling on 1.57 million acres in the refuge as early as the end of this year, a move cheered by the oil industry despite scientists’ concerns over the potentially devastating environmental impact, including analysis by Trump’s own administration that drilling could cause the extinction of 67 bird species. See the roll call.
- Voted to loosen Clean Water Act requirements on invasive species. Collins voted in favor of an amendment to the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act that contained a provision to loosen requirements under the Clean Water Act and leave domestic waterways susceptible to aquatic invasive species. The amendment would have weakened states’ ability to enforce their own ballast water regulations and protect their clean waterways. The amendment was defeated. See the roll call.
- Repealed fossil fuel anti-corruption rule. In February, 2017, Collins voted to repeal a Security and Exchange Commission rule designed to fight corruption by requiring that oil, natural gas, and mining companies on U.S. stock exchanges disclose the royalties and other payments they make to foreign governments. Collins voted against transparency by fossil fuel companies and prohibited the SEC from issuing similar regulations in the future. See the roll call.
- Voted against the National Environmental Policy Act. Collins voted in favor of an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which promoted accelerated construction of gas production and would have undermined the environmental reviews put in place by the National Environmental Policy Act to safeguard against environmental risks.The amendment was defeated. See the roll call.
- Voted to keep climate change education out of schools. Collins voted against an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act to establish a climate change education program in K-12 schools. Had the bill passed, states would have received grants to create curricula including climate science and pay for teacher training and sustainable building standards. With Collins’ help, Republicans defeated the bill. See the roll call.
- Supported the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Between 2013 and 2015, Collins voted repeatedly to allow construction of the environmentally dangerous Keystone XL Pipeline, a proposed 1,180-mile pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Canada across the U.S. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels: a gallon of gasoline made from tar sands produces about 15% more carbon dioxide emissions than one made from conventional oil. The pipeline also poses significant risk of pollution to the drinking water supply. Collins voted in favor of the pipeline in 2013 and 2014, and in 2015 she supported the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which passed but was vetoed by President Obama. Collins then voted to override Obama’s veto, but that effort fell short. The Trump administration tried to revive the pipeline project in 2017, but was initially blocked by the courts. However, a ruling in June 2019 lifted the injunction and pipeline construction can now continue.
- Big donors from oil and gas. An April 2019 report found that Collins is receiving more campaign donations from oil and gas corporations in Texas than from Maine residents. Texas-based oil companies—including executives at Hunt Oil Co., Magnolia Oil, and Gas Co., Exxon Mobil Co. PAC, and Belmont Petroleum Corp.—collectively donated almost $50,000 to Collins’ Senate reelection campaign in the first quarter of 2019. She received just $9,700 from Maine constituents in the same quarter.
- Fundraising with climate-change denier. Collins has formed a fundraising committee with one of the Senate’s most vocal climate change deniers, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe wrote “The Greatest Hoax,” a book blasting the science behind climate change, and once accused the Environmental Protection Agency of brainwashing children. The Collins Inhofe Victory Committee has not yet submitted any FEC filings.
- Collins funds climate-change deniers. Not only is Collins accepting funds from those opposed to environmental protections, she also gives money to anti-environmentalists. Collins started Dirigo PAC in 2003, a leadership PAC she uses to fund the campaigns of other Republican legislators. She has donated $2.5 million to far-right conservative legislators in the Senate, many of whom deny the science behind climate change. Her benefactors include Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-SC), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and others. See the full list HERE.
- David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior Department, April 2019. Despite Bernhardt’s record as a climate-change denier, Collins joined her fellow Republicans and approved his nomination. Bernhardt had served as interim secretary since the resignation of Ryan Zinke, elevated to that post from the position of deputy secretary, which he achieved with help from Collins. (Roll call) Bernhardt spent much of his career lobbying for the oil, gas, and mining industries and fought against federal environmental protections. Just four days after his confirmation as secretary, the DOI opened an internal investigation into ethics complaints against him, which included a deliberate cover-up of scientific evidence related to the effects of a pesticide on certain endangered species. See the roll call.
- Bernard McNamee, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), December 2018. McNamee actively spoke out against renewable energy in favor of a pro-fossil fuels campaign and openly doubted climate change, but Collins joined Republicans to approve him to lead FERC, a non-partisan independent agency that oversees and regulates “the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas” and the flow of oil through pipelines. Collins helped the Senate confirm McNamee by a vote of 50-49. See the roll call.
- Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ, October 2018. Clark represented BP in the aftermath of the worst oil spill in American history and has repeatedly referred to climate science as “contestable.” And still, Collins approved his nomination to lead the ENRD, which oversees the enforcement of federal environmental laws “to ensure clean air, water and land for all people in the country.” See the roll call.
- Jim Bridenstine, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), April 2018. As a U.S. Representative, Bridenstine authored legislation to cut Earth Science and Earth Observing Missions from NASA’s mission, both of which collect data to create science-based environmental standards. These data are also used by scientists and researchers to better understand weather, climate, and pollution levels. In his Senate committee hearing, Bridenstine refused to agree with “the scientific consensus” that the primary cause of climate change is human activity. Collins’s vote helped confirm Bridenstine by a vote of 50-49. See the roll call.
- Andrew Wheeler, Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), April 2018. Wheeler spent decades advocating for fossil fuel companies and working with fervent climate change deniers. He worked as a lobbyist for Murray Energy Corporation, the largest coal mining company in America, and served as vice president of the Washington Coal Club, a group dedicated to preserving the future of the coal industry. Collins helped confirm him as deputy administrator (see the roll call), and he was later named interim director following the resignation of Scott Pruitt. During his tenure as interim, he weakened rules to reduce greenhouse gases, announced plans to roll back clean water protections, and issued a proposal to allow coal plants to release mercury into the environment. Although Collins voted against Wheeler’s 2019 nomination for director (see the roll call), the damage was already done.
- Rick Perry, Secretary of the Department of Energy, March 2017. Collins approved the 2017 nomination of Perry to head the DOE, which oversees the United States’ energy, environmental, and nuclear policy. Not only has Perry questioned generally-accepted climate science and appointed climate-deniers to state offices when he was governor of Texas, but he also previously called for the elimination of the entire department.
STATUS: Perry is currently embroiled in the impeachment inquiry and has announced his resignation. See the roll call.
- Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, March 2017. Collins approved the 2017 nomination of Zinke, who had questioned the work of nearly 300 scientists form 13 agencies who authored the federal government’s major climate report and received only a 4% lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters National Environmental Scorecard. Between his confirmation and early 2019, Zinke oversaw the largest rollbacks in federal land protections in U.S. history and opened up unprecedented swaths of coastal waters for drilling. See the roll call.
STATUS: RESIGNED. Zinke was forced to resign in January 2019 amid ethics scandals and a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.
- Vote put contraceptive care at risk. Collins’ vote to remove the ACA’s individual mandate, part of the GOP tax bill she ushered to success in December 2017, could lead to the entire health care law being overturned. A federal judge in Texas ruled in December 2018 that without the mandate, the entire ACA is unconstitutional. An appeals court will rule on the case soon, but the case will likely go to the Supreme Court. If the lower court ruling is upheld, required coverage of contraceptive care and preventive health care—including gynecological cancer screenings—will be eliminated. See the roll call.
- Voted to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2015, Collins voted to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The legislation followed the release of videos of Planned Parenthood staff which were made by anti-abortionists. The videos were later found to have been altered and a House investigation found that Planned Parenthood had violated no laws. Texas and California filed criminal fraud charges against the people who made the videos. The Texas charges were later dropped over a technicality. The California case is currently underway. See the roll call.
- Co-sponsored a bill to allow employers to deny contraceptive care. Collins co-sponsored a bill in 2012 that would have repealed the ACA provision requiring that employers offer contraceptive coverage to employees. The ACA exempted churches and other explicitly religious organizations will be exempt from the contraceptive mandate. The bill was sponsored by Marco Rubio (R-FL) and never received a vote. (Read the bill.)
POLICIES AND RULES
In 2017, Collins helped install Thomas Price as secretary of Health and Human Services. After he was forced to resign amid ethics violations, Collins then voted to replace him with Alex Azar. Both men implemented rules and policy changes that greatly impact reproductive health care. And in both cases, their opposition to abortion and contraceptive care were widely known before Collins confirmed them to their posts. Because Collins helped put them into positions of power, she shares responsibility for their actions. Here are a few of the ways they have restricted reproductive care and choice.
- Azar puts religion over patient care. In May 2018, Alex Azar, who Collins supported as Trump’s second HHS secretary, implemented a rule that allows health care providers to deny patient care that they object to for religious or moral reasons, including birth control and abortion care. Medical professionals say the rule could have widespread impact on patient care. For example, an ambulance driver could refuse to transport a woman needing an emergency abortion or a pharmacist could refuse to fill a birth control prescription. Azar’s rule covers health care workers and non-clinical staff, such as billing staff and receptionists. Implementation of the rule was delayed, pending court review. In November 2019, a federal judge found that the rule is unconstitutional, but the administration is expected to appeal. Azar’s opposition to abortion was widely known before his confirmation, but Collins voted for him anyway. See the roll call.
- Azar attacks Title X. Azar also led the Trump administration’s attack on Title X family planning funding with new regulations that deny funding to thousands of health care centers around the country that provide abortion care or referrals. Title X provides funding to more than 4,000 health care clinics around the nation that serve low-income patients. Nearly two dozen states and clinics around the country have filed lawsuits to block the rule, but in June 2019, a federal judge ordered that the changes could go into effect during litigation. The policy’s impact is already having far-reaching effects on patient care around the country, including in Maine. While Collins has spoken out against the Title X rollbacks, they were implemented by Azar, who she confirmed.
- Azar, Price eliminate ACA contraceptive care requirement. Before he was forced to resign amid ethics violations, HHS Secretary Tom Price led the effort to create new rules to roll back the ACA’s contraceptive mandate and to allow employers to deny contraceptive care coverage to employees if they have religious objections. Trump announced that rule shortly after Price stepped down, but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction soon after it was announced. After losing in lower courts, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. Price’s opposition to the ACA, including its contraceptive mandate, was widely known before Collins helped put him in charge of HHS. See the roll call.
Collins has confirmed at least 32 anti-reproductive rights judicial nominees put forward by Trump—including Supreme Court nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. All of them had a history of rulings, dissents, and speeches that clearly demonstrated their opposition to reproductive rights. Despite calls from constituents, clinicians, and reproductive rights groups to oppose these nominees, Collins aligned herself with Mitch McConnell and Trump to confirm them. Because Collins put them on the bench, she shares responsibilities for harmful rulings such as the cases below.
Kavanaugh and Gorsuch rule to uphold Louisiana anti-abortion law. In June 2020, the Supreme Court overturned an anti-abortion law in Louisiana that would have all but eliminated abortion access in the state and opened the door for other states to do the same. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch dissented, arguing that the precedent for this case should be overturned. Collins cited Kavanaugh’s promise to honor legal precedent when she put him on the bench in 2018. In 2019, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch voted to allow the Louisiana law to go into effect while the case came before the court, arguing there was no evidence the law would create a hardship for those seeking a legal abortion. They were voted down 5-4. In another blow to reproductive care, the court ruled in early July to allow employers to cite religious or moral objections as reasons to deny workers free birth control coverage under the ACA. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined the majority in that opinion. Kavanaugh’s and Gorsuch’s hostility toward reproductive rights was well known when Collins confirmed them. See the roll calls for Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
Supporting a Kentucky anti-abortion law. In April 2019, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Kentucky law that requires all women seeking an abortion to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound, generally using an invasive transvaginal probe, and listen to the fetal heartbeat and a description of the fetus offered by the clinician. The ruling in the case, EMW Women’s Surgical Center v. Beshear, was written by Judge John K. Bush, a Trump appointee confirmed by Collins in July 2017. In December 2019, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which allows the law to go into effect. This is Bush’s second major anti-abortion ruling. In March 2018, he upheld an Ohio law that defunds Planned Parenthood. Bush’s nomination was opposed by pro-choice groups and LGBTQ advocates, citing Bush’s past writings opposing abortion and LGBTQ rights. Collins voted for him anyway. See the roll call.
- Limiting abortion access in Louisiana. In January 2019, Trump-appointed 5th Circuit Court judges Don Willett, James Ho, Kurt Engelhardt, and Andrew Oldham played a critical role in preserving a Louisiana law that significantly limits abortion access in a ruling in June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee. The law requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, which would have left Louisiana with one abortion provider and one clinic to serve patients in the entire state. Since the law was almost identical to a Texas statute the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, a district court judge found it unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit overturned that decision. In February 2019, the Supreme Court granted the plaintiff’s request to block the law from taking effect until the court could review the case on its merits. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal justices in the 5-4 ruling. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh dissented, arguing that the law should be allowed to take effect. Collins voted for all these judges. (See roll calls for Willett, Ho, Engelhardt, Oldham, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.)
- Support for anti-abortion centers in California. In June 2018, Gorsuch joined his fellow conservatives on the Supreme Court in NIFLA v. Becerra in a ruling in support of “crisis pregnancy centers.” These centers are not medical facilities, and falsely claim to offer a full range of pregnancy services in an effort to deter women from seeking an abortion. The ruling struck down a California law that required the centers to disclose that they do not provide medical care and to post information about the state’s low-cost family planning services, which include abortion care. Gorsuch and others ruled the law was unconstitutional compelled speech, a broad interpretation that the dissenting justices argued could be used to strike down all disclosure laws. In fact, a Florida judge used NIFLA to strike down Florida’s ban on the harmful practice of conversion therapy, a practice discredited by every major medical and psychological association. That case has been appealed to district court. Collins voted for Gorsuch. (See the roll call.)
- Defunding Planned Parenthood. In March 2018, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Ohio law that allowed the state to defund Planned Parenthood. Plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Hodges sought to overturn the law, which bans state funding for non-abortion related health care programs at centers that also provide abortion services. The appeals court overturned a district court ruling that had found the Ohio law unconstitutional. The law blocked an estimated $1 million in state funding for preventive health care, cancer screenings, infant mortality prevention programs, birth control, and HIV/AIDS and other STD testing. State funding had not been used for abortion services. Collins voted for 7 of the 11 judges, four of whom were nominated by Trump. (See roll calls for Gibbons, Cook, Griffin, Kethledge (voice vote; no roll call), Sutton, Thapar, Bush, Larsen, and Nalbandian.)
- Anti-choice attack by James Ho, 5th Circuit. Less than a year after Collins confirmed Trump nominee James Ho to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Ho penned a separate concurring opinion in which he called abortion a “moral tragedy.” Ho then accused a district judge who had ruled in favor of a discovery motion by Whole Women’s Health of anti-Christian bias, suggesting the district judge was retaliating “against people of faith for not only believing in the sanctity of life—but also for wanting to do something about it.” The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith, challenged a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to bury fetal remains. (See the roll call.)
- Collins funds anti-choice Republicans. More that 200 Republicans submitted an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Of the 39 senators who signed the brief, Collins has funded 35 of them through her leadership PAC, Dirigo PAC, which Collins started in 2003 to fund the campaigns of other Republicans. Collins has given $2.5 million to these senators and other anti-choice legislators who have voted to ban abortion services, defund Planned Parenthood, and restrict contraceptive care, including Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-SC), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and others. See the full list HERE.
- Support from Trump’s anti-choice “judge whisperer.” Among Collins’ biggest donors is Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the far-right Federalist Society who is known as Trump’s “judge whisperer” and was instrumental in getting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. In June, Leo donated $2,800 to Collins’ re-election campaign—the maximum individual contribution allowed. Then in August, he hosted a fundraiser for Collins at his Bar Harbor home. The Federalist Society works to put anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ judges on the bench.
- Anti-choice donors give big. Collins’ 2019 contributions so far include the maximum donation from billionaires Robert and Diana Mercer, top supporters of anti-choice organizations, including the Becket Fund, Federalist Society, and Susan B. Anthony List. The Mercers are large donors to extreme-right politicians—including Donald Trump. Robert Mercer is also a key figure at Breitbart. Their combined contributions of $10,800 topped the total from all Mainers combined at the time.
- Fundraising with anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ Republicans. Collins has formed fundraising committees with senators who have voted to defund Planned Parenthood, restrict contraceptive care, and ban abortion. The Collins-Graham Majority Committee, a partnership between Collins and Lyndsey Graham (R-SC), is run by a Virginia firm and has raised more than $329,000 as of June 2019, most from donors in Missouri. The Collins Inhofe Victory Committee is a new collaboration with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). No FEC filings have been made to date.
EFFECTS SO FAR
- The wealthy benefited the most. According to analysis by the Tax Foundation, in 2018, households in Maine’s second congressional district making over $200K saw an average tax cut of 5.1%, compared to only 2.3% for those making between $50K and 70K. And last year, for the first time in history, the 400 richest Americans paid a lower tax rate than any other income group.
- Added marriage penalty. The tax bill caps the deduction for their state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000 for single filers and married couples filing jointly, which amounts to a “marriage penalty.” Collins has sponsored a bill to fix the “marriage penalty” in the tax bill she voted for, but it has no co-sponsors and is getting no traction in the Senate.
- No pay boost for most workers. Of 145 companies that claimed that the large corporate tax cuts would lead to pay increases, only 6% boosted workers’ pay, and most of that was in one-time bonuses rather than permanent raises, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Just Capital.
- Stagnant wage growth. Despite promises of higher wages for American workers, wage growth remains stagnant, with many Americans’ incomes growing more slowly than in previous years.
- Small businesses missed out on deductions. Despite Collins’ predictions of significant benefits for small businesses via the bill’s changes to pass-through income deduction, almost half of those benefits went to businesses making more than $1 million a year.
- Corporate profits remain abroad. Only a fraction of corporate profits held abroad have been returned. Most of the money moved back has gone to shareholders. Regulatory filings from companies such as Johnson & Johnson, eBay, and Cigna indicate that they plan to keep their profits abroad.
- Windfall for big pharma. Four big pharma companies netted $7 billion in tax credits, which they used to pay shareholders more. And then they raised prescription drug prices.
- Some Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes. Tax breaks in the new law allowed 60 profitable Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon and Netflix, to pay zero in federal taxes in 2018—that’s twice as many as before the bill was passed. Many even got taxpayer-funded rebates.
- Corporate tax collections plummeted. As corporate profits continue to rise, data from the U.S. Treasury Department shows that the amount they pay in taxes is plummeting. Corporate tax collections fell 31% during the 2017 fiscal year, after the tax bill went into effect, and early projections show they are continuing to fall.
- Skyrocketing deficit. The U.S. annual budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in fiscal year 2019, a year earlier than the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had warned in an analysis that Republicans ignored.
- The bill won’t pay for itself. One of the lead architects of the GOP bill now admits the bill will not pay for itself as Republicans promised, noting a 40% increase in the federal deficit as of June 2019. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service revealed that the tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy have produced in their first year just 1/20 of the growth that would be needed annually to pay for themselves.
- Declining federal revenues. Federal revenues declined by 2.7% in the inaugural year of the bill, even though corporate earnings and the stock market are performing well and the jobless rate is low. A strong economy should produce an increase in revenues.
- Health care premium spike. Nationally, benchmark silver premium plans on the healthcare.gov market exchange increased by an average of 6% as a result of the tax plan’s elimination of the penalty associated with not having health insurance (the individual mandate) and an additional 10% higher due to the loss of the cost-sharing reduction payments, which were removed from the federal budget. Nationwide in 2019 a silver plan premium for a 40-year-old averaged $495/month instead of $427/month.
- Employment rate unchanged. The employment rate and number of people employed in Maine saw no significant change in 2018, according to Maine’s Center for Workforce Research and Information (CWRI).
WORST EFFECTS YET TO COME
- Reduced medical expense deduction. Beginning in 2019, only medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income can be deducted—compared to expenses exceeding 7.5% in 2017 and 2018.
- Significant tax hikes coming for most Americans. Some of the bill’s exemptions for individuals and families will expire in 2027, while high earners get to keep their tax cuts. That means in 10 years, nearly 83% of the tax cuts Collins helped pass will go only to the richest 1% in the country, according to the Tax Policy Center. 53% of other Americans will experience a significant tax hike.
- Health insurance costs will increase. Analysts expect the next three years will see health insurance premiums increase between 35 and 94%, depending on the region, due to the tax bill’s ending of the individual mandate.
- ACA could be overturned. Collins’ support for the removal of the individual mandate also paved the way for Republicans to file a new federal lawsuit claiming that without the mandate, the ACA is no longer constitutional. Trump ordered the Department of Justice not to defend the ACA in that case, leaving it even more vulnerable to being overturned. In December 2018, a federal judge in Texas agreed with Republicans and struck down the entire ACA. The case is now before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and will likely go before the Supreme Court next year. If the ACA is struck down, protections for people with pre-existing conditions goes down with it. Despite working for almost two decades to tear down the ACA, Republicans have offered no replacement health care plan.
- Tax vote jeopardized the ACA. Collins’ support for the GOP tax bill and its removal of the individual mandate paved the way for Republicans to file a federal lawsuit claiming that without the mandate, the ACA is no longer constitutional. The case went before a federal judge in Texas who struck down the entire law in December 2018. The case is now before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and will likely go before the Supreme Court next year. Collins has said she opposes the lawsuit, but in 2010, Collins joined McConnell and other Republicans on an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court that supported the arguments the Texas judge recently used to overturn the ACA. The 2010 Supreme Court ruling asserted that the individual mandate is a tax, which Congress has a right to impose, and let the ACA stand. Seven years later, Collins voted for the GOP tax bill knowing it eliminated the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate, giving the Supreme Court an opening to overturn it. See the roll call.
- Tax vote led to health care premium spike. Collins’ tax bill vote also led to an average increase of 6% nationally in benchmark silver premium plans on the healthcare.gov market exchange as a result of the tax plan’s elimination of the individual mandate. These premiums are also an additional 10% higher due to the loss of the cost-sharing reduction payments, which were removed from the federal budget. Nationwide in 2019, a silver plan premium for a 40-year-old averaged $495/month instead of $427/month.
- Tax vote reduced medical expense deduction. Another fall-out from Collins’ tax bill vote: Beginning in 2019, only medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income can be deducted, compared to expenses exceeding 7.5% in 2017 and 2018.
- Voted at least 14 times to repeal, delay, or defund part or all of the ACA.* Collins’ vote against Republicans’ 2017 attempt to repeal the ACA not withstanding, Collins is a longtime and vocal opponent of the bill known as Obamacare. She voted against it in 2009 when it was first passed (roll call), and continued her opposition for 8 years. Between 2011-2017, Collins co-sponsored at least 20 bills and cast at least 14 votes in the Appropriations Committee or on the Senate floor that would have delayed, defunded, or repealed all or part of the ACA, even knowing that a number of those bills would have eliminated protections for people with pre-existing conditions. That included votes in February 2011 (roll call), March 2011 (roll call), April 2011 (roll call), September 2011 (roll call), June 2012 (roll call), two in March 2013 (roll calls here and here), September 2013 (roll call), March 2015 (roll call), May 2015 (roll call), July 2015 (roll call), and December 2015 (roll call). Even though Collins voted against the ACA repeal in July 2017, she first voted for the bill that made it possible for Republicans to attempt repeal with only a simple majority (roll call). Without that bill, which she voted for in January 2017, the ACA repeal wouldn’t have come just 3 votes shy of passing. Collins also introduced her own bill to replace the ACA, authored with Bill Cassidy (R-LA), in January 2017. Analysts noted that her bill would allow states to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions if their coverage lapsed for any reason. Finally, in October 2017, Collins voted for a budget resolution that established a fund for legislation to repeal the ACA (roll call).
* Note: Other reports cite as many as 20 votes by Collins to delay, repeal, or defund part or all of the ACA. However, we only included those votes for which we could locate roll calls or committee votes.
- Co-sponsored a bill to allow for denial of contraceptive care. Collins co-sponsored a bill in 2012 that would have repealed the ACA provision requiring that employers offer contraceptive coverage to employees. The ACA exempted churches and other explicitly religious organizations will be exempt from the contraceptive mandate. The bill was sponsored by Marco Rubio (R-FL) and never received a vote. (Read the bill.)
POLICIES AND RULES
In 2017, Collins helped install Thomas Price as secretary of Health and Human Services. After he was forced to resign amid ethics violations, Collins voted to replace him with Alex Azar. Both men implemented rules and policies changes that greatly impact health care access and justice. And in both cases, their opposition to the ACA, Medicaid, and reproductive health care were widely known before Collins confirmed them to their posts. Because Collins helped put them into positions of powers, she shares responsibility for their actions. Here are a few ways they have restricted access to health care.
- Azar allowed discrimination in health care. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who Collins supported, implemented a “conscience” rule allowing health care providers to deny patient care that they object to for religious or moral reasons, including health care services for LGBTQ individuals and abortion care. A federal judge ruled in November 2019 that the rule is unconstitutional, but the administration is expected to appeal. Azar also issued a proposed rule to remove protections for LGBTQ individuals from the ACA’s primary anti-discrimination clause and approved Medicaid work requirements in a number of states. Collins confirmed Azar in January 2018. (See the roll call)
- Azar approved Medicaid work requirements. Azar also approved Medicaid work requirements in a number of states. Research suggests that the majority of Medicaid recipients already work and most of those who don’t have a disability or other barrier. Vulnerable adults would lose their health care due to Azar’s work requirements, which are opposed by the American Medical Association. Federal judges have issued injunctions against the requirements in New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Maine Governor Janet Mills blocked the ineffective work requirements in Maine, but Azar’s actions place low-income people nationwide at risk.
- Azar attacked Title X funding. Azar also led the Trump administration’s attack on Title X family planning funding with new regulations that deny funding to thousands of health care centers around the country that provide abortion care or referrals. Title X provides funding to more than 4,000 health care clinics around the nation that serve low-income patients. Nearly two dozen states and clinics around the country have filed lawsuits to block the Title X rule, but a federal judge ruled in June 2019 that the changes could go into effect while the cases make their way through the courts. The policy’s impact is already having far-reaching effects on patient care around the country, including in Maine.
- Price undermined the ACA. Tom Price, Trump’s first HHS secretary, used his position to undermine the ACA, slashing promotional budgets by 90% and eliminating $23 million in support to community navigators who help people sign up for insurance. He cut the enrollment period from 90 days to 45 days and took the ACA sign-up website offline during peak usage times. He also oversaw a massive propaganda campaign that made false claims about the ACA. Price’s hostility to the ACA was well known before Collins confirmed him to the secretary post in February 2017. (See the roll call).
DONATIONS AND FUNDING SOURCES
- Collins funds anti-ACA Republicans who favor Medicaid cuts. Collins started Dirigo PAC in 2003, a leadership PAC she uses to fund the campaigns of other Republican legislators. Collins has used the $2.5 million she’s raised for Dirigo PAC to fund legislators who want to repeal the ACA, favor Medicaid work requirements, and massive cuts to Medicaid spending, including Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-SC), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and others. See the full list HERE.
- Top opioid distributors are top Collins donors. Just six companies distributed 75% of the 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills dispensed nationally between 2006 and 2012. Five of them are among Collins’ corporate donors: McKesson Corp, $22,500 since 2008; Cardinal Health, $8,500 since 2013; AmerisourceBergen, $11,500 since 2007; CVS, $3,000 since 2016; and Walmart, $5,500 since 2018. McKesson Corp has also donated $2,500 to Collins’ Leadership PAC, Dirigo PAC. Opioid overprescribing is thought to be the driver behind the opioid epidemic. A recent report found that Penobscot County had the highest per-person pill distribution in all of New England, with 56 pills dispensed per person between 2006-2012. Maine had one of the nation’s highest opioid-related overdose death rates in 2017, with 360 deaths that year.
- Allowed firearm purchases by people with serious mental illness. Collins voted in February 2017 to repeal an Obama-era rule designed to prevent some people with serious mental illness from buying firearms.The rule, written after the Sandy Hook shooting, required the Social Security Administration to disclose the names of people with mental illnesses severe enough to prevent them from being able to manage their own disability benefits. It would have increased the chances background checks would flag people who may not be able to safely handle firearms. See the roll call.
- Voted repeatedly to weaken DC gun laws. Collins voted twice to weaken gun laws in Washington, D.C. In 2009, she supported a bill that would have repealed D.C.’s ban on semiautomatic weapons and handgun ammunition, requirements for firearms registration, and other gun safety laws in exchange for DC voting representation in the House. The bill did not receive a vote in the House. Then in 2015, Collins again voted to rollback gun safety legislation in D.C. in an amendment to a bill to repeal the ACA. The amendment was rejected. See the roll calls HERE and HERE.
- Supported concealed carry of firearms. Collins has twice voted for concealed carry reciprocity, which would have allowed people with concealed carry permits in one state to carry concealed guns in other states that also allow concealed carry. She voted for amendments in 2009 and again in 2013, but both measures failed. Not only did Collins vote to allow concealed carry reciprocity in 2013, she also co-sponsored the amendment. See the roll calls here and here.
- Voted to protect the gun industry. In 2005, Collins supported a bill pushed by the NRA that protects gun manufacturers, dealers, importers, and trade associations from liability claims for harm caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearms or ammunition. The bill, signed into law by President George W. Bush, has had a chilling effect on litigation against the gun industry in both federal and state courts, and offers protections afforded to no other consumer product industries. See the roll call.
- Opposed bans on high-capacity magazines, assault weapons. In 2013, during debate on the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, Collins voted against an amendment that would have banned high-capacity magazines and another amendment that would have banned assault weapons. Both amendments were rejected. During that same debate, she also voted for an amendment to allow concealed carry reciprocity (see above). That amendment also failed. The bill was ultimately tabled. See the roll calls.
Inconsistent on background checks, gun locks, terrorism suspects. Despite statements in which she claims to support expanded background checks, Collins has opposed as many background check bills and amendments as she has supported (see roll calls for votes opposing/blocking background checks in 2004 and 2016). Most recently, Collins has declared her opposition to The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 which passed the House, favoring instead a weaker plan of her own that is unlikely to ever get a vote. A similar voting pattern can be seen with bills that aim to require safety locks and to prevent terrorism suspects from buying firearms. In 1998, Collins voted to block an amendment that would have prohibited some transfers of guns that don’t have locks, but voted the opposite way in 1999 on a bill declared dead on arrival in a Republican-controlled House. In 2015 and twice in 2016, Collins opposed and blocked amendments that would have prohibited or delayed gun purchases by terrorism suspects, favoring instead a weaker plan of her own that first died in 2016, and again in 2018.
- Funding from gun manufacturer. Collins received more than $20,000 in contributions between 1996 and 2014 from Richard Dyke, former owner of Bushmaster Firearms, and his family. The Sandy Hook shooter used a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines.
- NRA contributions. Collins received nearly $20,000 in campaign donations from the NRA’s political action committee from 1996 to 2002. She has received no additional NRA contributions.
- Kavanaugh rules to allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers. In June 2020, Kavanaugh dissented from a Supreme Court decision that upheld federal protections that block employers from firing gay and transgender workers. In a 6-3 decision, the Court found that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights act protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. Kavanaugh disagreed with the majority decision, writing that because the law does not specifically mention gay or transgender individuals, it does not prevent employers from firing LGBTQ+ individuals. Kavanaugh’s position on LGBTQ+ protections was well-known before Collins voted for him in 2018. See the roll call for Kavanaugh.
- Azar blocked adoption by LGBTQ+ individuals and others. A new rule proposed by Alex Azar, the HHS secretary confirmed by Collins, would allow federally funded child welfare agencies to deny adoption and foster care applications from LGBTQ+ individuals and others based on the agency’s religious beliefs. While the proposed rule goes through a public comment period, Azar will not enforce current anti-discrimination rules. This follows Azar’s earlier decision to allow a South Carolina agency to deny foster parent applications from LGBTQ+ individuals, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and others. Collins confirmed Azar in January 2018. See the roll call.
Carson allowing housing discrimination. HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s anti-LGBTQ positions were known when Collins confirmed him in March 2017. Soon after his confirmation, Carson removed online resources to protect LGBTQ+ individuals in homeless shelters and in home purchases. In May 2019, he announced plans to allow federally funded shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men. See the roll call.
- Kavanaugh cast deciding vote on transgender military ban. The Supreme Court ruled in January 2019 to lift injunctions against Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military while the case moves through the courts, which could take a year or more. During that time, Trump can bar transgender individuals from enlisting and remove those currently serving. The vote was 5-4, with the deciding vote cast by Kavanaugh, whom Collins confirmed in October 2018. The case was argued by Trump’s Justice Department, led at the time by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Collins supported. See the roll calls for Kavanaugh and Sessions.
- Pompeo denied diplomatic family visas to same-sex couples. On October 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a policy change denying family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or employees of international organizations who work in the U.S. Collins released a statement opposing Pompeo’s policy. But Pompeo’s anti-LGBTQ+ views were known before Collins confirmed him. In fact, he even stated during his confirmation hearing that he opposed same-sex marriage. Collins voted for him anyway. See the roll call. (See the roll call)
- Sessions ended federal anti-discrimination protections. Shortly after Collins confirmed Jeff Sessions to attorney general, Sessions took the first of many actions to end federal non-discrimination protections against LGBTQ+ individuals. In February 2017, the Department of Justice, jointly with the Department of Education, withdrew protections for transgender students in schools and universities. Court briefs filed at Sessions’ direction argued that federal civil rights laws don’t protect gay workers and that the Supreme Court should rule for a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Session also wrote a memo to all U.S. attorneys asserting that transgender individuals are not protected against employment discrimination. Collins confirmed Sessions in February 2017. See the roll call.
- DeVos refuses to investigate complaints from transgender students. In February 2018 the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed that the agency would no longer investigate complaints filed by transgender students who have been banned from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. This follows the 2017 announcement from DeVos and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that their agencies were withdrawing civil rights protections for transgender students. Although Collins voted against DeVos in the final confirmation vote, she voted DeVos’ nomination out of committee in February 2017, which led to her confirmation.
- Azar erased ACA protections for transgender people. A report in October 2018 revealed that the Trump administration was considering limiting the definition of gender to male and female for enforcement of Title IX civil rights protections, essentially eliminating all protections for 1.4 million transgender people. In May 2019, under the guidance of HHS Secretary Alex Azar the administration took the first step in that direction with a revision of ACA anti-discrimination protections that removed gender identity from the definition of prohibited sex-based discrimination. Collins confirmed Azar in January 2018. See the roll call.
- Azar allowed clinicians to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ patients. A few weeks before Azar announced revisions to ACA patient protections, he issued a “conscience rule” that would allow health care providers to deny LGBTQ+ patient care that they object to for religious or moral reasons. A federal judge ruled in November 2019 that the rule is unconstitutional, but the administration is expected to appeal.
- Collins funds anti-LGBTQ+ Republicans. Collins started Dirigo PAC in 2003, a leadership PAC she uses to fund the campaigns of other Republican legislators. Collins has used the $2.5 million she’s raised for Dirigo PAC to fund legislators who oppose LGBTQ+ rights, including Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-SC), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and others. See the full list HERE.
- Carson removed anti-discrimination protections in housing. In August 2019, Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development approved by Collins, announced a proposed rule that would rollback Fair Housing Act protections that bar lenders, landlords, and others in the housing industry from enacting policies that cause unintentional discrimination against minority groups. The home insurance and mortgage industries have lobbied for years to end these protections, called “disparate impact,” even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that they are constitutional. Carson’s new rule is opposed by the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and other advocacy groups. Collins confirmed Carson in 2017. (See the roll call)
- Collins voted to repeal anti-discrimination rule for auto loans. Collins joined Republicans in March 2018 to overturn a rule that prevented car dealers from discriminating against people of color by charging them more for car loans through “dealer markups.” Research sugests these markups are disproportionately applied to non-white borrowers, which is how Ally Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Honda, and Toyota discriminated against people of color in their auto lending practices. See the roll call.
DeVos delayed a rule to protect minority children with disabilities. In February 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a two-year delay of a rule to address widespread disparities in the treatment of minority students in special education. Studies suggest that children of color are classified as having a disability at substantially higher rates than white students. Child advocacy organizations sued to overturn the delay. A federal judge ruled for them in March 2019, finding DeVos’ delay was illegal and ordering the rule be implemented immediately. Although Collins voted against DeVos in the final confirmation vote, she voted DeVos’ nomination out of committee in February 2017, which led to her confirmation.
Carson ended efforts to reduce housing segregation. In January 2018, Carson announced plans to suspend implementation of a rule that requires communities to use federal dollars to end residential segregation. Designed to enforce compliance with a little-followed provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the rule required more than 1,200 communities that receive billions in federal housing dollars to submit plans to desegregate their communities.Then, in August Carson announced plans to revamp the rule. His actions are the subject of a lawsuit. Carson was a vocal opponent of desegregation efforts before Collins voted to confirm him, calling them “failed socialist experiments.” (See the roll call)
DeVos stripped survivor protections from Title IX. In December 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed new rules that remove many Title IX civil rights protections from students who experience sexual harassment and assault in schools and colleges. DeVos’ new rules would make it harder for survivors to come forward, strip Title IX protection from many survivors, and allow schools to lower the standard of proof required for sexual harassment and assault. The final rule has not yet been released. Although Collins voted against DeVos in the final confirmation vote, she voted DeVos’ nomination out of committee in February 2017, which led to her confirmation.
Collins cast deciding vote to overturn fair pay rules. Collins cast the deciding vote to repeal the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose and correct serious safety issues and labor law violations, including wage theft, before they could receive a contract. The Obama-era rule required paycheck transparency and prohibited forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims. A report released shortly before the vote found that 66 of the 100 largest federal contractors had violated federal labor laws while collecting $240 billion in taxpayer dollars. See the roll call.
Collins voted repeatedly against Paycheck Fairness Act. First introduced in 1997, the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) bans employer retaliation against employees who share salary information, requires employers to report wage data by gender, set up negotiation skills training programs for women and girls, and help women sue for back pay. The bill has been introduced in Congress every session since it was first introduced, but Republicans have blocked it every time. Collins voted to block the bill in 2010, 2012, and 2014, claiming it would encourage unnecessary litigation in the small-business community. In 2014, she and three other Republican senators offered a stripped-down version of the equal pay bill that offered far less protection than the Paycheck Fairness Act. That bill never received a vote. The PFA is once again under consideration in the House.
- Sessions, Nielsen forced family separations. The Trump administration’s effort to forcibly separate immigrant families was introduced and led by two Collins’ confirmees, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Sessions announced the “zero tolerance policy” in April 2018 and began separating children from their parents a month later. At least 5,500 children have been forcibly removed from their families, including more than 1,500 who were taken before the policy was announced, and held in 121 different detention centers in 17 states. When called to testify before Congress, Nielsen lied about the policy and continued to separate children from their parents, even after a court ordered reunification. After massive public outcry and pushback from Democrats in Congress, Trump ended the policy with an executive order in June 2018. But a February 2019 report found that families are still being separated, with many held in detention centers without adequate food, water, or sanitation. An ACLU lawsuit on the separations is working its way through the courts. See the roll calls for Sessions and Nielsen.
- Carson rule would evict immigrant families. In April 2019, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced a proposed rule that would evict 25,000 immigrant families—including 55,000 children—from their homes. Under current HUD policy, families with one or more undocumented members are eligible for housing assistance, but they have to pay higher rents. The new rule would deny these families housing entirely. A final rule has not yet been released. Collins confirmed Carson in March 2017. (See the roll call)
Pompeo restricts refugee cap to historical low. Since Collins confirmed Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department, he has slashed the number of refugees allowed to seek protection in the U.S. from violence or political persecution in their home countries by 78%, from 85,000 during Obama’s last year to a historical low of 18,000 for 2020. This follows Pompeo’s decision last year to cut the number to 30,000, which was a record low at the time. Pompeo’s latest announcement was accompanied by an executive order allowing states and cities to refuse refugees. Collins confirmed Pompeo in April 2018. (See the roll call)
Cissna removed “nation of immigrants” from agency mission. L. Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed by Collins in October 2017, removed the description of America as a “nation of immigrants” from the agency’s website. This was hardly the most harmful action taken by Cissna during his time in the Trump administration. He also oversaw the final iteration of the Muslim travel ban, attempts to repeal DACA, and the administration’s repeated attempts to limit asylum claims from undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border from Central America. Cissna was forced to resign in May 2019. (See the roll call.)
Nielsen rule targets immigrants with disabilities, chronic health conditions. In October 2018, the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed a “public charge” rule that would allow the U.S. to refuse entry or deny spousal or family visas or green cards to any immigrant who earns below 250 percent of the federal poverty line and might one day use public programs, such as food or housing assistance or Medicaid. The rule, which openly discriminates against people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, could affect as many as 11 million people each year. A final rule was published in August 2019, but has been blocked by at least three federal courts. The rule was introduced by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who Collins confirmed in December 2017. (See the Roll Call)
- Sessions ended DACA. In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, setting a March 2018 close date for a program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. A federal judge issued an injunction in February 2018 blocking the administration from ending DACA, which was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in November. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case in November 2019. Sessions’ anti-immigrant leanings were well known before Collins introduced him as the AG nominee in February 2017. See the roll call.
OTHER CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES
- Collins votes to give law enforcement access to Americans’ browsing history. Collins voted May 13 to kill an a measure that would have blocked the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies from accessing Americans’ browser histories without a warrant. The amendment was introduced to block a move by Sen. Mitch McConnell to expand warrantless searches under the Patriot Act. It needed 60 votes to pass. Collins voted with McConnell, casting the deciding vote that killed the amendment. See the roll call.
- Collins confirms anti-civil rights nominee to 11th Circuit. Despite opposition from civil rights groups, Collins confirmed Andrew Brasher to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2020. Known for his support of far-right groups such as the Federalist Society and Rule of Law Defense Fund, Brasher has spent the bulk of his career seeking to undermine voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, workers rights, and environmental protections. His extremist ideology has long guided his career: He has claimed the Voting Rights Act is unnecessary, defended racial gerrymandering, opposed marriage equality, challenged ACA coverage of contraceptives, sought to limit abortion access, and fought to overturn the Clean Water Act. Despite this background, Collins confirmed him anyway. See the roll call.
- Barr resumed the federal death penalty. In July 2019 Attorney General William Barr announced that he will bring back the federal death penalty and scheduled five executions, with the first scheduled for December 9. This reverses a 16-year moratorium on capital punishment. Public support for the death penalty has decreased significantly since the U.S. last put someone to death in 2003, and 21 states have abolished capital punishment, including Maine. Collins supported Barr’s nomination, confirming him in February 2019. (See the roll call)
- DeVos dismisses civil rights complaints from students. The Department of Education is dismissing civil rights complaints from students that the agency determines are “burdensome” under a protocol established in 2018 by Secretary Betsy DeVos that also eliminated complaintants’ right to appeal a department decision. The move, which has led to the dismissal of hundreds of civil rights complaints, prompted a lawsuit by child and disability advocates. Although Collins voted against DeVos in the final confirmation vote, she voted DeVos’ nomination out of committee in February 2017, which led to her confirmation.
- Collins’ vote allows drug testing of some unemployment recipients. Collins joined all Congressional Republicans in March 2017 to repeal a rule that limited drug testing of federal unemployment beneficiaries to people who worked in fields in which employers randomly drug test after someone is hired. As a result of that rollback, Trump’s Department of Labor issued a new rule in October. 2019 that would require drug testing of hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers before they could receive the benefits to which they’re entitled, even though there is no suspected prior drug use. See the roll call.
- Tax bill: Supported corporations over workers. Collins’ support for the 2017 GOP tax bill has hit workers in Maine and elsewhere hard, including:
- No pay boost for most workers. Of 145 companies that claimed that the large corporate tax cuts would lead to pay increases, only 6% boosted workers’ pay, and most of that was in one-time bonuses rather than permanent raises.
- Stagnant wage growth. Despite promises of higher wages for American workers, wage growth remains stagnant, with many Americans’ incomes growing more slowly than in previous years.
- Small businesses missed out on deductions. Despite Collins’ predictions of significant benefits for small businesses via the bill’s changes to pass-through income deduction, almost half of those benefits went to businesses making more than $1 million a year.
- Voted to overturn worker safety and fair pay rules. Collins cast the deciding vote to repeal the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose and correct serious safety issues and other labor law violations before they could receive a contract. A report released shortly before the vote found that 66 of the 100 largest federal contractors had violated federal labor laws while collecting $240 billion in taxpayer dollars. See the roll call.
- Stacked the National Labor Relations Board. Trump has nominated three people for the 5-person NLRB, an independent agency charged with protecting collective bargaining and preventing and addressing unfair labor practices. All three of Trump’s nominees had anti-labor histories, and Collins voted for all of them, giving Republicans a board majority. The NLRB has issued a string of decisions that limit workers’ rights, including allowing employers to more easily oust unions and to eject union organizers from their property and blocking student workers from organizing. See the roll calls for John Ring, Marvin Kaplan, and William Emanuel.
- Voted to overturn an injury reporting rule. Collins voted in March 2017 to repeal a rule that would have required some employers to submit detailed electronic reports of workplace injuries and illnesses to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year. Collins’ vote paved the way for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta (who Collins confirmed) to introduce a weaker rule in January 2019. See the roll call.
- Voted to repeal the Retirement Safe Harbor rule. Collins cast a deciding vote to overturn a rule that would have helped states create retirement accounts for private sector workers whose employers don’t offer retirement savings plans. After Republicans repealed the rule, the House passed a retirement bill in May that includes provisions for individuals and small businesses. But the bill is currently held up in the Senate. See the roll call.
- Voted against keeping American jobs in the U.S. In March 2015, Collins voted against an amendment that would have prevented U.S. businesses from getting tax benefits for moving jobs overseas and ended offshore tax loopholes. The amendment was defeated. See the roll call.
- Voted to block bill to increase the minimum wage. Collins voted in 2014 to block a vote on a bill that would have gradually increased the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. See the roll call.
- Voted against collective bargaining. Collins co-sponsored an amendment in 2011 that would have excluded Transportation Security Administration employees from federal collective bargaining rights. The amendment failed. See the roll call.
POLICIES, RULES, AND OTHER ACTIONS
In 2017, Collins helped install Alex Acosta as secretary of labor. After he was forced to resign over his role in a plea deal he made with convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Collins confirmed anti-labor Eugene Scalia as the new secretary. Because Collins helped put them into positions of power, she shares responsibility for their actions. Here are a few of the ways they have harmed workers in Maine and elsewhere.
- BIW call on Collins to pull false campaign ad. Collins angered workers at Bath Iron Works by falsely implying in a campaign ad that she played a role in ending a contentious strike last summer. Not only did she play no role in ending the BIW strike, she also helped a competitor and mega donor land an $8 million defense contract, who has since been charged with fraud and is under investigation for campaign finance violations.
- Acosta rules cut pay for tipped workers. In 2017, Acosta proposed a rule that would have allowed employers to keep the tips of their workers, potentially costing hundreds of thousands of tipped workers nearly $6 million in income. Opposition to the rule was fierce and Acosta withdrew the proposal. But a few months later, he rolled out another measure that allows employers to pay some tipped workers less than minimum wage for non-tipped work, such as prep work or cleaning.
- Sessions ended federal anti-discrimination protections. Sessions wrote a memo in October 2017 to all U.S. attorneys asserting that transgender individuals are not protected against employment discrimination. Collins confirmed Sessions in February 2017. See the roll call.
- Acosta rolls back child labor rule. In September 2018, Acosta proposed a new rule to rollback a part of a federal child labor law that prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds working in nursing homes and hospitals from operating power-driven patient lifts without adult supervision. A government study found that most teens that age cannot safely operate these lifts unsupervised and that independent use could cause musculoskeletal injuries. The final rule has not yet been published.
- Azar, Verma rule targets home health care workers. In May 2019, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma released a final rule to block automatic paycheck deductions for union dues for home health aides paid directly by Medicaid. The rule applies to state employees, who are far more likely to belong to unions than employees of private, for-profit companies who are unaffected by this rule. The move is designed to diminish unions’ influence by lowering the number of people who pay dues. Collins confirmed Verma in March 2017 and Azar in January 2018. See the roll calls for Azar and Verma.
- Acosta rule allows government contractors to discriminate. Before Acosta left his post as Labor Secretary, he laid the groundwork for a proposed rule that would allow federal contractors to discriminate against workers based on their religious beliefs, including firing unmarried pregnant women and LGBTQ individuals. Current Labor Department policy exempts religious nonprofits that receive federal contracts from rules that prevent religious discrimination. Under the new rule, all federal contractors, including privately owned for-profit companies, that claim to run their business to advance their religious beliefs. A final rule has not yet been issued.
Voted to block campaign finance reform bill. In 2010, Collins blocked the DISCLOSE Act, a legislative response to the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which opened the door for unrestricted sums of corporate and union treasury money to fund political advertisements. The DISCLOSE Act, which was passed by the House, would have banned most “dark money” political contributions and required independent groups to disclose the names of contributors who give more than $10,000. Sen. Mitch McConnell has long been opposed to campaign finance reform and was the act’s most vocal opponent. Collins joined McConnell and all Republicans in a vote to continue a filibuster, essentially killing the bill. It failed by just one vote. See the roll call.
FUNDRAISING PARTNERS AND RECIPIENTS
- Collins funds QAnon supporters. Collins’ leadership PAC donated to the campaigns of two Maine legislature candidates who openly support QAnon, a far-right internet conspiracy following that seeds fictitious and cryptic claims about Trump saving the world from a “deep state” cabal of cannibal pedophiles. Last year, the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat, saying that the spread of the group’s theories would drive extremists to carry out violent acts.
- Collins partners with anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ Republicans. Collins has formed fundraising committees with senators who have voted to defund Planned Parenthood, spoken out against LGBTQ rights, and denied the science behind climate change. The Collins-Graham Majority Committee, a partnership between Collins and Lyndsey Graham (R-SC), is run by a Virginia firm and has raised more than $329,000 as of June 2019, most from donors in Missouri. The Collins Inhofe Victory Committee is a new collaboration with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). No FEC filings have been made to date.
- Collins funds anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ Republicans. Collins started Dirigo PAC in 2003, a leadership PAC she uses to fund the campaigns of other Republican legislators. Collins has used the $2.5 million she’s raised for Dirigo PAC to fund legislators who are anti-choice, oppose environmental protections, support ACA repeal, and are opposed to LGBTQ rights, including Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-SC), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and others. See the full list HERE. On the state level, Collins has funded Maine Rep. Larry Lockman, who once defended rape as “the pursuit of sexual freedom,” led an anti-abortion group, and spent decades opposing civil rights for LGBTQ individuals. She also funded Heather Sirocki, a former state representative with an anti-immigrant agenda, and Chris Johansen, a state representative who in 2020 organized a protest against Maine’s stay-at-home order and other protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Ethics complaint against Pro-Collins super PAC. A super PAC created last year to support Collins’ re-election campaign is the subject of an FEC ethics complaint over a $150,000 donation from what appears to be a shell company called the “Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers” in Hawaii. The donation, which may be illegal, is linked to Honolulu-based defense contractor Navatek LLC, which received an $8 million contract by a sub-committee Collins leads. Collins’ campaign has also received donations from other individuals tied Navatek.
- Accepted funds from Sackler family. In March 2007, Collins accepted $2,300 from Jonathan Sackler, former vice president of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of the painkiller OxyContin. In May of that same year, Purdue executives plead guilty to criminal charges of misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about drug’s addictive properties. Subsequent lawsuits cited Jonathan Sackler and other family members for their role in the opioid crisis that has nearly 1 million people in the U.S. since 1999. Maine has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the country. In January 2020, Collins falsely denied ever receiving contributions from the Sackler family. Collins has also received donations from Arthur Sackler Jr., $250 in 2010 and $250 in 2011. Arthur Sackler’s father died and his family sold its shares in Purdue long before OxyContin was invented.
- Top opioid distributors are top Collins donors. Just six companies distributed 75% of the 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills dispensed nationally between 2006 and 2012. Five of them are among Collins’ corporate donors: McKesson Corp, $22,500 since 2008; Cardinal Health, $8,500 since 2013; AmerisourceBergen, $11,500 since 2007; CVS, $3,000 since 2016; and Walmart, $5,500 since 2018. McKesson Corp has also donated $2,500 to Collins’ Leadership PAC, Dirigo PAC. Opioid overprescribing is thought to be the driver behind the opioid epidemic. A recent report found that Penobscot County had the highest per-person pill distribution in all of New England, with 56 pills dispensed per person between 2006-2012. Maine had one of the nation’s highest opioid-related overdose death rates in 2017, with 360 dying that year.
Receives support from Trump’s anti-choice “judge whisperer.” Among Collins biggest donors is Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the far-right Federalist Society who is known as Trump’s “judge whisperer.” In June, Leo donated $2,800 to Collins’ re-election campaign–the maximum individual contribution allowed. Then in August, Leo hosted a fundraiser for Collins at his Bar Harbor home. The Federalist Society works to put anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ judges on the bench.
Top Wall Street funding recipient. Collins ranks third among all 2020 Senate candidates in donations from the financial industry. Her 2020 campaign efforts have received $514,700 from the securities and investments sector and $216,300 from private equity and investment firms. Private equity executives are expected to pour millions into the 2020 Senate race, as they work to keep Republicans in the majority. Collins is expected to be one of their biggest recipients. Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group, Inc., has spent the most on candidates so far, including $500,000 to a single-candidate PAC that benefits Collins.
- Fossil fuel companies fill the campaign coffers. Collins received 5 times more money from Texas fossil fuel executives than from Mainers in the first quarter of 2019.
- Out-of-state donors dominate. In the first quarter of 2019, only about 1% of the itemized contributions to Collins’ campaign came from individuals in Maine.
- Breitbart supporter gives big. Collins’ 2019 contributions so far include the maximum donation from billionaires Robert and Diane Mercer, top supporters of extreme-right politicians—including Donald Trump. Robert Mercer is also a key figure at Breitbart, and his wife, Diana Mercer. The Mercer family are top donors to a number of anti-choice organizations, including the Becket Fund, Federalist Society, and the Susan B. Anthony List. Their contributions of $10,800 topped the total from all Mainers combined.
- Alt-right activist kicks in. Collins received the maximum contribution ($2,800) from alt-right activist Palmer Luckey, who has circulated misogynistic and racist propaganda. Another notable recipient of donations from Luckey is the white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).
- New York, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Washington, D.C., and California: Where many of Collins’ donors live, according to her FEC reports.
- Top recipient of far-right, conservative PAC. In 2016 and 2018, Collins was a top recipient of donations from the Rely on Your Beliefs (ROYB) Fund, a PAC associated with former House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) In 2019, the ROYB Fund was a major contributor to the newly formed Collins-Graham Majority Committee, which exists to promote the campaigns of Republican senators. According to its Facebook page, the ROYB fund “works to elect conservative candidates across our nation.” This leadership PAC has given over $2 million to 234 people over 19 years. The top industries donating to this fund in 2017-2018 included pharmaceuticals and health products, hospitals and nursing homes, insurance, and health professionals.
- Super PAC for Collins features all out-of-state donors. A new single-candidate super PAC funded by all out-of-state corporate executives has raised nearly $1 million to support Collins. There are no Maine donors listed among the top contributors. Donors include Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of New York-based Blackstone investment firm ($500K) and Robert Burt, former CEO of FMC Corporation, a leading producer of insecticidal and herbicidal chemicals ($100K).
- ISPs donate big after Collins’ Internet privacy repeal vote. In March 2017, Collins sided with Republicans to overturn an Obama-era rule that would have required Internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain customers’ permission before selling their data to a third party. The repeal allows ISPs to collect and sell customers’ private data, including medical, financial and other personal information. And there are reports that some ISPs are doing just that, possibly even in violation of other laws. In September 2019, Google and Comcast each gave the maximum contribution allowed by the FEC. Both Comcast and Google Fiber benefited from the repeal of the Internet privacy rule. See the roll call.
VOTING TRENDS AND OTHER ACTIONS
- Collins voted to acquit Trump. Collins announced on Feb. 4 that she would vote “not guilty” in a Senate impeachment trial of Trump that included no witnesses, claiming that he had “learned a pretty big lesson.” Even though Trump rebuffed Collins’ statement just hours after she made it, Collins joined every Senate Republican except Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Feb. 5 to acquit Trump of all charges, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt and polls that showed the majority of her constituents believed he was guilty.
- Collins’ alliance with McConnell increases. In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, Collins voted with her party more than any other time in her 22 years in the Senate. This is notable because Republicans’ slim margin in the Senate meant that Collins’ vote was critical to passage of a number of conservative measures and confirmation of far-right judicial and executive nominees. Collins has voted with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 87% of the time during the current legislative session and aligned with him 90% of the time during 2017-2018. This is a sharp increase from before Trump’s election. She voted with McConnell 65% of the time during President George W. Bush’s last two years in office and 67% of the time during President Barack Obama’s first two years in office.
- Collins’ approval ratings in sharp decline. Collins’ approval ratings have dropped sharply in the past year, with her now ranked as the most unpopular senator in the U.S., according to the polling firm Morning Consult. Collins’ disapproval rating was a career-high 52% in the poll’s most recent report, a 25-point drop since Trump took office. This poll suggests that Mainers are paying closer attention to Collins’ voting record, and holding her accountable for her votes for the GOP tax bill, Brett Kavanaugh, and a slate of extremist judicial nominees.
CONFIRMATIONS, POLICIES, AND RULES
Collins has confirmed almost all of Trump’s executive and judicial nominees, many of whom had records that indicated what actions they would take once in office or on the bench. Because Collins helped put them into positions of power, she shares responsibility for their actions, including the harmful policies and rules described below.
- Pro-dark money Trump loyalist gets seat on the FEC. Collins, who often complains about “dark-money” groups that fund ads against her re-election, has confirmed a dark-money advocate to the Federal Elections Commission, the which enforces federal campaign finance laws. James E. “Trey” Trainor III is a Trump loyalist and former adviser to the Republican National Committee and Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trainor’s nomination has been on hold since 2017 following the discovery of a number of social media attacks against Protestants, including one in which Trainor, a devout Roman Catholic, shared an article “Protestantism is poison.” The 6-seat FEC has been without a quorum since August 2019, resulting in a backlog of hundreds of campaign finance complaints that have gone unanswered. While Trainor’s appointment will give the board the fourth member needed for a quorum, the commission is now split between two conservatives and two liberals, meaning partisan gridlock on the commission will likely continue. See the roll call.
- Kraninger puts consumer protections agency at risk. The woman Collins appointed to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is arguing to the Supreme Court that the agency’s organizational structure is unconstitutional, which could place the future of the CFPB at risk. Collins cast the deciding vote in December 2018 for Kathy Kraninger, even though she had no financial regulatory experience. Now, it seems that Kraninger may be attempting to do what Republicans have been unable to accomplish: overturn the law that created the agency in the first place. Kraninger is also leading the effort to repeal protections against predatory payday lenders that the federal financial watchdog agency itself passed under Obama. See the roll call.
- Mulvaney poverty calculation would cut anti-poverty programs. Mick Mulvaney, who Collins confirmed to lead the Office of Management and Budget, has proposed changes to how the government calculates the federal poverty line, which could result in significant cuts in federal aid to millions of low-income Americans. The Trump administration has made repeated attempts to cut social safety net programs, but has been rebuffed by Congress. The proposed rule, if finalized, would allow the administration to make those cuts without Congressional approval and could lead to a loss or decrease in Medicare benefits to more than 250,000 seniors and people with disabilities and a loss of health care coverage to more than 300,000 children and thousands of pregnant women. Collins confirmed Mulvaney in February 2017. (See the roll call)
- Collins helped create the current Postal Service crisis. In 2006, Collins introduced the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the United States Postal Service (USPS) to pre-pay retiree health care benefits for the next 75 years, a hefty financial burden that applies to no other public or private entity. Nearly $120 billion of the USPS’ current $160.9 billion in debt is attributed to the onerous legislation, which Maine letter carriers say helped create a financial crisis that Republicans have used to call for privatizing the agency. This year, Donald Trump and the mega-donor he appointed as postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, have used the service’s debt to justify cutbacks in personnel and resources that have slowed mail delivery, causing delays in delivery of medications and paychecks. Trump has admitted that his attacks on the USPS are part of an effort to block absentee voting in November.
- Exploited loophole to rollback protections. Republicans, with Collins’ help, have used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn dozens of rules enacted by the Obama administration, including protections for consumers, workers, and the environment, among others. The CRA allows Congress to repeal rules established by federal agencies and also blocks future administrations from creating rules similar to those struck down, a departure from “regular order” that hamstrings future administrations. Some of the protections Collins has voted to repeal are below. For a full list of rules repealed by the Trump administration, visit the Brookings Institution website.
- Overturned rule preventing discrimination by auto dealers. Collins joined Republicans in March 2018 to overturn a rule that prevented car dealers from discriminating against people of color by charging them more for car loans through “dealer markups.” Research sugests these markups are disproportionately applied to non-white borrowers, which is how Ally Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Honda, and Toyota discriminated against people of color in their auto lending practices. See the roll call.
- Overturned consumer protection rule banning forced arbitration. Collins voted in October 2017 to overturn a rule that would have allowed consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against financial services companies by preventing those companies from including arbitration clauses in customer contracts. The repeal was considered a win for the banking industry. See the roll call.
- Overturned internet privacy protections. In March 2017, Collins sided with Republicans to overturn a rule that would have required Internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain customers’ permission before selling their data. The repeal allows ISPs to collect and sell customers’ private data, including medical, financial and other personal information. In September 2019, Google and Comcast—which benefited from Collins’ vote against Internet privacy—each gave her the maximum contribution allowed by the FEC. See the roll call.
- Repealed rule to prohibit tying drug testing to unemployment benefits. Collins voted in March 2017 to repeal a rule that limited drug testing of federal unemployment recipients to people who worked in fields in which employers randomly drug test after someone is hired. As a result, Trump’s Department of Labor issued a new rule in October 2019 that requires unemployed workers to submit to drug testing without cause before receiving benefits to which they’re entitled. See the roll call.
- Repealed injury reporting rule. Collins voted in March 2017 to repeal a rule that would have required some employers to submit detailed electronic reports of workplace injuries and illnesses to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year. Collins’ vote paved the way for Labor Secretary Alex Azar (who Collins confirmed) to introduce a weaker rule in January 2019 that allows employers to share less-detailed summaries of injuries. See the roll call.
- Repealed the Retirement Safe Harbor rule. Collins cast a deciding vote to overturn a rule that would have helped states create retirement accounts for private sector workers whose employers don’t offer retirement savings plans. After Republicans repealed the rule, the House passed a retirement bill in May that includes a number of range of provisions for individuals and small businesses. The bill is currently held up in the Senate. See the roll call.
- Overturned worker safety rules. Collins cast the deciding vote to repeal the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose and correct serious safety issues and other labor law violations before receiving a contract. A report released shortly before the vote found that 66 of the 100 largest federal contractors had violated federal labor laws while collecting $240 billion in taxpayer dollars. About 1 in 5 American workers is employed by federal contractors. See the roll call.
- Repealed fossil fuel anti-corruption rule. In February, 2017, Collins voted to repeal an anti-corruption rule that required oil, natural gas, and mining companies on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose the royalties and other payments they make to foreign governments. See the roll call.
- Repealed rule prohibiting seriously mentally ill from purchasing firearms. Collins voted in February 2017 to repeal an Obama-era rule designed to prevent some people with serious mental illness from buying firearms. The rule, written after the Sandy Hook shooting, required the Social Security Administration to disclose the names of people with mental illnesses severe enough to prevent them from managing their own disability benefits, increasing the likelihood that background checks would flag those unable to safely handle firearms. See the roll call.
Download a PDF of the “Collins’ Legislative Scorecards” and check back soon for graphics!
NOT A MODERATE
Download a PDF or JPG of the “Not a Moderate” list.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Judicial Nominees tab.
Downloadable a PDF of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Executive Nominees tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Environment tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Tax Bill tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Reproductive Rights tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Health Care tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Gun Safety tab.
CIVIL RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Civil Rights & Social Justice tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Workers’ Rights tab.
Downloadable PDFs and social media graphics of the “In Brief” bulleted list on the Funding Sources tab.