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Sen. Susan Collins (R)

Maine

N/A

collins.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 1996, term expires 2020, 4th term.

Born: December 7, 1952, Caribou, ME

Home: Bangor, ME

Education: St. Lawrence U., B.A. 1975

Professional Career: Legis. aide, U.S. Sen. Bill Cohen, 1975–87, Staff dir., Oversight of Gov. Mgmt. Subcmte., 1981–87; Professional & Financial Regulation Comm., 1987–92; New England regional dir., U.S. Small Business Admin., 1992; ME dpty. treas., 1993; Exec. dir., Ctr. for Family Business, Husson Col., 1994–96.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Thomas Daffron)

Susan Collins, Maine’s senior senator, is a Republican first elected in 1996. One of the few moderate Republicans left in the Senate, she has been a pivotal swing vote on numerous issues, keeping GOP leaders content by taking their side on national security and some fiscal matters. She chairs the Special Aging Committee and the Appropriations panel on transportation, housing and urban development.

Collins grew up in Caribou, in potato-growing Aroostook County, about as far northeast as you can get in the United States and closer to the capitals of New Brunswick and Quebec than to the capital of Maine. Her family has been in the lumber business since 1844 and has also long been involved in politics. Her father was a state senator, he and her mother served as mayor, and her uncle was a state Supreme Court justice. She recalls that as a high school senior, she visited Washington as part of a Senate youth program, and home-state Sen. Margaret Chase Smith talked with her for nearly two hours in her office.

Right after college, she interned with Republican William Cohen, then the 2nd District House congressman and a member of the Judiciary Committee who had voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. Cohen hired Collins, and she remained on his staff for 12 years. She was staff director for the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, which Cohen chaired from 1981 to 1987. After Republicans lost their Senate majority, Collins returned to Maine to work for five years for GOP Gov. John McKernan as a financial regulation commissioner. In 1992, she was New England administrator of the Small Business Administration, and in 1994, she ran for governor. It was a disastrous campaign: She won the Republican nomination but was overshadowed by independent Angus King—now her Senate colleague—and ran third, with only 23% of the vote.

Two years later, Cohen announced his retirement from the Senate. Collins wanted to run, and indeed there was a precedent in Maine for a third-place gubernatorial finisher to be elected senator: Republican George Mitchell was similarly humiliated in 1974, and then, after being appointed senator in 1980, won smashing victories in 1982 and 1988. In the Republican primary, Collins played up her resemblance to Cohen and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine on issues and called for a balanced budget amendment, the presidential line item veto, and term limits. She pledged to serve no more than two terms. Collins won with 56% of the vote. In the general election, she was opposed by former Gov. Joseph Brennan. Brennan attacked Collins on economic issues and gun control, but Collins raised much more money and won 49%-44%.

Collins has been a firmly committed centrist. She at first was more conservative than her now-departed Maine colleague, Snowe, but eventually eclipsed Snowe in the frequency with which she broke with the party. Her lifetime score from the anti-tax group Club for Growth through 2013 was 37%, by far the lowest of any GOP senator.

Collins has been the lead Senate Republican sponsor of a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and has joined Democrats on issues including tax cuts, abortion rights, and campaign finance regulation. In the latter debate, she sponsored amendments to reduce the advantages of self-financing candidates and to require that a candidate’s face appear on negative ads that he or she runs. During the 2011-12 fight over extending the payroll tax holiday, Collins was the only Republican to vote for a surtax on millionaires to pay for extending the tax cut. In earlier legislative battles, she called for reducing the size of the Bush tax cuts and for applying the pay-as-you-go rules to tax cuts as well as to spending increases. In 2005, Collins joined the bipartisan “Gang of 14” to preserve the possibility, but reduce the likelihood, of filibusters against Supreme Court nominees.

Similarly in 2013, Collins led a group of 14 senators -- seven Republicans, six Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine -- in an effort to find a bipartisan solution to a budget crisis that shut down the federal government for 16 days. The crisis was instigated by conservatives in the House and by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who demanded rollbacks in President Barack Obama's health care law in return for their votes on a spending bill to fund routine government operations. Obama and Senate Democrats refused those demands, and Collins tried to forge a compromise that called for a two-year delay in the health care law's medical device tax, extended government funding for six months, and raised the debt ceiling through the end of January 2014. But Senate Democrats objected to the continuation of automatic spending cuts that were part of the deal and it failed to advance.

Yet Collins' efforts were praised for diffusing some of the partisan tension that had prevented movement toward a compromise. Three days later, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were able to come to an agreement that reopened the government, although it was a fairly limited, short-term measure. It kept the government operating until Jan. 15, 2014, extended the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, and called for the opening of formal budget negotiations to arrive at a long-term solution. Republicans won none of the changes in the health care law they had sought and suffered a sharp decline in public opinion for orchestrating the shutdown.

Collins was among the Republicans prominently involved in a bipartisan deal in March 2014 to extend expired long-term unemployment benefits. And a few months later, she threw herself into an unsuccessful attempt to find a compromise over Democratic demands to raise the minimum wage. She opposed the Democratic calls for it to be set at $10.10 an hour, saying it was "too much and will cost jobs."

In 2009, Collins and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., used their pivotal votes to reduce the price tag of Obama’s economic stimulus bill from $900 billion to $787 billion before voting for it. She told Maine Today, “I knew that those provisions, that funding, would translate into real jobs for real people in Maine.” On a major financial regulation bill in 2010,she, Snowe, and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown were the three Republicans who provided votes to pass the bill. But Obama’s attempts to win Collins’ support for the 2010 health care bill proved fruitless despite months of wooing. She expressed disdain for what she saw as a token effort to include a few Republican ideas in a predominantly Democratic-written measure.

Much of Collins’ clout comes from her status on the Appropriations. She got a controversial provision attached to the $1.1 trillion spending plan in December 2014 that eliminated the requirement that truck drivers would have to get two nights' sleep in a row before starting work. Transporation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned that the measure would "put lives at risk" because of driver fatigue, but Collins said the two-night rule "presented some unintended and unanticipated consequences" needing more study. 

Before stepping down in 2013 because of term limits, Collins had for a decade been the chairman or the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where she once worked as a staffer. There, she worked very closely with her counterpart, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat turned independent. They collaborated in 2004 on reorganization of the intelligence community, creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a new counter-terrorism center, and together they defeated amendments that would have kept secret the total amount of intelligence spending.

She and Lieberman in 2009 and 2011 sought to move a cyber security bill to allow the Department of Homeland Security to share information on vulnerabilities with private companies, but the measure ran into resistance from some Republicans who said it gave the department too much control. In her last official act on Homeland Security, she joined Lieberman in December 2012 in issuing a report criticizing the State Department’s failure to remedy problems that led the September embassy attack in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.

In recent years, Collins has been active on energy policy. She supported raising fuel efficiency standards for cars to 35 miles per gallon by 2019 and requiring carbon dioxide emissions to be lowered to 1990 levels by 2020. In December 2009, she and Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington state introduced a “cap-and-dividend” bill to address carbon emissions. Companies would buy carbon shares in auctions, passing on costs to consumers, with 75% of the fund paid as dividends to citizens and 25% devoted to clean energy research and development. They pressed their bill as an alternative to the Democrats’ cap-and-trade legislation to no avail.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Collins voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 and in 2007, opposed a Democratic attempt to set a timetable for withdrawing troops. In May 2010, she was the only Republican on the committee to vote to repeal the ban on openly gay people in the military. At a news conference in September 2011, Collins held up a postcard she received from an anonymous Army soldier thanking her for her vote.

On local issues, Collins in 2006 won approval of a bill that allows minor league athletes and professional ice skaters to apply for P-1 immigration visas, making life easier for the many Canadian hockey players who skated for the former Lewiston MAINEiacs. Collins won protection for financially ailing fishermen under the Bankruptcy Act, and she and Snowe also sought $125 million for digital translators to make sure digital TV signals reach remote rural areas. In 2012, Collins pushed to help potato growers in her state. After the Agriculture Department proposed limitations on potatoes in school lunches, Collins co-authored a successful amendment ensuring that potatoes would still be included on school menus. She also helped broker a new law in November 2011 that allows heavy trucks in Maine to drive on federal highways.

In her 2002 reelection campaign, Collins was challenged by former state Senate Majority Leader Chellie Pingree, the chief sponsor of the state law allowing government negotiations with pharmaceutical companies as a way of lowering prescription drug costs. Pingree ran ads saying that Collins was “siding with the big drug companies.” But Collins cited a successful amendment she sponsored to make prescription drugs cheaper. Both candidates spent about $2 million each. Collins won by a solid 58%-42%; four years later, Pingree was elected to the U.S. House

In 2008, Collins was challenged by 1st District Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat who made the Iraq war a central issue. She highlighted her opposition to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and her work getting emergency equipment for the Monmouth Fire Department and P-1 visas for the Lewiston MAINEiacs. The war became a less salient issue as the success of President George W. Bush’s troop surge strategy became evident. Collins maintained double-digit leads in the polls throughout the campaign and won 61%-39%. She even achieved what she described as “my political dream” of carrying heavily Democratic Lewiston.

Collins in July 2012 cast her 5,000th consecutive vote, extending a streak dating to her arrival in the Senate in 1997. She takes pains not to miss votes, once twisting an ankle while racing to a roll call and another time getting off a commercial flight to return to the Capitol. Also in 2012, Collins, 59, married 73-year-old government consulting executive Thomas Daffron. Like Collins, Daffron was formerly a top staffer to Cohen, and he also was once the chief operating officer for the Baltimore Orioles. The wedding took place in Caribou.

Collins coasted to reelection again in 2014. She won the endorsement of several leading environmental groups that cited her belief in human-caused climate change, as well as the Human Rights Campaign after coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, and beat underfunded Democrat Shenna Bellows by 37 percentage points.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-2523

(202) 224-2693

DSOB- Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 413
Washington, DC 20510-1904

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-2523

(202) 224-2693

DSOB- Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 413
Washington, DC 20510-1904

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 622-8414

(207) 622-5884

68 Sewall Street Room 507
Augusta, ME 04330-6354

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 622-8414

(207) 622-5884

68 Sewall Street Room 507
Augusta, ME 04330-6354

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 945-0417

(207) 990-4604

Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building Suite 20100
Bangor, ME 04402-4919

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 945-0417

(207) 990-4604

Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building Suite 20100
Bangor, ME 04402-4919

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 283-1101

(207) 283-4054

160 Main Street Suite 103
Biddeford, ME 04005-2580

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 283-1101

(207) 283-4054

160 Main Street Suite 103
Biddeford, ME 04005-2580

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 493-7873

(207) 493-7810

25 Sweden Street Suite A
Caribou, ME 04736-2149

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 493-7873

(207) 493-7810

25 Sweden Street Suite A
Caribou, ME 04736-2149

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 780-3575

(207) 828-0380

One Canal Plaza Suite 802
Portland, ME 04101

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 780-3575

(207) 828-0380

One Canal Plaza Suite 802
Portland, ME 04101

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 784-6969

(207) 782-6475

55 Lisbon Street
Lewiston, ME 04240-7117

DISTRICT OFFICE

(207) 784-6969

(207) 782-6475

55 Lisbon Street
Lewiston, ME 04240-7117

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Amanda Lincoln
Health Care Policy Advisor

Agriculture

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Mary Grace Schley
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Arts

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Drew Freme
Digital Director

Budget

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

Crime

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Disability

David Lieberman
Legislative Counsel

Disaster

Michele Pearce
Senior Defense Policy Advisor

Economics

Phillips Hinch
Senior Policy Advisor

Education

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Energy

Mary Grace Schley
Legislative Correspondent

Environment

Mary Grace Schley
Legislative Correspondent

Family

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Drew Freme
Digital Director

Foreign

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Grants

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Gun Issues

Health

Amanda Lincoln
Health Care Policy Advisor

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Homeland Security

Michele Pearce
Senior Defense Policy Advisor

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

Housing

David Lieberman
Legislative Counsel

Katie Seelen
Assistant to the Chief of Staff; Legislative Correspondent

Human Rights

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Drew Freme
Digital Director

Intelligence

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Judiciary

Katie Brown
Legislative Assistant

Labor

David Lieberman
Legislative Counsel

Phillips Hinch
Senior Policy Advisor

Land Use

David Lieberman
Legislative Counsel

Katie Seelen
Assistant to the Chief of Staff; Legislative Correspondent

Medicare

Amanda Lincoln
Health Care Policy Advisor

Military

Michele Pearce
Senior Defense Policy Advisor

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

National Security

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Native Americans

Mary Grace Schley
Legislative Correspondent

Public Works

David Lieberman
Legislative Counsel

Katie Seelen
Assistant to the Chief of Staff; Legislative Correspondent

Recreation

Mary Grace Schley
Legislative Correspondent

Rural Affairs

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Seniors

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

Small Business

Phillips Hinch
Senior Policy Advisor

Social Security

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Phillips Hinch
Senior Policy Advisor

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

Telecommunications

Katie Seelen
Assistant to the Chief of Staff; Legislative Correspondent

Trade

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

David Lieberman
Legislative Counsel

Katie Seelen
Assistant to the Chief of Staff; Legislative Correspondent

Veterans

Michele Pearce
Senior Defense Policy Advisor

Jill Carney
Legislative Correspondent

Welfare

Michaela Campbell
Legislative Correspondent

Women

Amanda Lincoln
Health Care Policy Advisor

Election Results

2008 GENERAL
Susan Collins
Votes: 444,300
Percent: 61.33%
Tom Allen
Votes: 279,510
Percent: 38.58%
2008 PRIMARY
Susan Collins
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2002 (58%); 1996 (49%)

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