Nevertheless, Collins, other Maine leaders, persist during coronavirus pandemic

Susan Collins had her Elizabeth Warren moment this week.

You may remember back in 2017 during the early days of the Trump administration. Partisan rancor continued unabated and seemingly every nomination the new president made was hotly-contested by Democratic minorities in the United States Senate.

One nomination was then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren began a speech opposing his confirmation.

As senators’ addresses are wont to do, it went on and on. Warren arguably ran afoul of Senate rules prohibiting personal attacks of fellow senators. On a party-line vote, she was found to have violated the rule. This led to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s now-famous explanation:

“Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Nevertheless, she persisted.

It became a rallying cry for those on the left.

However, this week, the United States Senate was working through something much more important than a mere nomination. They were trying to put together a bipartisan economic response to the ongoing chaos COVID-19 is causing.

Sen. Susan Collins speaks on the Senate floor on Wednesday. (Senate Television via AP)

Maine’s own Sen. Susan Collins was at the forefront of this effort. More specifically, she was leading the charge to keep small businesses afloat and keep their employees engaged and working with their employer. Rather than succumb to partisan foolishness, she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, and Florida Republican Marco Rubio.

Their plan was met with wide support. But it was also incorporated into the comprehensive “Phase 3” response bill. Negotiations over that larger bill hit a roadblock on Sunday evening, and Collins did what she normally does when things slow down.

She tried to work through it. On Monday morning, as she is wont to do, Collins went to the Senate floor to plead her case to her colleagues.

When she prepared to speak, Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer objected. Not to any particular content that he believed Collins was about to share. Rather, he simply objected to letting her speak.

Then something rare happened.

Collins got mad.

Note to New Yorkers: don’t make people from the County mad.

She marched up to Schumer and got in his face. The idea that there would be an objection to even speaking was anathema. And, to be fair to Schumer, it seems to have just been a confused, miscommunicated situation in the midst of an urgent, yet rapidly changing, situation.

Those on the far left, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, mocked Collins from the comfort of their Twitter accounts. Various insulting epithets were bandied about, accusing her of crying “crocodile tears.”

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Collins pushed through the emotion and the anger. She didn’t make t-shirts or start new Twitter hashtags. Instead, she did her job. She legislated.

Her efforts to provide support to small businesses — in Maine and across the nation — have been near-universally lauded. In a time of crisis, she has offered steady, measured leadership.

Others have done the same. Gov. Janet Mills has done a remarkable job balancing public health with economic health, in a manner which emphasizes prudence and tamps down panic. Portland’s leaders — Mayor Kate Snyder and City Manager Jon Jennings — have done the same, increasing precautions in the hardest-hit part of the state.

The United States of America — and, in fact, the world — is in the midst of a very real crisis. Those in leadership positions are understandably stressed. Emotions will boil over, but those in Congress will have to still work together the following day.

Collins has done an admirable job thus far modeling the way forward. And with luck, for Maine and the nation, she will persist.

Michael Cianchette

About Michael Cianchette

Michael Cianchette was the chief counsel to Gov. Paul LePage from 2012-2013 and deputy counsel from 2011-2012. A Navy reservist, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-2014 as a trainer and adviser to the Afghan National Police. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maine program and holds a BA in economics and political science from Boston College along with a JD and an MBA from Suffolk University. He works as in-house counsel and financial manager for a number of affiliated companies in southern Maine.