ICYMI: Senator Collins on ABC’s “This Week”


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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with host George Stephanopoulos.


A transcript of the interview follows:


“This Week”

December 16, 2018


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We are back with the Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning.


SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: My pleasure.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about health care. You heard Senator Durbin say that this judge's ruling is a real problem for Republicans now. What's your reaction to the judge's ruling?


COLLINS: The judge's ruling was far too sweeping. He could have taken a much more surgical approach and just struck down the individual mandate and kept the rest of the law intact. I believe that it will be overturned.


STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it's going to be overturned. He based his rulings, you said, on last year's tax bill which brought the tax penalty for violating that mandate down to zero and then he said that invalidated the whole law. Any second thoughts on your vote for that bill because of this?


COLLINS: Not at all. I think it's important to keep in mind what the impact of the individual mandate was. Eighty percent of those who paid the penalty under the individual mandate earned less than $50,000 a year. So this disproportionately affected lower- and middle-income families. In addition, not one Democratic senator offered an amendment to strike the repeal of the individual mandate, although they had the opportunity to do so.


And that's because it was probably the most unpopular and unfair provision of the Affordable Care Act. There are many good provisions of the law. Those should be retained.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And you voted for this after being promised for more funding for lower premiums but that never happened. So what needs to happen with Obamacare now?


COLLINS: Actually, we did bring a bill to the floor that would have reduced premiums in the individual marketplace by as much as 40% over the [next] two years. That came to the floor in early March and regrettably was blocked, much to my surprise, by a member of the Democratic leadership. It's something we should still pursue because affordability is a real problem for so many Americans who do not receive the subsidies under the Affordable Care Act because they make just a little bit more than 400 percent of the poverty rate.


STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure seems like we're only about five days away from a partial government shutdown. We heard the president this week say he needs wall funding, wants that $5 billion for the wall. We just heard Senator Durbin say the Democrats aren't going to help provide that. Is there any way to thread this needle and keep the government open?


COLLINS: There is and we should. There's absolutely no excuse to shut down government on this issue or any other issue. I have suggested that we revisit a compromise proposal that we brought forth earlier this year. I helped craft it—it was offered by Senators King and Rounds—and it provided $2.5 billion this year and over the next ten years to fully fund the border security initiative. That includes not only physical barriers like fences and walls, but also technology, more border patrol agents, more roads to get into these remote areas.


It was a comprehensive package that was put together by the experts at the Department of Homeland Security. Forty-six out of 49 Democrats voted for that package, and I think that that's a possible avenue for a compromise.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it good enough for the president? He wants that concrete wall.


COLLINS: I hope it would be good enough for the president because keep in mind that the president's budget this year had $1.6 billion for the wall and the broader security package was $2.5 billion that we worked out with Homeland Security to meet the other parts of border security, which are at least equally important. There's a compromise and people will come to the table in good faith on both sides. We have to prevent a government shutdown.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let -- let me ask you about your work on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Adam Schiff, who's going to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee going forward told The New Yorker just this week that he wants to investigate, when he's in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, whether President Trump shaped policy to expand his fortune, look at Russia, Saudi Arabia's business interests, other nations in the Middle East and he went on to say the American people have the right to know that their president is working on their behalf, not his family's financial interests.


Right now I don't think any of us can have the confidence that's the case. Do you have that confidence?


COLLINS: Well that's why the special counsel's report is -- and investigation –are so important. And the special counsel must be allowed to complete his work unimpeded with no interference. We on the Senate Intelligence Committee are pursuing the counter intelligence investigation. It's been a very bipartisan investigation. More than 200 witnesses have been interviewed. And I think that will wrap up early next year. And we too will produce a report on the counter intelligence aspects. That's different, obviously, from the criminal prosecutions and the investigation that the special counsel is undertaking.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, thanks for your time this morning.


COLLINS: Thank you.