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Bangor, ME - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” today with host Jake Tapper to discuss health care, Iran, and other issues.
A transcript of the interview follows:
“State of the Union”
October 15, 2017
TAPPER: Joining me now is Republican lawmaker who has voted to block all of the recent Republican efforts to overhaul Obamacare, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senator, thank so much for joining us today.
COLLINS: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Let's begin right there. By scrapping these subsidies to health insurance companies, is President Trump, as Steve Bannon said, blowing up Obamacare?
COLLINS: Jake, the debate in Washington has been on whether or not to repeal and replace Obamacare in the future. What the president is doing is affecting the ability of vulnerable people to receive health care right now. This is not a bailout of the insurers. What this money is used for is to help low-income people afford their deductibles and their co-pays so that their health care is available to them. In addition, the president has taken steps to cut off funding to reach people who are eligible for subsidies under the ACA. So, these certainly are very disruptive moves that will result in smaller numbers of people being insured, that will make it more difficult for low-income people to afford their out-of-pocket costs, and that will destabilize the insurance markets.
TAPPER: Not to put too fine a point on it, Senator, but you're saying President Trump is taking actions that will hurt American citizens.
COLLINS: I do believe that. I'm very concerned about what the impact is going to be for people who make under 250 percent of the federal poverty level because the funding that is available under the cost-sharing reductions is used to subsidize their out-of-pocket costs. And if they can't afford their deductible, then their insurance is pretty much useless.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the Iran deal, another part of the Obama legacy that President Trump is trying to dismantle. Back in 2015, you called Obama’s Iran nuclear accord, quote, fundamentally flawed. Now that President Trump is punting this issue to Congress, are you willing—do you think it would be wise—to vote for additional sanctions on Iran that would kill the existing deal?
COLLINS: Well, I think it's important to distinguish between what the president did and did not do. He has the authority to reimpose the sanctions unilaterally. He did not choose to do that. Instead, he put a spotlight on two very important flaws in the agreement. One is the fact that it does not stop Iran from testing and developing ballistic missiles. Second, he put emphasis on the sunsets that are included in the agreement. Those are important because it means that Iran merely has to be patient in order to ultimately design and develop a nuclear arsenal. So, I think there are real deficiencies in the agreement, and I believe that we should take advantage of this window to do two things: One is to see if we can strengthen the agreement to address those two flaws in particular and, second, and this is important, the administration needs to consult with our allies because this was a multilateral agreement, not a bilateral one.
TAPPER: Okay. But as of right now, you wouldn't be in favor of voting right now to impose new sanctions on Iran to essentially blow up the deal. You just want to strengthen the deal and work with allies?
COLLINS: I want to strengthen the deal and work with allies, but I want to see what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—both of whose leaders, Senator Corker and Senator Cardin, opposed the agreement that the Obama administration negotiated—come up with for legislation. And we have a window to do that.
TAPPER: Speaking of Senator Corker, he called the White House a, quote, adult day care center this week. He warned that the president's recklessness could set the nation, quote, on the path to World War III. He said his concerns are shared by nearly every Republican in the United States Senate. Is he right?
COLLINS: First, let me say I have enormous respect for Senator Corker. His office is right down the hall from mine. We're friends. And he is a very valuable leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The president has surrounded himself with very good and experienced members of his national security team. And I think what the president needs to realize is that his words really matter. When he makes an off-the-hand comment like the “calm before the storm” as he did recently, both our enemies and our allies analyze that comment to figure out what it means. He does not have the luxury that he had when he was in the private sector of saying whatever comes into his mind. So, I don't think the Twitter war is particularly productive, but the president needs to remember that his every word he speaks matters now that he is president of the United States.
TAPPER: Just to read between the lines there, you didn't say you disagree with Senator Corker, but I do want to ask you about your big announcement this week that you're not going to run for governor of Maine, you're going to stay in the United States Senate. Are you staying in the Senate, in part, because the Republican Party, in your view, needs more officials like you who are willing to serve as an independent check on President Trump?
COLLINS: I'm staying in the Senate because I believe that's where I can do most for the people of Maine and for the nation. The issues we're dealing with now are so consequential. They're so important, whether it's dealing with the threat from North Korea or frustrated families who need tax reform. The issues are just huge right now. This has been an unconventional presidency, and I think that my ability to work with people on both sides of the aisle in a bipartisan way is needed now more than ever. In making my decision, I talked with three friends who have served in both roles: Angus King, my colleague from Maine; Judd Gregg, former senator and governor from New Hampshire; and Lamar Alexander, senator from Tennessee and former governor of that state. They helped me walk through this issue, and their advice and counsel, along with the many opinions I received from family, friends, and constituents in Maine led me to my decision.
TAPPER: All right, well we're glad that we’re going to have a few more years of having you as a guest on our shows. Thank you so much, Senator Collins.
COLLINS: Thank you, Jake.