Click HERE to watch the interview
Note to assignment editors and news directors: Click HERE for high-quality video of the interview
Washington, D.C. -This evening, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, was interviewed by Kasie Hunt on the premiere of her new show “Kasie DC” on MSNBC. Senator Collins disucssed health care and a number of other important topics.
A transcript of the interview follows:
October 15, 2017
HUNT: After months of rumors and speculation, Maine Senator Susan Collins announced on Friday that she has decided not to run for governor of Maine and will instead stay in Washington with the rest of us in the Senate, where she has become a crucial swing vote as a powerful moderate Republican. Senator Collins joins me now on set. Senator Collins, thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us tonight.
COLLINS: Thank you, and congratulations on your new show.
HUNT: Thank you. I really appreciate it. Let's start with health care. This is something that the president brought up at the end of the week last week by canceling these CSR payments, and it is obviously an issue that you have come to be squarely in the center of. What do you think is realistic for what the Congress can actually accomplish on health care?
COLLINS: I’m actually optimistic that the work of Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray is going to bear fruit. On the Senate Health Committee, on which I serve, we’ve had four hearings. They were in depth, meaty, substantive hearings on what we should do to fix the flaws that are in the Affordable Care Act.
HUNT: But McConnell kind of shut all of that down when they decided to try again, right?
COLLINS: That's true, but then when the bill that was authored by Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy was not approved, those negations in committee have restarted. And they are absolutely critical now that the president has decided to cut off the subsidies that help lower income people afford their out-of-pocket costs.
HUNT: And is there a sense that the president would go along with something like that? Would he sign a bill that would just address what Alexander and Murray are talking about?
COLLINS: They are going to have a more comprehensive bill than just restoring the help for low-income people with their deductibles and co-pays. And my belief is that the president wants to sign a health care bill, and this is a good one. It reflects input from both sides of the aisle, and I’m hopeful that he will do so.
HUNT: I want to ask you about what was very long -- I remember asking you multiple times in the hallways about what you were going to do, were you going to stay or go. What ultimately kept you here in the Senate? There are so many people who, quite frankly, feel like the atmosphere here is incredibly toxic, and they don’t want anything to do with it anymore. Did you feel that way? Is that why you were thinking of leaving?
COLLINS: I was thinking of leaving for many reasons. One is that I missed being in Maine full time. Most of my family and many of my friends are there, and governor is a more hands-on job, where you can promote more economic opportunities, and that really matters to me. But then I looked at all that is going on in Washington today. The issues that we are dealing with are so consequential. I do play a key role as being one of those senators who can work across the aisle and actually get things done. And I just felt that I couldn't walk away even though it's a very difficult and troubled time in Washington.
HUNT: The kind of perception after the health care debate was that you along with Senator Lisa Murkowski, and ultimately John McCain as well, were kind of the thin red line against the repeal of Obamacare. Is that a mantle that you shoulder with honor or do you as a Republican—you must have argued with Mitch McConnell about this at some length—it had to be a tough position to be in.
COLLINS: It was a tough position because I think there are a lot of flaws in the Affordable Care Act, and those flaws need to be fixed. I have introduced bills myself that are bipartisan bills that would help our insurance markets operate better, that would lower premiums for people, and that would fix a lot of the other problems in the law. And that's what we should be concentrating on. Most frustrating to me is neither the ACA nor any of the Republican alternatives did anything about the underlying costs of health care. And that's the huge issue that none of these bills nor the current law really addressed.
HUNT: You were one of just a few women senators in Congress; there are still not equal representation of women compared to the population, of course, by a large margin. Is there a difference between being a woman senator in Trump’s Washington than there has been in the past?
COLLINS: I haven't really thought of it that way, and I don't think I see a big difference, but I do see a difference now that we have more women in the Senate. When I was elected to the Senate, believe it or not, I was only the 15th woman in history to be elected in her own right. There were many others who have been appointed, usually after the death of their husbands. But three of those were from the great State of Maine, something we're very proud of. What I have noticed is that you still have to prove yourself if you're a woman who is elected to the Senate. If you're a man and you are elected, it's assumed that you belong there, but women have to prove themselves. I do want to say, we don't think alike. We span the ideological spectrum just as our male counterparts do.
HUNT: Do you think President Trump treats women well?
COLLINS: I've been disappointed in the way that he treated women during the campaign. I think he has appointed very good women like Nikki Haley to very important positions. I've been impressed with several of his appointments, and I haven't seen what I saw on the campaign now that he's president. He seems to be more equal opportunity in his comments about people.
HUNT: Lastly, very quickly because we’re going to have to wrap up, Harvey Weinstein, the allegations have rocked Hollywood. What is your view of what should happen now? Should Congress take a look at nondisclosure agreements, for example, in employment contracts that are becoming an issue around this? Is that something Congress could look at to try and make this better?
COLLINS: Well, it seems to me this is primarily a law enforcement issue given the rape allegations and that's where most of the focus should be, but certainly it's something that would be good for Congress to take a look at because this is far too prevalent not just in Hollywood but elsewhere.
HUNT: Senator Susan Collins, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate it.
COLLINS: Thank you.