ICYMI: Senator Collins Discusses Health Care, Russia Investigation on CNN’s “State of the Union”

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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper to discuss health care and the Russia investigation.

A transcript of the interview follows:

“State of the Union”
July 16, 2017

TAPPER: My guest, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who joins us now. Thanks so much for joining us, Senator. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: Thank you.

TAPPER: So, let's start with health care. President Trump is making phone calls to wavering senators. You have said that you're going to vote no on the motion to proceed, just to even debate the matter, and as well as the final passage.

Has President Trump called you? Is he still hoping that maybe he can win you over?

COLLINS: He talked to me at the White House at a meeting of the Republican Caucus a couple of weeks ago, but I have not heard directly from him. But I have heard from members of his administration, including his chief of staff.

Let me just quickly say that all of us are concerned about John McCain, and we're wishing him a speedy recovery. He's very tough, and I'm sure he will be back soon.

TAPPER: We all agree with that.

Vice President Pence spoke with the nation's governors on Friday. He tried to allay any concerns about what this bill will do with Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans and others. Take a listen.


VP PENCE: Let me be clear. President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society. And this bill puts this vital American program on a path to long-term sustainability.


TAPPER: Do you agree with the vice president there? Is he telling the truth? Would this bill strengthen Medicaid for the neediest?

COLLINS: I would respectfully disagree with the vice president's analysis. This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program, and those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children, poor seniors. It would affect our rural hospitals and our nursing homes. And they would have a very difficult time even staying in existence and serving vulnerable populations.

So, no, I see it very differently. You can't take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it's going to have some kind of effect.

TAPPER: One of the major changes to the health care bill was a provision offered by Senator Ted Cruz that would allow insurance companies to sell cheaper plans that offer fewer benefits.
You have criticized the provision.

Wouldn't the Cruz provision, however, make it possible for some people who can't afford to buy coverage able to buy coverage?

COLLINS: I do want to see more flexibility in the insurance market but Senator Cruz's approach is not the answer.

It's rare for insurance and consumer groups to agree, but they agree on this. The Cruz plan is unworkable. It would result in undermining the protections for people with pre-existing conditions and create two separate groups of individuals. Some of them would have very skimpy insurance coverage at a low price, but it might not help them when they get sick. And then there would be the group of people who have serious medical problems, and their premiums and deductibles would go sky high, such that insurance would be unaffordable for many of them.

There is a way to deal with this, and that is by creating a reinsurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions. That would help drive down premiums. We did it in Maine for 18 months before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, and it was highly successful.

TAPPER: Senator, you and Senator Rand Paul, for very different reasons, are opposed to this latest piece of legislation from the Republican leadership in the Senate. Republicans, as you know, can't afford to lose any more votes from the Republican conference on this. Do you think that the bill will pass or do you think there are enough other wavering Republicans that it will not?

COLLINS: There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill. And so at the end of the day, I don't know whether it will pass. But I do know this: We should not be making fundamental changes in a vital safety net program that's been on the books for 50 years, the Medicaid program, without having a single hearing to evaluate what the consequences are going to be. That doesn't mean that there aren't problems with the Medicaid program that need to be addressed. It doesn't mean that the ACA doesn't have serious flaws. It does. But that's why we need go through the normal committee process and get input from people on both sides of the aisle. That's what would produce the kind of legislation that we need.

TAPPER: You're also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is of course investigating the Russia investigation.

President Trump came to the defense of Donald Trump Jr. this week after those e-mails were released. Take a listen.


TRUMP: My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Not a government lawyer but a Russian lawyer. Most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research.


TAPPER: You've been through a few campaigns, Senator. If you were told that a lawyer wanted to share information with you as part of the Russian government's effort to help you get elected, how would you respond?

COLLINS: Well, I would respond in the negative. And I think most candidates would.

We need to get to the bottom of this, but the only way that we're going to do it is to talk not just to Donald Trump Jr., who has offered to cooperate, for which I give him credit, but to everyone who was at that meeting and who was involved in setting up that meeting. That may be difficult in the case of the Russian nationals, but we certainly ought to try.

We should also ask for all documents, not just the e-mails that have been released, but all the documents that are related to any contacts that President Trump's campaign had with the Russian government or its emissaries.

TAPPER: Of the three people from the Trump team that we know of, who were in that meeting with the Russian lawyer, only one of them, Jared Kushner, is currently in the White House with a security clearance.

Given how many times he has had to update his security clearance forms and how empirically untransparent he has been throughout this process, do you have any concerns about his security clearance?

COLLINS: That's an issue that we need to look at. But right now we don't have enough evidence.
I don't know who advised him on the forms. I don't know how many meetings he had in total. I don't know whether most of them were listed.

So those are issues that we do need to review. And it's one reason why the Intelligence Committee's counterintelligence investigation needs to continue. It's on a separate track from the special counsel's investigation which is looking at the issue of whether or not there's any criminal wrongdoing.

That's not in our bailiwick, but we do need to make sure we know the answers to Russian interference in the campaign, whether there was any collaboration. And most of all we need to put into place safeguards to prevent this kind of interference from happening in the future.
Because the Russians are going to try again, as we know, from their attempts to influence the campaigns in France and in Germany and in Montenegro.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Great to see you.

COLLINS: Thanks so much.