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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” today with host George Stephanopoulos to discuss health care, tax reform, Iran, and other issues.
A transcript of the interview follows:
October 15, 2017
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s go on to the Republican side now. GOP Senator Susan Collins joins us now from Bangor, Maine. Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning. You also announced this week you're sticking around. You’re going to stay in the Senate rather than run for governor. One of the reasons you said is that you want to fight hyperpartisanship. You want some bipartisan solutions. I take it one of them is what Leader Pelosi was just talking about, that bipartisan bill in the Senate right now to try to fix what is wrong with Obamacare.
COLLINS: That’s absolutely right. I’m a member of the Senate Health Committee, which has been doing really important work to try to stabilize the insurance markets, to ensure that premiums go down and that people are going to have access to health insurance. That effort has been led by the bipartisan leaders of Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. We have all had input; there were four great hearings. And I hope we can proceed, but Democrats are going to have to step up to the plate and assist us. It’s a two-way street.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about the president? It doesn't seem to have the support of the president right now.
COLLINS: Well, I’m very disappointed in the president's actions of this past week. The debate in Washington has been whether or not to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the future. What the president is doing is affecting people's access and the cost of health care right now, and I don't agree with his decision on the subsidies that help low-income people afford their deductibles and co-pays, and I don’t agree with his executive order. But Congress needs to step in, and I hope that the president will take a look at what we're doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also pushing very hard for tax reform. The first step in that will be Senate passing a budget. I know you hope to do that this week. Are you a yes on that budget?
COLLINS: I am likely a yes on that budget. I very much want to see tax reform. As you know, George, we haven't had an overhaul of the tax code since 1986. I don't think there's a single American who thinks that the tax code is fair or simple or helps promote job creation, and that should be our goals.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The question is what kind of tax reform will the Senate end up voting on. Some of your colleagues have pointed out their concerns. Rand Paul says he can't support a bill that increases taxes on the middle class. Bob Corker says he can't support a bill that increases the deficit. What are your conditions?
COLLINS: Well, I’m not saying that this is going to be easy, but I want to see us help our working families with tax relief, and doubling the standard deduction does just that. I want to see us help our small businesses, and I want to see us pursue policies that will encourage our larger corporations to create jobs in this country, not overseas. Those are some of my goals, and I think we can get there. There's bipartisan support for reforming the tax code, and I hope we can keep it a bipartisan effort.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just mentioned Bob Corker. He created quite a stir this week with his comments about President Trump, including this to the New York Times.
CORKER: He doesn't realize that, you know, that we could be heading toward World War III with the kind of comments that he's making.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He also said that the majority of his Republican colleagues in the Senate agree with his concerns about the president's volatility. Are you one of them?
COLLINS: Well, I have a lot of respect for Bob Corker. He’s been a good friend and an excellent senator. I don't think that the Twitter war between him and the president is very productive, and I think the president needs to learn that his words really matter, that what he could say when he was in the private sector is entirely different. Every comment that the president makes, even if it's an offhand comment like the one he made about the “calm before the storm,” is scrutinized by both our enemies and our allies. So, the president needs to be more careful in his language. But, I think that we all need to get back to work on the issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: During the campaign, you wrote that the president's lack of self-restraint was creating the possibility for a more perilous world. Has that come to pass?
COLLINS: The president's comments at times have not been helpful in promoting stability and reassuring our allies. But he is the president, and I understand that, and as I said, I hope that he'll be more careful with his words in the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's former strategist, Steve Bannon, was also out this week declaring war on the GOP establishment. Let's listen:
BANNON: And let me give a warning to you: Nobody can run and hide on this one. These folks are coming for you. The day of taking a few nice conservative votes and hiding is over. And right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Says he's going to oppose every GOP incumbent up in 2018 unless they say they're not going to vote for Mitch McConnell as Senate leader. Meantime, the president is gonna be meeting with Mr. McConnell tomorrow. Are they working at cross-purposes? And what’s your response to Steve Bannon?
COLLINS: They are working at cross-purposes. This is not helpful or appropriate at all. Obviously, Mr. Bannon has the right to support whomever he wants to support. But I think his rhetoric is exactly what the American people are tired of. They don't want this hyperpartisanship. They want us to work together, and they want us to get things done. They want us to work across the aisle. They want us to work with the president. And Mr. Bannon's over-the-top rhetoric is not helpful. Mitch McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader. The president needs him. I’m glad that they're working together on tax reform and a lot of other issues, and I’m glad that they're meeting this week. Mr. Bannon's comments are not helpful in that regard.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Ambassador Nikki Haley is up next to talk Iran. Do you support the president's decision to decertify the Iran deal?
COLLINS: It’s important to distinguish between what the president did and what he didn’t do. He could have reimposed sanctions unilaterally. He could have withdrawn from the agreement. He chose not to do that. Instead, he put a spotlight on two very troubling deficiencies in the agreement. Deficiencies which caused not only me, but also the Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, to vote against the agreement. And those deficiencies include the fact that there are no limitations on Iran’s ability to develop ballistic missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile which could reach us. We need to remember that a nuclear weapon is not just the warhead, it’s the means of delivery as well. Second, he outlined a very important point, ant that is that under the agreement, Iran has what I call a “patient pathway” to developing a nuclear weapon. So we ought to try to fix that. That’s what I hope that Congress will do, and I hope that the president will consult more fully with our allies since this is a multilateral, not a bilateral agreement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, thanks for your time this morning.