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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” today with host Jake Tapper to discuss tax reform, Senator Al Franken, and Roy Moore.
A transcript of the interview follows:
“State of the Union”
November 19, 2017
TAPPER: And joining us now is Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Senator, I want to get to taxes in a moment, but I do want to start with the Alabama Senate race where Republican nominee Roy Moore has been accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. You've urged Moore to withdrawal from the race, but you also said that if he wins, the Senate would have, quote, no choice but to seat him.
I do wonder, though, if Moore is elected, I understand he would have to be seated, but would you want the Senate to vote to expel him?
COLLINS: It's too early for me to say what the Ethics Committee recommendation would be. And obviously I came out against Roy Moore very early, in fact before these terrible allegations were levied against him, because I was concerned about his performance as a member of the Alabama Supreme Court, where he had been removed twice for failing to follow lawful orders and also because of his comments on Muslims and LGBT individuals.
So, these allegations are extremely disturbing. But under the Constitution, the test on whether or not you seat someone is whether they satisfy the age and residency requirements. So, we would have to seat him, but I hope we don't get there. I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. And I hope that the voters of Alabama choose not to elect him.
TAPPER: Would you rather serve with Doug Jones, the Democrat, than with Roy Moore?
COLLINS: I don't know Doug Jones at all, but I've never supported Roy Moore. And I hope that he does not end up being in the United States Senate.
TAPPER: And just to be clear, and then we'll move on from Roy Moore, you believe the women? You think that these are credible allegations that he assaulted -- sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl and sexually molested a 14-year-old girl?
COLLINS: I do. I read his explanation. I listened to his radio interview. And I did not find his denials to be convincing at all. So, from my perspective, these are credible allegations against him.
TAPPER: Now, the White House has not commented on whether the allegations are credible, but President Trump did attack Senator Al Franken after the allegations against him. They were asked, the White House, this week, why are the allegations between -- against Franken different from the allegations -- multiple allegations from at least 13 different women against President Trump. Listen to how the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS: Specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's kind of an odd thing to say in some ways. Do you buy the notion that Trump's accusers are not credible because the president denies the allegations?
COLLINS: I did not support President Trump. He was not my candidate for president. And part of the reason why were allegations about how he treated women. I made my decision before the Hollywood Access tape came out. But I was not a supporter of President Trump for the Republican nomination.
TAPPER: Let's turn to taxes. You said this week that Republicans made a big mistake when they changed the tax bill to include this repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate because that -- removing that could raise taxes or payment -- health care payments, premiums, for millions of Americans. If that provision stays in the tax bill, will that mean a "no" vote from you?
COLLINS: Well, first of all, I think we need to distinguish between taking away insurance from people who already have it, which is what the health care bills that we considered earlier this year would have done, versus removing a fine on people who choose not to have insurance. And that fine falls disproportionately—80 percent—on those who make under $50,000.
I don't think that provision should be in the bill. I hope the Senate will follow the lead of the House and strike it. If not, I think we need to fix it by passing two bills, the Alexander-Murray bill, which will help to stabilize markets and reduce premiums, and a bill I've introduced with Bill Nelson of Florida that would create high-risk pools that would protect people with pre-existing conditions and also help to reduce premiums by 20 percent.
TAPPER: You say that you have data show that the premium increase will outweigh any tax cut that a middle-income person might get from this tax bill. If that data point doesn't change -- I just want to drill in on this point -- will you have to vote "no" if there isn't the relief that you're looking for, either by tinkering with this bill or through the legislation you just offered?
COLLINS: The bill's going to be subject to amendment on the Senate floor, and I'm filing amendments myself, in part to provide more relief to middle-income families and to deal with the very problem that you have identified. The fact is that if you do pull this piece of the Affordable Care Act out, for some middle-income families, the increased premium is going to cancel out the tax cut that they would get.
And that's why it's so important that we pass the two pieces of legislation that I talked about. And it's also why we need to restore the tax deduction for state and local taxes, the way that the House did. That will help our middle-income taxpayers get more tax relief.
I also want to keep the tax rate at right where it is, at 39.6 percent for people who are making $1 million or more a year, rather than lowering it, as the Senate bill would do.
TAPPER: Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, got angry at Democrats this week for suggesting that this tax bill is a give-a-way to the rich. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: I really resent anybody saying that I'm just doing this for the rich. Give me a break.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN: How many times do we do this before we (INAUDIBLE) --
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Listen, I've honored you by allowing you to spout off here. And what you said was not right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's drill down on the -- on the actual issue that they're debating here. Based on the numbers you've seen, does this tax bill benefit the rich more than it does the middle class?
COLLINS: It benefits people of all tax brackets. But what I want to do is to skew more of that relief to middle and low-income families. The Senate bill starts to do that. It doubles the child care -- the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and it also makes part of it refundable to very low-income individuals who don't pay any tax at all. It doubles the standard deduction so that a couple making $24,000 would pay no income tax at all.
So, I don't think those allegations are fair. But nevertheless, there are provisions of the bill that I would like to see changed. And keeping that top rate for individuals where it is, for people making more than $1 million is one change. And I would also like to see the business taxes, which do need to be reduced, in order to incentivize the creation of good jobs and higher wages in this country, but it does not need to be reduced all the way to 20 percent for large businesses.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.
COLLINS: Thank you, Jake.