ICYMI: Senator Collins Interviewed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”

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Washington, D.C. - This morning, U.S. Senator Susan Collins was interviewed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” by hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Senator Collins also answered questions on a wide range of topics from MSNBC economic analyst and former treasury official Steve Rattner, New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor, and MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt.

A transcript of the interview follows:

“Morning Joe”
October 16, 2017

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST: And, Senator Collins joins us now. It is great to have you on the show. Thank you for being on this morning.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R) MAINE: Thank you.

BRZEZINSKI: So what was behind the decision to stay in?

COLLINS: It was a very difficult decision. The attraction of being in Maine full-time, close to much of my family and many of my friends was very strong. And governor, it's a far more hands-on job where you can really make a difference on issues like providing more economic opportunities. But in the end, I decided that the issues right now in Washington are so consequential. They're so huge. And I am a person who likes to work across the aisle and builds bipartisan coalitions, and that's what I decided I wanted to do. In the end, it came down to where I could do more for my state and my country.

BRZEZINSKI: Joe --

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: I remember -- Sen. Collins, Joe Scarborough here. I remember talking to Sen. McCain in January or February and saying, “It's extraordinary. Of all the sacrifices you've made for this country, this may be your greatest contribution right now because there's so much chaos in Washington.” Do you feel like what you are doing right now is as substantial and as important as anything you've done in your decades of public service?

COLLINS: I really do. These are chaotic times in Washington and Washington reflects the division and the discord that we see throughout our country. The polarization has never been greater. And yet, I remain a congenital optimist that as the pendulum will swing back and if those of us who are in the middle leave, I worry who will lead that effort to bring us back and get things done for the American people in a way that is less partisan and that invites input by both Republicans and Democrats. I would say, however, I would never begin to compare myself to John McCain, who has done so much for our country.

STEVE RATTNER, MSNBC ECONOMIC ANALYST, FORMER TREASURY OFFICIAL: Senator, it's Steve Rattner. As you well know, there are more than a dozen things the president has done in the last few months that are likely to diminish enrollments in the ACA or otherwise impede people getting health care. You've spoken out against some of them. I assume you're probably unhappy with most all of them. But what, if anything, can you do to actually change the course of what's happening and try to preserve health care that is in jeopardy for millions of Americans at the moment?

COLLINS: What we should do is immediately pass legislation that's been negotiated by Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, who heads the Senate Health Committee, which I'm a member of, which would help to lower premiums, stabilize the markets, and give clear authorization for the cost-saving reductions that are essential to help low-income people pay their out-of-pocket costs. And that's a package that I believe can garner support on both sides of the aisle, and I hope that the president would sign it into law.

BRZEZINSKI: Yamiche --

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Senator Collins, I want to ask you about being a woman on the hill. Yesterday, I was talking to some colleagues about the culture on the hill and with Harvey Weinstein, and we're talking all about the culture of Hollywood and women essentially being sexually assaulted or sexually harassed. Have you heard about that culture in D.C.? Have you, yourself, experienced anything like that? And what do you say to people who say Capitol Hill might need to look at its own culture?

COLLINS: It's always good for an organization to review its own culture to make sure that equality and justice prevail throughout. I have not experienced that but undoubtedly, we know from some press accounts that it has happened before. And it is reprehensible, regardless of the working environment in which it occurs. Regardless of whether it's Hollywood or Washington or Main Street America. And I believe that these brave women coming forth and confronting one of the most powerful individuals in Hollywood will help others speak out about their experience and send a very clear message that this is not tolerated.

I will say that I do think that when women are elected to the United States Senate that we do face an extra barrier that men do not. When a man is elected to the Senate it's assumed that he belongs there. My experience has been that we women have to prove that we belong there and once we do that we're accepted. But there is an extra barrier that I've found.

BRZEZINSKI: Interesting.

Steve Schmidt --

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Senator, good morning.

Your colleague, Bob Corker, a man -- serious, sober, not given to hyperbole -- has talked quite critically, quite openly about this administration worrying about the president's capacity to start World War III. We have the secretary of state talking about the negotiations will continue until the first bombs drop. How concerned are you and how legitimate do you find Sen. Corker's criticism behaviorally of this administration? How worried are you?

COLLINS: Let me say first that I'm a friend of Bob Corker's. I think he's an excellent senator and a great leader of the Foreign Committee, and he knows a great deal. I don't think the Twitter war between him and the president is productive and I'd like to see them get back to working on the Iran legislation, for example.

But there's no doubt that this president's been extremely unconventional in his approach and that has caused more chaos than I think is good for our country and for our relationship with both our allies and our enemies. I would urge the president to remember that every single word that he says matters.

When he was in the private sector and the business world, he could make an off-the-hand comment, and it really didn't matter. Even as a candidate, it could be excused because he was running for political office.

But he is now President of the United States of America, and every word that he says counts. And that's why I'd encourage him to be more careful with his rhetoric because of the signal—the inadvertent signal—that it may send not only to Americans but to our adversaries and our allies around the world.

BRZEZINSKI: For sure.

Senator Susan Collins, thank you so much.