Susan Margaret Collins (born December 7, 1952) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Maine, a seat she was first elected to in 1996. A Republican, Collins chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging since 2015 and previously chaired the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs from 2003 to 2007. She also is known for her long consecutive voting streak, which reached 6,000 votes in September 2015. She is the most Senior Republican woman in the Senate. She is the dean of Maine's congressional delegation.
Born in Caribou, Maine, Collins is a graduate of St. Lawrence University. Beginning her career as a staff assistant for Senator William Cohen in 1975, Collins later became the staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee of the Committee on Governmental Affairs (which later became the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) in 1981.
She was then appointed as the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation by Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. in 1987. In 1992 she was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as the director of the Small Business Administration's regional office in Boston. Staying in Massachusetts, Collins became that state's Deputy State Treasurer in 1993.
After moving back to Maine in 1994, Collins became the Republican nominee for Governor in the 1994 general election. Becoming the first woman to become the nominee of a major party for Governor of Maine, Collins finished third in a four-way race with 23% of the vote. After her bid for Governor in 1994, Collins became the founding director of the Center for Family Business at Husson University. Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996. She has been reelected three times, in 2002, 2008, and 2014.
|United States Senator
January 3, 1997
Serving with Angus King
|Preceded by||Bill Cohen|
|Chair of the Senate Aging Committee|
January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Bill Nelson|
|Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee|
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Joe Lieberman|
|Succeeded by||Joe Lieberman|
|Born||Susan Margaret Collins
December 7, 1952
Caribou, Maine, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Thomas Daffron (m. 2012)|
|Relatives||Samuel Collins (uncle)|
|Education||St. Lawrence University (BA)|
Her parents, Patricia M. Collins (née McGuigan) and Donald F. Collins, each served as mayor of Caribou; her father also served in both houses of the Maine Legislature. Her mother was born in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, to American parents. Collins has English and Irish ancestry. Her uncle, Samuel W. Collins, Jr., sat on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1988 to 1994 and served in the Maine Senate from 1973 to 1984.
During her senior year of high school in 1971, Collins was chosen to participate in the U.S. Senate Youth Program, through which she visited Washington, D.C., for the first time and engaged in a two-hour conversation with U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME). Collins is the first program delegate elected to the Senate and currently holds the seat once held by Smith.
After graduating from Caribou High School, she continued her education at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Like her father before her, she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society and Collins graduated from St. Lawrence magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in government in 1975.
Following graduation, Collins worked as a legislative assistant to U.S. Representative, and later U.S. Senator William Cohen (R-ME) from 1975 to 1987. She was also staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee on the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (1981–87).
In 1987, Collins joined the cabinet of Governor John R. McKernan, Jr., as Commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. She was appointed the New England regional director for the Small Business Administration by President George H. W. Bush in 1992.
Returning to Maine, Collins won an eight-way Republican primary in the 1994 gubernatorial election, becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major party for Governor of Maine. During the campaign, she received little support from Republican leaders and was criticized by conservative groups for her more liberal views on social issues. She lost the general election, receiving 23% of the vote and placed third behind Democrat Joseph E. Brennan and the winner, Independent candidate Angus King, her future Senate colleague.
In December 1994, Collins became the founding executive director of the Center for Family Business at Husson College in Bangor. She served in this post until 1996, when she announced her candidacy for the seat in the U.S. Senate being vacated by her former boss, William Cohen, who retired to become United States Secretary of Defense under President Clinton. With Cohen's public endorsement, she won a difficult four-way primary and faced Joe Brennan, her Democratic opponent from the 1994 gubernatorial election, in the general election. She eventually defeated Brennan by a margin of 49% to 44%.
She was reelected in 2002 over State Senator Chellie Pingree (D), 58%–42%, and again in 2008 over Rep. Tom Allen (D), 61.5%–38.5%. In both elections, she carried every county in Maine. In 2014, Collins defeated Democrat Shenna Bellows 68.5%-31.5%, and again carried every county.
Described as one of "the last survivors of a once common species of moderate Northeastern Republican", She is considered a bipartisan and centrist member of the Republican Party, and an influential player in the U.S. Senate.
In 2015, The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Senator Richard Lugar released a bipartisan index in cooperation with Georgetown University, ranking Senator Collins the most bipartisan senator in the 114th Congress (and the only U.S. Senator from the American Northeast ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan senators).
She is a member of several moderate organizations within the Republican Party, including the Republican Main Street Partnership, Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans for Choice, The Wish List, Republicans for Environmental Protection, and the Republican Leadership Council. Although she shares a centrist ideology with Maine's former Senator, Olympia Snowe, Collins is considered a "half-turn more conservative" than Snowe. Collins has consistently been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT rights organization; she was one of six Republicans running in 2008 to be endorsed by the HRC. She supported John McCain in the 2008 election for President of the United States.
Collins became the state's senior Senator in 2013 when Snowe left the Senate and was replaced by independent Angus King, who had defeated Collins in the 1994 Governor election.
In the 1990s, Collins played an important role during the U.S. Senate's impeachment trial of Bill Clinton when she and fellow Maine Senator Olympia Snowe sponsored a motion that would have allowed the Senate to vote separately on the charges and the remedy. When the motion failed, both Snowe and Collins subsequently voted to acquit, believing that while Clinton had broken the law by committing perjury, the charges did not amount to grounds for removal from office.
On March 26, 2014, Elle Magazine honored Collins as "one of the ten most powerful Women in Washington Power List".
According to a poll released by Morning Consult on November 24, 2015, Collins, with a 78% approval rating, had the highest approval rating of any sitting Republican U.S. senator, as well as the second-highest overall, behind only Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
According to Crowdpac, which rates a candidate's individual positions based on donations received and given as well as public record, scores on individual issues, Collins has a liberal viewpoint on abortion, electoral law, and gender equality, but a conservative viewpoint on many other issues. Another website, OnTheIssues.org, considers Collins to be a "Moderate Libertarian Liberal." It also gives politicians a "social score" and an "economic score". Her social score is 60%, with 0% being the most conservative and 100% being the most liberal. Additionally, Collins's economic score is 53%, with 0% being the most liberal and 100% being the most conservative. The American Conservative Union gives her a lifetime rating of 46.03% conservative. In 2016, the ACU gave Collins a score of 23%. The Americans for Democratic Action gives her a rating of 50% liberal. In 2015, the ADA gave her a score of 30%. In 2018, Five ThirtyEight, which tracks Congressional votes, found that Colliins voted with President Trump's positions 80.6% of the time. She voted against Trump's position more often than any other Republican senator.
On August 8, 2016, Collins announced that she would not be voting for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the 2016 election. She said that as a lifelong Republican she did not make the decision lightly but felt that he is unsuitable for office, "based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics."
Collins supported Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.
On January 28, 2017, Collins joined five other Republicans to oppose President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries saying it is "overly broad and implementing it will be immediately problematic." She said, for example, that "it could interfere with the immigration of Iraqis who worked for American forces in Iraq as translators and bodyguards — people who literally saved the lives of our troops and diplomats during the last decade and whose lives are at risk if they remain in Iraq." She also objected to the religious aspects of the ban saying, "As I stated last summer, religious tests serve no useful purpose in the immigration process and run contrary to our American values.”
Collins stated in February 2017 that she was open to subpoena President Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. She also said that she was open to public and secret hearings into Michael T. Flynn's covert communications with Russian officials.
Collins, joining the Senate majority, voted in favor of the Protect America Act, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. She later sponsored the Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007, approved unanimously by the Senate, which would create more competition between military contractors.
Agreeing with the majority in both parties, Collins voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, which gave President Bush and the executive branch the authorization for military force against Iran.
The Republican Majority for Choice, a pro-choice Republican PAC, supports Senator Collins. On October 21, 2003, with Senate Democrats, Collins was one of the three Republican Senators to oppose the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. She did however join the majority of Republicans in voting for Laci and Conner's Law to increase penalties for killing the fetus while committing a violent crime against the mother. On March 30, 2017, Collins would again join Lisa Murkowski to break party lines on a vote; this time against a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood. As in that case, Vice President Pence was forced to break a 50–50 tie in favor of the bill. In 2018, Collins voted with the majority of Senate Democrats against a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood, which rates politicians' support for pro-choice issues, has given Collins a lifetime rating of 59%. In 2015, Planned Parenthood gave her a rating of 70%. NARAL Pro-Choice America, which also provides ratings, gave her a score of 90% in 2014. In 2017, Planned Parenthood gave Collins a rating of 61%. Conversely, National Right to Life, which opposes abortion and rates support for pro-life issues, gave Collins a rating of 25% during the 114th Congress.
Collins stated her support on same-sex marriage on June 25, 2014, after previously declining to publicly state her views, citing a policy to not discuss state-level issues, as well as a belief that each state's voters should decide the issue. When she won reelection in 2014, she became the first Republican senator to be reelected while supporting same-sex marriage.
Collins voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prevent job discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, which rates politicians' support for LGBT issues, gave Collins a score of 85% during the 114th Congress.
In May 2005, Collins was one of fourteen senators (seven Democrats and seven Republicans) to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus allowing the Republican leadership to end debate without having to exercise the so-called nuclear option. Under the agreement, the minority party agreed that it would filibuster President George W. Bush's judicial nominees only in "extraordinary circumstances"; three Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate; and two others, Henry Saad and William Myers, were expressly denied such protection (both eventually withdrew their names from consideration).
Collins voted for the confirmation of George W. Bush Supreme Court nominees Samuel Alito and John G. Roberts, as well Barack Obama Supreme Court nominees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
After President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Collins publicly opposed the Senate Republican leadership's decision to refuse to consider the nomination, and urged her Republican colleagues to "follow regular order" and give Garland a confirmation hearing and a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the normal fashion.
Collins has voted against free-trade agreements including the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement. In 1999 she was one of four Republicans (along with her colleague Olympia Snowe) to vote for a Wellstone amendment to the Trade and Development Act of 2000 which would have conditioned trade benefits for Caribbean countries on "compliance with internationally recognized labor rights".
Collins coauthored, along with Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT/I-CT), the Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This law implemented many of the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, modernizing and improving America's intelligence systems. In October 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law major port security legislation coauthored by Collins and Washington Senator Patty Murray. The new law includes major provisions to significantly strengthen security at US ports.
As ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Collins and committee Chairman Joe Lieberman voiced concerns about budget, outside contractors, privacy and civil liberties relating to the National Cybersecurity Center, the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and United States Department of Homeland Security plans to enhance Einstein, the program which protects federal networks. Citing improved security and the benefits of information sharing, as of mid-2008, Collins was satisfied with the response the committee received from Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Collins criticized President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to ban entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, stating: "The worldwide refugee ban set forth in the executive order is overly broad and implementing it will be immediately problematic." In 2018, Susan Collins co-sponsored bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform which would have granted a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million Dreamers while also giving $25 billion to border security; at the same time, Collins voted against the McCain/Coons proposal for a pathway to citizenship without funding for a border wall as well as against the Republican proposal backed by Trump to reduce and restrict legal immigration.
She offered an amendment to the original bill that allowed for tax credits to school teachers who purchase classroom materials.
Ultimately, Collins was one of just three Republican lawmakers to vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, earning heated criticism from the right for crossing party lines on the bill.
In mid-December 2009, she was again one of three Republican senators to back a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill for the fiscal year beginning in 2010, joining Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and Kit Bond (R-Missouri) in compensating for three Democratic "nay" votes to pass the bill over a threatened GOP filibuster.
In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737; 113th Congress). The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to $10.10 per hour over the course of a two-year period. The bill was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and many of the Democratic Senators, but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House. Collins tried to negotiate a compromise bill that centrist Republicans could agree to, but was unable to do so.
Collins tried to argue that the Congressional Budget Office report predicting 500,000 jobs lost if the minimum wage was increased to $10.10 also said that an increase to $9.00 would only lead to 100,000 jobs lost, but the argument did not seem to persuade her fellow centrists. She said, "I'm confident that the votes are not there to pass a minimum wage increase up to $10.10 therefore it seems to me to make sense for senators on both sides of the aisle to get together and see if we can come up with a package that would help low-income families with causing the kind of job loss that the Congressional Budget Office has warned against."
In December 2017, Collins voted to pass the 2017 Republican tax plan. The bill would greatly reduce corporate taxes, reduce taxes for some individuals but increase them for other individuals by removing some popular deductions, and increase the deficit. The bill also repeals the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which would leave 13 million Americans uninsured and raise premiums by an estimated additional 10% per year. After the vote, Collins said that she received assurances from congressional leaders that they would pass legislation intended to mitigate some of the adverse effects of the repeal of the individual mandate. When asked how she could vote for a bill that would raise the deficit by an estimated $1 trillion (over ten years) after having railed against the deficit during the Obama administration, Collins insisted that the tax plan would not raise the deficit. She said she had been advised in this determination by economists Glenn Hubbard, Larry Lindsey, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin that the tax plan would not increase the deficit. Hubbard and Holtz-Eakin later denied advising the senator that this tax plan would not increase the deficit.
Collins opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and voted against it in December 2009. She voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
In January 2017, at the beginning of the Congress, Collins voted in favor of a bill to begin the repeal of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). However, with four other Republican senators, Collins is leading an effort to slow down the ACA repeal in the Senate. Collins and fellow Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have proposed legislation that permits states to either keep the ACA or move to a replacement program to be funded in part by the federal government. In January 2017, Collins "was the only Republican to vote for a defeated amendment...that would have prevented the Senate from adopting legislation cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid."
In March 2017, Collins said that she could not support the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans' plan to repeal and replace the ACA. Collins announced she would vote against the Senate version of the Republican bill to repeal Obamacare. Collins has also clarified that she is against repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement proposal.
On July 26, 2017, Collins joined seven other Republicans in voting against repealing the ACA without a suitable replacement. On July 27 the following day, Collins joined two other Republicans in voting 'No' to the 'Skinny' repeal of the ACA.
In December 2017, Collins voted for a tax bill that repealed the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, which the CBO estimates would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 13 million while causing higher health care premiums for those who remain insured.
In September 2008, Collins joined the Gang of 20, a bipartisan group seeking a comprehensive energy reform bill. The group is pushing for a bill that would encourage state-by-state decisions on offshore drilling and authorize billions of dollars for conservation and alternative energy.
The Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S. 2877), also called the Cantwell-Collins bill, would have directed the Secretary of the Treasury "to establish a program to regulate the entry of fossil carbon into commerce in the United States to promote renewable energy, jobs and economic growth."
In May 2017, Collins was one of three Republicans who joined Democrats in voting against a repeal of Obama's regulations for drilling on public lands; the repeal effort was rejected by a 49-51 margin.
In February 2017, Collins was the only Senate Republican to vote against confirmation of Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency.
Collins voted for the Manchin–Toomey bill to amend federal law to expand background checks for gun purchases. She has received a C+ grade on gun rights from the NRA, and D- from Gun Owners of America.
In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 2199; 113th Congress). It was a bill that "punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination." Collins voted against ending debate on the bill, saying that one of her reasons for doing so was that Majority Leader Harry Reid had refused to allow votes on any of the amendments that Republicans had suggested for the bill.
In January 2017, both Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski voted for Donald Trump's selection for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, within the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, passing DeVos' nomination by a vote of 12–11 to allow the full Senate to vote on the nominee. Collins justified her support vote due to her belief that "Presidents are entitled to considerable deference in the selection of Cabinet members". Later, Collins and Murkowski became the only Republicans to break party lines and vote against the nominee. This caused a 50–50 tie that was broken by Senate President Mike Pence to successfully confirm DeVos' appointment.
Another noted involvement in the Trump Cabinet confirmation process for Collins was her formal introduction of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to the Judiciary Committee for its hearings on Sessions' nomination to be Attorney General.
On December 14, 2017, the same day that the FCC was set to hold a vote on net neutrality, Collins, along with Angus King, sent a letter to the FCC asking that the vote be postponed so as to allow for public hearings on the merits of repealing net neutrality. Collins and King expressed concerns that repealing net neutrality could adversely affect the US economy. As part of this drive, Collins is reported to support using the authority under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the FCC's repeal vote.
Collins introduced a bill in June 2013 that would define a "full-time employee" as someone who works for 40 hours per week (instead of 30 hours). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) defined a full-time worker as someone who works 30 hours per week. Collins is cited as saying that her bill would help avoid employers reducing workers' hours to below 30 per week in order to comply with the ACA.
In September 2013, Collins introduced a bill aimed at preventing Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS). The bill, dubbed The Child Care Infant Mortality Prevention Act, aims to raise the amount of provider training in infant wards as well as enhanced CPR and first aid training. Backers of this bill hope this will make a dent in the 4,000 children killed every year due to SUIDS. This would require the Health and Human Services Department to update their materials as well as improve their training resources to primary providers.
On September 19, 2012, Collins received the Navy League's Congressional Sea Services Award "for her outstanding contributions in Congress to advance the mission of our nation's maritime services".
On December 12, 2013, Collins received the "Legislator of the Year Award" from the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI). CFSI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy institute established in 1989 which seeks to promote Congress' awareness of the needs of first responders, presented the award to Collins in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Award is given to a member of Congress who the organization deems to have made a "significant contribution to the fire service."
On February 24, 2014, Collins received the "Thought Leader Award" from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The award recognizes and honors American leaders who "affirm the essential services that public media provides to citizens in areas of education, journalism, and the arts."
On May 7, 2014, National Journal recognized Collins as the senator with "perfect attendance", noting that Collins hadn't missed a single vote since her election to the Senate in 1997.
Collins was a recipient of the Publius Award from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress on March 12, 2014.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars gave Collins its 2017 Congressional Award, which is annually given to one member of Congress for their significant legislative contributions on behalf of military veterans.
|Democratic||Joseph E. Brennan||266,226||43.9%|
|Taxpayers||William P. Clarke||18,618||3.1%|
|Republican||Susan Collins (incumbent)||299,266||58.4%|
|Republican||Susan Collins (incumbent)||444,587||61.5%|
|Republican||Susan Collins (incumbent)||411,211||68.4%||+6.9%|
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for Governor of Maine
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Maine
1996, 2002, 2008, 2014
|Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Bill Frist
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Maine
Served alongside: Olympia Snowe, Angus King
|Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
|Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
|Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee
|Chair of the Senate Aging Committee
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority