PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Friday that Democrats made a mistake in ramming the Affordable Care Act through without a single Republican vote seven years ago, and she ensured Republicans didn’t do the same thing when she voted against several GOP attempts to undo the law.
Collins and fellow Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted “no” early Friday on the GOP’s final effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
While President Donald Trump said the three “let the American people down,” an appreciative crowd broke into applause Friday morning when Collins arrived home on a flight at the Bangor International Airport in Maine.
Collins urged senators from both parties to work together through the committee process to make changes to the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s better that we go back to the drawing board and do it the way we should’ve done it in the first place, with a fair and transparent process with open public hearings,” she told The Associated Press.
Her Maine colleague, independent Sen. Angus King, praised Collins, McCain and Murkowski for standing up to their party. He singled out Collins for putting her constituents ahead of party politics.
“It’s easy to stand up to your opponents. It’s very hard to stand up to your friends,” King said.
The vote after a night of high drama in the U.S. Capitol dealt a blow to the agenda of Trump, a fellow Republican. Following defeat of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put health care on hold and said the Senate would move onto other legislation next week.
Collins voted against having the Senate consider the ACA repeal bill, then voted consistently against several repeal proposals.
She said she agrees the Affordable Care Act has not lived up to all of its promises, especially in lowering health care costs. But she said lawmakers must be careful not to make the situation even worse.
The Republican repeal proposals would’ve slashed Medicaid funding that’s vital to rural hospitals and nursing homes in Maine, in addition to eliminating health care for 16 million to 32 million Americans, she said.
She said it’s been a weary week, but she was touched by the ovation that greeted her in Maine.
“To get back home this weekend and to be greeted with that kind of response was heartwarming and encouraging,” she said.