Collins Keeps Moderate Image as Billionaire DeVos Appointed to Secretary of Education
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The private- and charter-school advocate snuck in with a 50-50 vote after two GOP Senators —Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — voted not to confirm. A tie-breaking vote went to Vice President Mike Pence.
Donald Trump’s nomination of DeVos received unprecedented opposition from U.S. constituents.
While some in Maine applauded Collins for her vote not to confirm the Texas-based businesswoman, many denounced the defection as a bit of political theater, alleging that the Senator would only vote not to confirm once she knew DeVos had requisite support for confirmation from the rest of the Senate.
“She has the votes and will be confirmed,” said an unnamed senior GOP aide in a report by Politico, a week before the vote.
While voting not to confirm DeVos in the full Senate February 7, Collins supported DeVos as part of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which decided 12-11 in favor of DeVos on January 31.
In their support in the committee, Collins and Murkowski both cited an intention not to obstruct the full Senate from expressing its opinion. Said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Collins was “being consistent” in upholding the power of the Senate to enact its vote despite personally opposing DeVos’s nomination.
In a story published by the Portland Press Herald last weekend, journalist (and former Phoenician) Colin Woodard reported that Collins is one of the country’s most popular senators, despite a reputation for her quizzical, almost contradictory voting record.
As reported by the Press Herald: “Senator Collins will at times vote to proceed to legislation that she may oppose because she believes that it should be the pending business of the Senate,” says her spokeswoman, Annie Clark. “Sometimes she is supporting alternative legislation, and proceeding … is the best way to get an alternative amendment considered.”
Collins’s vote against DeVos gives the impression of moderation that props up support in her constituency, but many constituents aren’t buying it. As Woodard reported, a vote tracker set up by the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight marks that Collins has voted with party lines 9 of 11 times, making her one of the most willing to break with her party. But many say her dissenting votes are strategic, and could be political gamesmanship helping her support in a predominately liberal state.
Additionally, Collins is not without a history of obstructionism when it fits party lines. In 2011, Collins filibustered with GOP Senators in an effort to block President Obama’s nominations of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Also in 2011, Collins sided with filibustering GOP Senators blocking the appointment of Goodwin Liu to a federal appeal court.
And she also has a history of voting against her party when the vote doesn’t matter. In 2011, the Senate voted against climate change regulations that would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, but the resolution was defeated 52-46. Collins was among few GOP senators to vote in favor of regulations.
Despite her confirmation Tuesday, DeVos has arguably been the most contested cabinet appointment in history. In a report Tuesday by the website Mother Jones, Heidi Hess, a campaign worker for the mobile political platform CREDO, told NPR this week that DeVos triggered 1.5 million petition signees in opposition, and at least 30,000 phone calls. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted last week that the days leading up to her confirmation were “the busiest in Capitol switchboard history” by “almost double.”
South Portland Passes Anti-Hate Speech Resolution
In a city hall meeting Tuesday night, the South Portland City Council passed a resolution “condemning violence and hate speech and expressing solidarity with Muslims and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion.”
The resolution 1) Condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Muslims, those perceived to be Muslims, asylum seekers, and immigrants; 2) Categorically rejects political tactics that use fear to manipulate voters or to gain power and influence; 3) Reaffirms the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of an American culture influenced by multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear, and; 4) Commits to upholding a policy that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that those targeted on the basis of race, religion, or immigration status can turn the government without fear of recrimination.
While the resolution serves as a statement of solidarity, it effects no substantive policy change in the city’s bylaws. Some, however, believe it could serve as a foundation for South Portland’s eventual designation as a sanctuary city. An estimated 7 percent of South Portland residents were born outside the U.S.
Portland City Councilor Pious Ali told The Phoenix that the Portland City Council is looking at talking about a similar resolution at an executive session “soon.”
Fort Sumner Park to Stay Beautiful?
It’s not official yet, but efforts to prevent views from Munjoy Hill’s Fort Sumner Park from being obstructed seem to be rewarded soon.
Working with a group calling themselves Friends of Fort Sumner Park, which formed last summer to prevent development from building at heights that would obstruct views from the park on North Street, the Portland planning board voted unanimously last month to recommend establishing an absolute height limit (160.27 feet above sea level) for new developments.
A future vote is slated for February 22.
Post-Victory, Pats Stars Refuse Visit With Trump
After Sunday’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons, two New England Patriots players have told the press that they intend to skip the traditional post-victory visit to the White House.
Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty, both of whom are black, each intend to skip the ceremonial visit with the president, reported Mic.com’s Zak Cheney-Rice this week.
“I’m not going to the White House,” McCourty told Time in a text message this week. “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Bennett and McCourty’s statement adds contrast to the team’s high-profile supporters of President Trump. Owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick, and MVP quarterback Tom Brady have each expressed support for Trump in the past year.
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