Collins tries to steer his GOP back from the cliff of shutdown

In an interview this week, Collins warned his party that allowing the government to shut down would be a mistake for both substantive and political reasons. His comments are an important signal to the House that the Senate’s patience with conservative dysfunction is running out.

“I have experienced closures. It’s never good policy,” Collins said.

“Historically, Republicans have been blamed,” she warned. “So whether you look at it from a political or policy perspective, a shutdown is never beneficial. »

Navigating his own party is Collins’ biggest obstacle. It may seem odd that a centrist Republican would lead the spending strategy of an increasingly conservative party, but that’s where the fifth-term senator finds herself.

She and House conservatives are well aware that they disagree.

“His record and mine are probably as divergent as possible,” the Rep. said. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a pillar of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “If she helps us draft and design how we’re going to spend our money, it would make me nervous and uncomfortable.”

Collins told Republicans this week that she was starting to talk to House members about a possible solution to the spending fight, according to party meeting attendees who spoke on condition of anonymity. But no senator can control the other side of the Capitol, where the whims of House Republicans are beyond her and the minority leader’s control. Mitch McConnellhands.

Moderate in both ideology and temperament, Collins is seen by President Joe Biden’s party as a bulwark against the Republican Party in the House of Representatives. After the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to oust him in 2020, their relationship became frosty for over a year but has recently thawed – the two meet privately and work together regularly.

These days, Schumer often praises her by name. Other Democrats are doing it too.

The senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) said Collins’ job was “very difficult.” I’m glad she’s here to do it.

“As far as I’m concerned, she fights hand-to-hand combat every day,” the senator said. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip. “I have great confidence in her.”

As the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patty Murray, her Democratic counterpart in Washington, Collins can cut a serious and sometimes intimidating figure on Capitol Hill, a reputation that precedes her in meetings of both parties and in the Senate. Allies cite his courage as an asset.

“Respect is often accompanied by fear,” the senator said. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) spoke about the perception of Collins by some colleagues.

Collins presents a very different leadership profile than former Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), his predecessor as GOP spending chief and a gregarious supporter of backroom deals. Murray and Collins have won plaudits for their work rebuilding the Senate’s appropriations voting process, even from conservative senators who break with her on big votes.

Of course, this praise only goes so far. The senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) threw a procedural grenade against Murray and Collins’ plans to pass a three-bill spending package this month, complaining about “how grotesquely dysfunctional this place is.” The Senate retreated Thursday after stalling on the bill and is now working to avoid a shutdown in a week with a stopgap bill.

Collins did a “much better job than his predecessors.” But she finds herself in a system that has not generated any real difference,” the senator said. Mike Braun (Rind.).

Despite a voting record further to the left than virtually all Senate Republicans, but Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Collins maintained his influence in an increasingly right-wing party by working within the party apparatus. She is closely aligned with McConnell on much of the party’s spending strategy, and she has conspicuously avoided undermining the President. Kevin McCarthy.

When conservatives evaluate Collins, Sen. Shelley Moore Capiton (RW.Va.) said, “There’s an undercurrent of like, ‘Oh, she’s going to give away the store.’ But you know, she’s also a pragmatist.

If Republicans win a majority next November, Collins will become the Appropriations chair, a cornerstone of her career. Even though she’s not technically in charge of the committee this fall, the GOP’s internal battles over spending could make her job this fall even more difficult than Murray’s.

“I’m not going to make this personal about Senator Collins,” the representative said. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who was the senator’s chief of staff. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during the 2013 shutdown. “I’m just going to say that I don’t trust the Senate Republican conference as a whole.”

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.


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