Tag Archives: susan collins

Trump action on health care could cost Planned Parenthood

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood.

Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women’s health services. Trump said “millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” but he also endorsed efforts to defund it. Trump once described himself as “very pro-choice.” Now he’s in the anti-abortion camp.

The Republican also has been steadfast in calling for repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law and the GOP-led Congress is eager to comply.

One of the first pieces of legislation will be a repeal measure that’s paired with cutting off money for Planned Parenthood.

While the GOP may delay the impact of scuttling the law for almost four years, denying Planned Parenthood roughly $400 million in Medicaid funds would take effect immediately.

“We’ve already shown what we believe with respect to funding of Planned Parenthood,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters last month. “Our position has not changed.”

Legislation to both repeal the law and cut Planned Parenthood funds for services to low-income women moved through Congress along party lines last year. Obama vetoed it; Trump’s win removes any obstacle.

Cutting off Planned Parenthood from taxpayer money is a long-sought dream of social conservatives, but it’s a loser in the minds of some GOP strategists.

Planned Parenthood is loathed by anti-abortion activists who are the backbone of the GOP coalition. Polls, however, show that the group is favorably viewed by a sizable majority of Americans — 59 percent in a Gallup survey last year, including more than one-third of Republicans.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood as one of their first acts in the New Year would be devastating for millions of families and a huge mistake by Republicans,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Democrats pledge to defend the group and they point to the issue of birth control and women’s health as helping them win Senate races in New Hampshire and Nevada this year. They argue that Trump would be leading off with a political loser.

But if he were to have second thoughts and if the Planned Parenthood provision were to be dropped from the health law repeal, then social conservatives probably would erupt.

“They may well be able to succeed, but the women of America are going to know what that means,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., citing reduced access to services Planned Parenthood clinics provide. “And we’re going to call Republicans on the carpet for that.”

At least one Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, may oppose the effort.

Collins has defended Planned Parenthood, saying it “provides important family planning, cancer screening, and basic preventive health care services to millions of women across the country.” She voted against the health overhaul repeal last year as a result.

Continued opposition from Collins, which appears likely, would put the repeal measure on a knife’s edge in the Senate, where Republicans will have a 52-48 majority next year.

Senate GOP leaders could afford to lose just one other Republican.

Anti-abortion conservatives have long tried to cut Planned Parenthood funds, arguing that reimbursements for nonabortion services such as gynecological exams help subsidize abortions. Though Planned Parenthood says it performed 324,000 abortions in 2014, the most recent year tallied, the vast majority of women seek out contraception, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and other services including cancer screenings.

The defunding measure would take away roughly $400 million in Medicaid money from the group in the year after enactment, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and would result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to care.

One factor is that being enrolled in Medicaid doesn’t guarantee access to a doctor, so women denied Medicaid services from Planned Parenthood may not be able to find replacement care.

Planned Parenthood says private contributions are way up since the election, but that they are not a permanent replacement for federal reimbursements. “We’re going to fight like hell to make sure our doors stay open,” said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Erica Sackin.

Poll: Bernie Sanders most popular U.S. senator

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is the most popular U.S. senator, according to data from Morning Consult.

The polling shows 69 of 100 U.S. senators with approval ratings better than 50 percent, and Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is at the top of the ratings chart with 83 percent.

His disapproval rating is only 13 percent.

Republican Susan Collins of Maine has the second highest approval rating at 78 percent, followed by Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming and then Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy.

Polling in the 60s are John Hoeven of North Dakota, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Angus King of Maine, John Thune of South Dakota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Al Franken of Minnesota, Tom Carper of Delaware, Chuck Schumer of New York, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin’s approval rating was 45 and disapproval rating was 35.

Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson’s approval rating was 38 percent and his disapproval was at 35 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s disapproval rating was highest at 52 percent. Arizona Republican John McCain was in second with a 41 percent disapproval rating.

Morning Consult surveyed more than 75,000 voters in 50 states over several months.

Vermont voters have the highest opinion of their senators — Sanders, the presidential candidate, and Leahy, the longest-serving member of the Senate.

Susan Collins becomes 4th Republican U.S. senator to back marriage equality

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on June 25 became the fourth sitting Senate Republican to support marriage equality.

The announcement arrived on the same day that the Human Rights Campaign announced its endorsement of Collins. HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

“Sen. Susan Collins has played a pivotal role in advancing support for LGBT equality — from her dogged support for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to her critical vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last year, to her proud support for marriage equality,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “HRC is proud to stand with Senator Collins, and with allies on both sides of the aisle like her, because she firmly believes that every American should be evaluated based on their abilities, and not who they love.”

Collins, in a statement, said she is grateful for the support.

She also said, “And I am proud of the reputation that I have established for working with my Senate colleagues of both parties in a bipartisan spirit for fairness and equality.  I look forward to our continued work together to bring people together and remove barriers that divide us.”

HRC said for 18 years Collins has led on issues vitally important to LGBT Mainers and Americans. The group’s endorsement is based on “a solid and consistent track-record of support for a whole host of issues important to LGBT equality. It’s fair to say that without her, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ wouldn’t have been repealed.”

Also, “her support for marriage equality is further evidence of her commitment to freedom and equality for all Americans. Her leadership has been both remarkable and exemplary and she’s deserving of the support of all fair-minded Mainers.”

At Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest gay GOP group, executive director Gregory T. Angelo said, “On the eve of the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in favor of federal civil marriage recognition for committed same-sex couples and the day after Congressman Richard Hanna’s victory over a GOP primary opponent who challenged him because of his support for marriage equality, it seems the dam has finally broken: from local legislators to United States senators, Republicans around the country are coming to the common-sense conservative conclusion that marriage equality strengthens society and is no threat to religious liberty.”

Baldwin, Pocan introduce domestic partner benefits bills

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, have introduced a bill to extend employee benefit programs to cover the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees to the same extent as those benefits cover legally married spouses of federal employees.

The measure is titled the “Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013” and, according to a news release, it would put the federal government on par with a majority of Fortune 500 companies.

“We’ve made great progress for committed, same-sex couples in America, but we still have work to do to move freedom and fairness forward,” Baldwin, America’s first openly gay or lesbian senator, said in a statement. “This bill helps provide federal employees and their domestic partners equal access and opportunity to the benefits that businesses across our country are already providing. It’s time for the federal government to lead as an equal opportunity employer and I’m proud to work across the aisle with Senator Collins to advance that leadership.”

Collins, in the release, said, “This change is both fair policy and good business practice. The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled, and dedicated employees. Among Fortune 500 companies, for example, domestic partner benefits are commonplace. According to the Office of Personnel Management, nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including some of our top federal contractors, extend employment benefits to domestic partners.”

A growing number of U.S. corporations, as well as state and local governments and educational institutions, have extended employee benefit programs to include domestic partners.

Nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to employees’ domestic partners and more than 8,000 private-sector companies make such benefits available to employees’ domestic partners, as do the governments of 18 states and at least 150 cities and towns, according to the senators’ offices.

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan, who is openly gay, has introduced companion legislation in the House, along with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, and Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia.

Pocan, who co-chairs the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, said, “In a year of milestones for the equality movement, the federal government must continue to lead and ensure equal rights and benefits for all its civil servants. Passage of our bipartisan legislation will remove discriminatory practices that punish certain federal employees merely for whom they love and where they live. As the private sector has shown, policies that promote equality are not only the right thing to do, they also allow you to compete for the best and brightest employees.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who co-founded the caucus and who has tried to lead her party toward supporting LGBT equality, said, “The federal government still has much work to do. This is why my colleagues and I will present this bipartisan bill to ensure that employees in same-sex domestic partnerships have the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples.”

Connolly, in a news release, added, “I often hear that the federal government should be run more like a business. Well, from Boeing to GE, America’s leading companies have spoken loud and clear in recognizing that no organization can remain competitive in terms of attracting and retaining great talent while discriminating against same-sex couples.”

Under the legislation, a federal employee and his or her same-sex domestic partner would be eligible to participate in federal retirement, life insurance, health, workers’ compensation and Family and Medical Leave benefits to the same extent as married employees and their spouses. Such employees and their domestic partners would likewise assume the same obligations as those that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements. 

Baldwin first co-sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives in 1999 and served as the lead House Democrat on the bill from 2007-2012, before leading the effort in the Senate.

The Obama administration already is moving to make sure that gay and lesbian federal employees who are married receive equal benefits, but in many states federal employees cannot marry a same-sex partner. The bill only applies to federal employees working in states where marriage equality is not recognized.

Senate committee approves partnership benefits bill

The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee early May 16 approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis as spousal benefits.

The benefits would include participation in applicable retirement programs, life and health insurance benefits and family and medical leave.

Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Susan Collins of Maine introduced the bill, marked as SB 1910 in the record and known as DPBO on the Hill.

“DPBO is about the basic concept of fairness in the workplace,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “The federal government would be wise to follow the private sector in offering equal pay for equal work. America’s major corporations have discovered that equality is not only the right thing to do, but good for business. Equal workplace policies, like those DPBO would enact, will help attract and retain the best and brightest talent, which is exactly what our federal workforce needs. We call on the full Senate to pass DPBO.”

According to HRC, 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the United States provide domestic partner benefits to their employees.

Many of America’s leading companies, including defense giant Raytheon, IBM, Microsoft, Shell Oil, Walt Disney, Owens Corning, Citigroup, Whirlpool, Time Warner, and United and American Airlines offer the benefits.

In addition, 24 states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 local governments offer domestic partner benefits to public employees.

Lieberman said the partnership bill is “about equality for the gay community, pure and simple.”

Collins, who is not running for re-election in her New England state, said, “This change is both fair policy and good business practice. The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled and dedicated employees. Today, health, medical and other benefits are a major component of any competitive employment package.”

Lieberman has introduced the bill five times. Collins has introduced it three times.

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Lame-duck deadline looms for ‘don’t ask’

Senate Democrats twice this month failed to move forward with a defense spending bill that would provide for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Activists say that several options remain for the repeal of the measure before a new more conservative Congress is sworn into office in January.

Activists stepped up their call on President Barack Obama to issue an order ending discharges. The president has said repeatedly that DADT is discriminatory and a threat to national security.

Additionally, U.S. Sens. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have authored stand-alone legislation to repeal DADT.

In a statement released Dec. 9, Obama gave no indication that he planned to issue a stop-loss order halting discharges of gay servicemembers, but he did “urge the Senate to revisit” repeal “during the lame-duck session.”

Procedure interfered with efforts to press forward with repeal in the National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 8 and again Dec. 9, when the Senate voted 57-40 to proceed with the bill, three votes shy of the 60 required.

Collins was the only Republican to vote to proceed with the legislation. Forty-two other Republicans in the chamber vowed to block any action on legislation without passage of a measure extending Bush-era tax cuts.

“With America at war in two countries, a small minority of U.S. senators has declared war on our troops,” said Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, a grassroots group that has collected more than 700,000 signatures from citizens demanding DADT’s repeal.

Surveys show that about 80 percent of U.S. adults support gays serving openly in the Armed Forces.

Top Pentagon officials, on the civilian and service side, also support DADT’s repeal.

And, in the spring, the House voted for a defense spending bill that would provide for eliminating the anti-gay policy.

The Senate’s refusal to move forward with the NDAA follows committee hearings on a Pentagon assessment that found a majority of troops have little or no concern about serving with gays and lesbians.

During the hearings, John McCain, the Senate’s chief advocate of DADT and a Vietnam veteran, challenged Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

McCain said now is the time to deal with taxes and the economy, not DADT.

“I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our nation and for our collective honor,” Mullen said.