Maine’s two U.S. senators on Sunday explained their different positions on the Republican tax reform bill that was approved narrowly over the weekend.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins also said that conversations between the incoming Trump administration and the Russians should not have taken place after last year’s presidential election, but do not prove the administration and Russians colluded.
“We don’t know that yet, but we do know there were conversations during the transition period,” Collins, R-Maine, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “During the transition period there’s still only one president, and that was President Obama, so those conversations should not have taken place. But that does not confirm collusion.”
In her appearance on the news talk show Sunday morning, Maine’s senior senator responded to questions about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and about the Republicans’ sweeping $1.4 trillion tax bill, which passed 51-49 early Saturday after intense last-minute horse-trading. Collins played a pivotal role in the tax bill, withholding her support until hours before the vote, which gave the Republican-led Congress its first major legislative win.
Later Sunday morning, Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, commented on the same topics on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” King and Collins are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
On special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Collins said the investigation is “clearly bearing fruit” – with the two guilty pleas and two indictments of Trump campaign officials. She said the intelligence panel is also making progress but did not elaborate.
“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Collins if she agreed with the conclusion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., that President Trump’s attempts to influence committee members to quickly end their investigation was due to his inexperience with the legislative process.
“Even if it is inexperience, it doesn’t make it right,” she said. “The president should have no comment whatsoever on either of these investigations, and the only thing he should be doing is directing all of his staff and his associates to fully cooperate.”
King said Mueller may be now focusing on Trump and whether he asked former FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Flynn knowing that Flynn had lied to the FBI.
“That ups the ante,” said King.
Collins said she decided to throw her support to the Republicans’ tax reform package after several economists, including the dean of the Columbia School of Business and former chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers, concluded it would create growth and not add to the deficit.
Todd remarked that there are no studies that say the tax bill would not add to the deficit, but Collins said “economists just don’t agree with this.”
She said also factoring into her decision was an ironclad commitment from the Republican leadership that Medicare would be protected. She said she has also secured a commitment to two bills that will help offset the repeal of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
King said nobody knows the details inside the tax bill, which he opposed. He said it could have attained its goals of tax reform in 50 pages.
“This is 477 pages. There is a lot of stuff in here. I don’t think anybody knows what it is all about,” said King.
He said the bill is the most important vote in the careers of many members of Congress and will affect the economy and the country for decades. He predicted the bill would be found to contain “some pretty stinky stuff.”