Susan Collins says she’s not talking health care with House conservatives

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins denied Friday that she’s been talking with the conservative House Freedom Caucus about a possible health care bill.

The Maine Republican said  she “choked on my cereal” when she saw that CNBC Senior Contributor Larry Kudlow had claimed she’d been “in discussion and successfully negotiating” with the caucus chairman, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

Collins, who is trying to shepherd a health care measure of her own through the Senate, said as far as she can remember, she’s never even met Meadows let alone had any substantive discussions with him.

She also took issue with Kudlow’s report that she might help jam a House-passed health bill through the Senate.

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“I don’t believe in jamming legislation through,” Collins said. She said she has always been committed to providing the time for debate and possible amendments to measures that come to the Senate floor.

Collins said it would be “a very improbable pairing” for her to be plotting with Meadows, one of the most conservative members of the House.

Still, she said, she would be “happy to talk to him” but isn’t sure he would welcome the chance. Referring to the Freedom Caucus, Collins asked, “Do you think they’d welcome me?”

Maine’s senior senator said it’s possible that conversations she and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., have had with centrist House member Charlie Dent, R-Pa., may be at the root of the confusion.

She said she’s talked to Dent about Maine’s experience nearly a decade ago with a high risk premium pool that successfully shifted especially high cost medical cases into a state pool paid for by assessments on everyone’s policies. It is something she’s eyeing as a possible addition to the Cassidy-Collins health care bill.

Collins said it drives her crazy that so much information that’s passed around these days is simply wrong.

“This world is bizarre,” she said.

Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and the committee’s ranking member Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., prepare for a hearing  April 27, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

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