Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, leaves the chamber as the Republican-run Senate rejected a GOP proposal to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law and give Congress two years to devise a replacement, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, at the Capitol in Washington. 

Health care isn’t the only area where U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is defying President Donald Trump.

In her role as chair of an appropriations subcommittee devoted to transportation, housing and urban development, the Maine Republican is pushing through a budget plan for transportation and housing that calls for spending more than $8 billion above what Trump sought.

Among the programs Collins is determined to save is the National Infrastructure Investment Grant Program — also called Tiger grants — that has poured more than $122 million into Maine’s infrastructure in the past eight years.

Trump is seeking to eliminate the program, but Collins is pressing to increase its annual funding from $500 million to $550 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously backed her.

“Infrastructure projects help create job opportunities, increase safety, and boost our economy, and they require a strong partnership at the federal, state, and local levels. I will continue to work to ensure continued funding to help build and maintain an innovative and efficient transportation system,” Collins said.

The larger bill that funds the department of Transportation as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development includes $60.1 billion and includes money to bolster lead removal efforts, combat homelessness and increase the Community Development Block Grant program that helps municipalities across the country.


Collins has made clear both in public and private that she wouldn’t go along with an array of funding cuts that Trump sought in both departments.

A hearing last week in which a live hearing microphone caught a private conversation between Collins and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., where she expressed what she thought of the administration’s proposals in its budget.

Collins said Trump’s Office of Management and Budget “just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out. With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible.”

Reed, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, answered that he thinks Trump is crazy and that without a budget deal the Department of Defense and other agencies are “going to be paralyzed.”

Collins said she’s worried, too. She said she doesn’t think the president knows there is a Budget Control Act that lays out the budget process.

Though her words in private were harsh, Collins hasn’t refrained from making her position on cuts clear in public as well.


When Trump’s aides first mentioned axing Tiger grants in March, Collins immediately insisted that the program should be increased, not cut.

She said the grant program “has created and saved much-needed jobs” while helping the nation rebuild bridges, highways, seaports and other transportation infrastructure.

The overall budget her panel agreed on isn’t focused on slicing spending.

It allocates an additional $563 million for the Federal Aviation Administration, puts $122 million more in the Federal Railroad Administration, funnels an extra $285 million into the Federal Transit Administration, pours another $1 billion into HUD’s Section 8 voucher program for low-income renters and $55 million more for the Maritime Administration.

“Our bill strikes the right balance between thoughtful investment and fiscal restraint, thereby setting the stage for future economic growth,” Collins said.

“This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise and makes the necessary investments in our nation’s infrastructure, helps to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us, and provides funding for economic development projects that create jobs in our communities,” she said.


The overall discretionary budget for transportation under Collins’ measure would reach $19.5 billion. Trump sought to slice it down to $16.2 billion, 13 percent below this year’s spending level. Collins instead seeks to increase it by 6 percent.

In housing, the Maine senator’s spending plan calls for forking over $1.4 billion above this year’s level. Trump asked for a $6.2 billion cut. He wanted to wipe out funding for the CDBG program and some programs aimed at helping people buy homes.

Collins said the bill she and Reed put together provides the money needed for critical transportation projects, community development initiatives and core housing programs that serve the nation’s most vulnerable individuals.

Before any of the spending bills become law, they need the approval of the House and Senate — and perhaps Trump’s signature as well.

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