A 2009 Vote Against Pandemic Funding Comes Back to Haunt Senator Susan Collins

In 2009, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted against the Obama administration’s attempt to include funding for pandemic flu preparations in its economic stimulus plan. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of at least 155 Americans nationwide, that vote has come back to haunt her.

“It is the regular appropriations process that is the appropriate vehicle for considering funding for many of these programs that, while worthwhile, do not boost our economy,” Collins said on the Senate floor in April 2009, citing her reasons for demanding the cuts.

The move was at the time criticized by an unidentified Democratic aide interviewed by Roll Call who said, “The fact is we had $870 million in the stimulus conference report for things like antiviral drugs, but it was dropped at the behest of people like Sen. Collins who said it was not stimulus. “[Health and Human Services] HHS does appear to be well-supplied, but the fact is this was a missed opportunity to be prepared for a crisis like this.”

Collins later put out a statement saying she agreed with pandemic flu funding despite striking it from the stimulus plan, even as a pandemic of H1N1 influenza, otherwise known as swine flu, claimed more than 100 deaths nationwide.

And now that the coronavirus has taken the United States by storm, members of the public, news reporters, and even Betsy Sweet, who is challenging Collins for her Senate seat, are reminding Collins of her prior vote all while she updates her constituents over the last week about her efforts to keep the people of Maine “as safe and as healthy as possible.”

 

Yesterday, Collins announced that she’d joined “an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of Senators in voting to approve a multi-billion dollar emergency aid package” in response to the growing crisis.

Collins is considered one of several Republicans holding vulnerable seats in time for this year’s elections. Most recently, she received heavy criticism for voting against the impeachment of President Donald Trump, who has been heavily criticized for his response to the current pandemic.

Last week, Collins told reporters Trump should allow public health officials to lead the administration’s response.

“I would like the president to step back and appoint one of our public health officials to be the spokesman as we go through dealing with this novel virus,” she said, adding that “it is very important that health professionals be out front and that there be a consistent message.”