Susan Collins’ position on defunding Planned Parenthood twisted for political gain

Good morning from Augusta, where, let’s just say it: Can the weather be any better? Days like this are what I’m trying to remind myself about during mid-winter blizzpocalypses. 

Speaking of bad weather, Republican Sen. Susan Collins is mired in a bit of a storm regarding a procedural vote she took Monday on a bill that sought to defund Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. 

If you haven’t heard, the organization is at the center of a controversy around the release of a video by anti-abortion activists that shows Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissues for research purposes. 

Earlier this week, Collins proposed a bill that would trigger a Department of Justice investigation into tissue sales by Planned Parenthood affiliates and defund any that engage in the practices, which Collins said she was “sickened” by. But she stopped far short of supporting some of her Republican colleagues’ mission and long-held goal of totally defunding Planned Parenthood. 

“We do, however, need to keep in mind the fact that Planned Parenthood provides important family planning, cancer screening, and basic preventive health care services to millions of women across the country. For many women, Planned Parenthood clinics provide the only health care services they receive,” said Collins on the Senate floor Monday while she was presenting her bill. “It would be premature to totally defund Planned Parenthood immediately until we know the facts.”

Then came Monday night, when the overall defunding bill was under consideration. Collins and 53 senators voted to move to debate on the bill, which was not enough to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to do so. A range of groups immediately pounced on Collins, arguing that her vote meant she supports defunding Planned Parenthood. 

“Susan Collins continues to prove that when it really matters, she can’t be trusted to do what’s right for Maine women,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett in a press release on Tuesday. 

“Unfortunately, Sen. Susan Collins surprised Maine women by backing away from previous statements and voted in support of defunding the country’s largest, most trusted women’s health care provider,” read a press release from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. 

The Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor also chimed in with a press release under the headline “Press Statement on Collins’ Vote to Deny Health Care to Thousands of Maine Women.” 

Despite these attacks, Collins does not want to defund Planned Parenthood, a fact she has made clear in statements to the media and in speeches on the Senate floor. Her vote to open debate on the bill Monday was made to provide an opening for her own amendment. 

Sure, opening debate could have led to the success of the bill in the GOP-controlled Senate. And sure, pro-life activists see Collins’ amendment — and the release of the fetal tissue bill in the first place — as an attempt to whittle away at organizations that offer abortions. 

But to say that Collins’ vote Monday night to move to debate was a vote to totally defund Planned Parenthood is quite a stretch, and a real-time example of how the machinations of Congress or the Legislature can be twisted to create false public perceptions of politicians’ positions to serve a political purpose. — Christopher Cousins 

Cash to keep the runways running

Since the Pentagon closed Brunswick Naval Air Station, the twin 8,000-foot runways at the former Navy base have been quiet compared to the days of squadrons of P-3 Orions buzzing out of Brunswick. But those runways are an asset that can’t be let crumble and the federal government knows it.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration has allocated more than $2.6 million to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority to rehabilitate what is now called the Brunswick Executive Airport.

The FAA’s Military Airport Program provides grant funding to assist the conversion of former military airfields to public use.

Reading list

Happy birthday to the income tax

I haven’t heard of any parties being thrown to celebrate the bite that’s taken out of our paychecks by the federal government, but today is the 154th anniversary of the federal income tax!

On this day in 1861, according to a website maintained by the History Channel, President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax by signing the Revenue Act. Lincoln and Congress, as a means of funding the Union’s efforts in the Civil War, agreed to tax any annual income over $800 at 3 percent.

Congress repealed Lincoln’s tax law in 1871 but in 1909 passed the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which led to the federal income-tax system used today.

It wasn’t until 1966 when the Beatles record Taxman, which is today’s Daily Brief soundtrack. I have studied the lyrics and there is no mention of Honest Abe. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.