Susan Collins

For the British artist, see Susan Collins (artist).
Susan Collins
United States Senator
from Maine
Assumed office
January 3, 1997
Serving with Angus King
Preceded by Bill Cohen
Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Bill Nelson
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
In office
January 3, 2003  January 3, 2007
Preceded by Joe Lieberman
Succeeded by Joe Lieberman
Personal details
Born Susan Margaret Collins
(1952-12-07) December 7, 1952
Caribou, Maine, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Thomas Daffron (2012–present)
Alma mater St. Lawrence University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Senate website

Susan Margaret Collins (born December 7, 1952) is an American politician who currently serves as the senior United States Senator from Maine. A member of the Republican Party, Collins has served in the Senate since 1997, and has served as the Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging since 2015 and previously chaired the Senate Committee on Homeland Security from 2003 to 2007. She is considered one of the most moderate Republicans in office.[1] She also is known for her long consecutive voting streak, which reached 6,000 votes in September 2015.[2]

Born in Caribou, Maine, Collins is a graduate of St. Lawrence University. Beginning her career as a staff assistant for Senator William Cohen in 1975, Collins later became the staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security in 1981. She was then appointed as the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation by Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. in 1987. In 1992 she was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as the director of the Small Business Administration's regional office in Boston. Staying in Massachusetts, Collins became that state's Deputy State Treasurer in 1993.

After moving back to Maine in 1994, Collins became the Republican nominee for Governor in the 1994 general election. Becoming the first woman to become the nominee of a major party for Governor of Maine, Collins finished third in a four way race with 23% of the vote. After her bid for Governor, in 1994, Collins became the founding director of the Center for Family Business at Husson University. Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996. She has been re-elected three times, in 2002, 2008, and 2014.

Early life

One of six children, Collins was born in Caribou, Maine, where her family has operated a lumber business since 1844.[3] Her parents, Patricia M. Collins (née McGuigan) and Donald F. Collins, each served as mayor of Caribou; her father also served in both houses of the Maine Legislature.[4] Her mother was born in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, to American parents.[5] Collins has English and Irish ancestry. Her uncle, Samuel W. Collins, Jr., sat on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1988 to 1994 and served in the Maine Senate from 1973 to 1984.[6] Collins attended Caribou High School, where she was president of the student council.[7] During her senior year of high school in 1971, Collins was chosen to participate in the U.S. Senate Youth Program, through which she visited Washington, D.C., for the first time and engaged in a two-hour conversation with U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME).[7] Collins is the first program delegate elected to the Senate and currently holds the seat once held by Smith.

After graduating from Caribou High School, she continued her education at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.[8] Like her father before her, she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society.[3] She graduated from St. Lawrence magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in government in 1975.[3]

Early political career

Following graduation, Collins worked as a legislative assistant to U.S. Representative, and later U.S. Senator William Cohen (R-ME) from 1975 to 1987.[8] She was also staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee on the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (1981–1987).[8]

In 1987, Collins joined the cabinet of Governor John R. McKernan, Jr., as Commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.[3] She was appointed the New England regional director for the Small Business Administration by President George H. W. Bush in 1992.[4] After briefly serving in this post until the 1992 election of Democrat Bill Clinton, she moved to Massachusetts and became Deputy State Treasurer of Massachusetts under Joe Malone in 1993.[8]

Returning to Maine, Collins won an eight-way Republican primary in the 1994 gubernatorial election, becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major party for Governor of Maine.[4] During the campaign, she received little support from Republican leaders and was criticized by conservative groups for her more liberal views on social issues. She lost the general election, receiving 23% of the vote and placed third behind Democrat Joseph E. Brennan and the winner, Independent candidate Angus King, her future Senate colleague.[9]

In December 1994, Collins became the founding executive director of the Center for Family Business at Husson College in Bangor.[3] She served in this post until 1996, when she announced her candidacy for the seat in the U.S. Senate being vacated by her former boss, William Cohen, who retired to become U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Clinton. With Cohen's public endorsement, she won a difficult four-way primary and faced Joe Brennan, her Democratic opponent from the 1994 gubernatorial election, in the general election. She eventually defeated Brennan by a margin of 49% to 44%. She was reelected in 2002 over State Senator Chellie Pingree (D), 58%–42%, and again in 2008 over Rep. Tom Allen (D), 61.5%–38.5%. In both elections, she carried every county in Maine.

Senate career

Collins with President Barack Obama

Described as one of "the last survivors of a once common species of moderate Northeastern Republican",[6] Collins is considered a bipartisan and centrist member of the Republican Party, and an influential player in the U.S. Senate.[10][11][12][13] In 2015, The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Senator Richard Lugar released a bipartisan index in cooperation with Georgetown University, ranking Senator Collins the most bipartisan senator in the 114th Congress. [14] She is a member of several moderate organizations within the Republican Party, including the Republican Main Street Partnership, Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans for Choice, The Wish List, Republicans for Environmental Protection, and the Republican Leadership Council. Although she shares a centrist ideology with Maine's former Senator, Olympia Snowe, Collins is considered a "half-turn more conservative" than Snowe.[6] Collins has consistently been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT rights organization; she was one of six Republicans running in 2008 to be endorsed by the HRC.[15] She supported John McCain in the 2008 election for President of the United States.[16]

Collins became the state's senior Senator in 2013 when Snowe left the Senate and was replaced by independent Angus King, who had defeated Collins in the 1994 Governor election.

In the 1990s, Collins played an important role during the U.S. Senate's impeachment trial of Bill Clinton when she and fellow Maine Senator Olympia Snowe sponsored a motion that would have allowed the Senate to vote separately on the charges and the remedy. When the motion failed, both Snowe and Collins subsequently voted to acquit, believing that while Clinton had broken the law by committing perjury, the charges did not amount to grounds for removal from office.

On March 26, 2014, Elle Magazine honored Collins as "one of the ten most powerful Women in Washington Power List".[17]

Collins cast her 6,000th consecutive roll call vote on September 17, 2015.[2] Only William Proxmire has a longer consecutive streak.[18]

According to a poll released by Morning Consult on November 24, 2015, Collins, with a 78% approval rating, had the highest approval rating of any sitting Republican U.S. senator, as well as the second-highest overall, behind only Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.[19] For the 2016 presidential election, Collins announced on August 8 that she would not be voting for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee. A decision she says she did not make lightly as she said he is unsuitable for office, "based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics." She also stated she did not make this decision lightly as she has been a lifelong Republican.[20]

Political positions

With former US Senator Olympia Snowe (also R-ME)

Susan Collins is a self-described "moderate Republican". Collins's Crowdpac score is 1.3, with 10 being the most conservative and -10 being the most liberal. The score is based on a data aggregation of campaign contributions, votes, and speeches. According to Crowdpac scores on individual issues, Susan Collins has a liberal viewpoint on abortion, fair elections, gender equality, but a conservative viewpoint on every other major issue.[21] Another website,, considers Collins to be a "Moderate Libertarian Liberal." It also gives politicians a "social score" and an "economic score." Collins's social score is 60%, with 0% being the most conservative and 100% being the most liberal. Additionally, Collins's economic score is 53%, with 0% being the most liberal and 100% being the most conservative.[22]

Being one of the most centrist Senators, Collins often votes across party lines in many issues such as the restrictions on travel to Cuba, harsher punishments for drug users, and amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. She has also joined the moderates in the Republican Party and a vast majority of Democrats in supporting campaign finance reform laws. In 2003 she was the only Republican to vote for limiting a tax cut in order to help rural hospitals.

During the routine calling of names on the Senate floor on July 12, 2012, Collins cast her 5,000th consecutive roll-call vote.[23] Collins had not missed a single vote since her inauguration in the Senate in 1997.[24]

Foreign policy and terrorism

October 10, 2002, saw Collins vote with the majority in favor of the Iraq War Resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to go to war against Iraq.[25]

On September 19, 2007, she voted against a motion to invoke cloture on Senator Arlen Specter's amendment proposing to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States.[26]

Collins, joining the Senate majority, voted in favor of the Protect America Act, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

She later sponsored the Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007, approved unanimously by the Senate, which would create more competition between military contractors.[27]

Agreeing with the majority in both parties, Collins voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment,[28] which gave President Bush and the executive branch the authorization for military force against Iran.[29]

Social issues

Abortion laws

On October 21, 2003, with Senate Democrats, Collins was one of the three Republican Senators to oppose the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. She did however join the majority of Republicans in voting for Laci and Conner's Law to increase penalties for killing the fetus while committing a violent crime against the mother.

LGBT issues

On December 18, 2010, Collins voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and was the primary Republican sponsor of the repeal effort.[30][31][32][33][34][35]

Collins stated her support on same-sex marriage on June 25, 2014, after previously declining to publicly state her views, citing a policy to not discuss state-level issues, as well as a belief that each state's voters should decide the issue.[36] When she won reelection in 2014, she became the first Republican senator to be reelected while supporting same-sex marriage.[37]

Collins voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prevent job discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity.[38]

Judicial appointments

On May 23, 2005, Collins was one of fourteen senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus allowing the Republican leadership to end debate without having to exercise the so-called "nuclear option". Under the agreement the minority party would retain the power to filibuster a Presidential judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and three Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate, while two others, Henry Saad and William Myers, were expressly denied such protection. Saad and Myers both eventually withdrew their names from consideration.

Collins voted for the confirmation of two U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominees, Samuel Alito and John G. Roberts.[39][40] In July 2009, Collins announced her intention to vote for the confirmation of President Barack Obama's first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor, breaking from the opposition led by several conservative Republican senators.

Immigration and trade

Collins has voted against some free-trade agreements including the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement. In 1999 she was one of only four Republicans (along with her colleague Olympia Snowe) to vote for a Wellstone amendment to the Trade and Development Act of 2000 which would have conditioned trade benefits for Caribbean countries on "compliance with internationally recognized labor rights".[41]

Collins coauthored, along with Senator Joe Lieberman, the Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This law implemented many of the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, modernizing and improving America's intelligence systems.

In October 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law major port security legislation coauthored by Collins and Washington Senator Patty Murray. The new law includes major provisions to significantly strengthen security at U.S. ports.

As ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Collins and committee Chairman Joe Lieberman voiced concerns about budget, outside contractors, privacy and civil liberties relating to the National Cybersecurity Center, the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and United States Department of Homeland Security plans to enhance Einstein, the program which protects federal networks.[42] Citing improved security and the benefits of information sharing, as of mid-2008, Collins was satisfied with the response the committee received from Secretary Michael Chertoff.[43]

Economic issues

Economic stimulus

Collins voted in favor of and for the extension of the Bush tax cuts.[44][45][46] She offered an amendment to the original bill that allowed for tax credits to school teachers who purchase classroom materials.[47]

Ultimately, Collins was one of just three Republican lawmakers to vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,[48] earning heated criticism from the right for crossing party lines on the bill.[49] In mid-December 2009, Collins was again one of three Republican senators to back a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill for the fiscal year beginning in 2010, joining Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Kit Bond of Missouri in compensating for three Democratic "nay" votes to pass the bill over a threatened GOP filibuster.[50]

In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737; 113th Congress). The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to $10.10 per hour over the course of a two-year period.[51] The bill was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and many of the Democratic Senators, but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House.[52][53][54] Collins tried to negotiate a compromise bill that centrist Republicans could agree to, but was unable to do so.[54] Collins' tried to argue that the Congressional Budget Office report predicting 500,000 jobs lost if the minimum wage was increased to $10.10 also said that an increase to $9.00 would only lead to 100,000 jobs lost, but the argument did not seem to persuade her fellow centrists.[54] Collins said "I'm confident that the votes are not there to pass a minimum wage increase up to $10.10 therefore it seems to me to make sense for senators on both sides of the aisle to get together and see if we can come up with a package that would help low-income families with causing the kind of job loss that the Congressional Budget Office has warned against."[54]


On January 29, 2009, Collins voted in favor of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2).[55]

Collins opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; she voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[56] and she voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[57]

Environmental issues

In September 2008, Collins joined the Gang of 20, a bipartisan group seeking a comprehensive energy reform bill. The group is pushing for a bill that would encourage state-by-state decisions on offshore drilling and authorize billions of dollars for conservation and alternative energy.[58]

The Cantwell-Collins bill (S. 2877),[59] also called the Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act,[60] directs the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a program to regulate the entry of fossil carbon (fossil fuel) into commerce in the United States, to promote renewable energy jobs and economic growth.[61][62] The bill is bipartisan with Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington.

Gun policy

Collins voted for the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases.[63]

Other issues

In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 2199; 113th Congress). It was a bill that "punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination."[64] Collins said that one of her reasons for voting against ending debate on the bill was that Majority Leader Harry Reid had refused to allow votes on any of the amendments that Republicans had suggested for the bill.[64]

Notable legislation

Collins introduced a bill in June 2013 that would define a "full-time employee" as someone who works for 40-hours of week, instead of 30. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) defined a full-time worker as someone who works 30 hours-per-week. Collins is cited as saying that her bill would help avoid employers reducing workers' hours to below 30 per week in order to comply with the ACA.[65]

In September 2013, Collins introduced a bill aimed at preventing Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS). The bill, dubbed the "Child Care Infant Mortality Prevention Act", aims to raise the amount of provider training in infant wards as well as enhanced CPR and first aid training. Backers of this bill hope this will make a dent in the 4,000 children killed every year due to SUIDS. This would require the Health and Human Services Department to update their materials as well as improve their training resources to primary providers.[66]

Committee appointments

2018 Maine gubernatorial election

It has been speculated that Collins is considering running for Governor of Maine in the 2018 election. If Collins were to be elected, she would have to resign her Senate seat, leaving her or Paul LePage the duty as governor to appoint a new senator, which would most likely be a Republican. Democratic State legislators in Maine have said they are going to try to prevent this. The last time the Governor of Maine appointed a senator was in 1980, when governor Joseph Brennan appointed George J. Mitchell to continue Edmund Muskie's term.[67]

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland), has said he was not motivated by the possibility of Collins running, and that he has spoken with her and she called such speculation "silly".[68] Collins told MPBN on January 4, 2016, that she was "baffled" by speculation about her being interested in running for Governor and that she did not initiate it. She added that many have encouraged her to run and that she was ruling nothing in or out. [69]

Awards and honors

On September 19, 2012, Collins received the Navy League's Congressional Sea Services Award "for her outstanding contributions in Congress to advance the mission of our nation's maritime services".[70]

Collins was awarded the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Spirit of Enterprise Award for her support of the Chamber's positions in the Senate.[71]

On December 12, 2013, Collins received the "Legislator of the Year Award" from the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI). CFSI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy institute established in 1989 which seeks to promote Congress' awareness of the needs of first responders, presented the award to Collins in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Award is given to a member of Congress who the organization deems to have made a "significant contribution to the fire service."[72]

On February 24, 2014, Collins received the "Thought Leader Award" from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The award recognizes and honors American leaders who "affirm the essential services that public media provides to citizens in areas of education, journalism, and the arts."[73]

On May 7, 2014, National Journal recognized Collins as the senator with "perfect attendance", noting that Collins hadn't missed a single vote since her election to the Senate in 1997.[74]

Collins was a recipient of the Publius Award from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress on March 12, 2014.[75]

On March 26, 2014, Elle Magazine honored Collins, with others, at the Italian Embassy in the United States during its annual "Women in Washington Power List."[76]


Collins married Thomas Daffron, CEO of Jefferson Consulting Group, on August 11, 2012, 4 months before her 60th birthday, in Caribou.[77]

Electoral history

United States Senate election in Maine, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Susan Collins (incumbent) 411,211 68.4% +6.9%
Democratic Shenna Bellows 189,653 31.6% -6.9%
United States Senate election in Maine, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Susan Collins (incumbent) 444,587 61.5%
Democratic Tom Allen 278,651 38.5%
United States Senate election in Maine, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Susan Collins (incumbent) 299,266 58.4%
Democratic Chellie Pingree 205,901 41.6%
United States Senate election in Maine, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Susan Collins 298,422 49.2%
Democratic Joseph E. Brennan 266,226 43.9%
Green John Rensenbrink 23,441 3.9%
Taxpayers William P. Clarke 18,618 3.1%
Maine gubernatorial election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Independent Angus King 180,829 35%
Democratic Joseph Brennan 172,951 34%
Republican Susan Collins 117,990 23%
Green Jonathan Carter 32,695 6% N/A
Write-In Ed Finks 6,576 1% N/A


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Party political offices
Preceded by
John McKernan
Republican nominee for Governor of Maine
Succeeded by
Jim Longley
Preceded by
Bill Cohen
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Maine
(Class 2)

1996, 2002, 2008, 2014
Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Bill Cohen
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Maine
Served alongside: Olympia Snowe, Angus King
Preceded by
Joe Lieberman
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
Succeeded by
Joe Lieberman
Preceded by
Bill Nelson
Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jeff Sessions
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Mike Enzi
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