Politics

Paul LePage Op-Ed: Maine’s Senators ‘Let Us Down’

State governor blasts Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King as 'out of touch' and 'downright dangerous'

Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage penned a blistering rebuke of his state’s U.S. senators Tuesday evening for their refusal to vote in favor of the GOP Senate leadership’s latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare last week, calling them “out of touch” and “dangerous.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Maine’s Two Senators Let Us Down,” LePage struck a strikingly different tone from many of the country’s other governors when he lashed out at Sen. Angus King, an independent, and Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, for their repeated refusals to support legislation seeking to eliminate or reduce the Affordable Care Act’s regulations and mandates.

Accusing Collins and King of choosing “to preserve the status quo while pushing an irresponsible Medicaid expansion here in Maine,” LePage issued a withering indictment of the Maine senators who are “out of touch” with their constituents’ needs.

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“When it comes to providing affordable health care to the people of Maine, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are worse than out of touch — they are downright dangerous,” LePage wrote. “Sadly, this is no surprise from senators who are more comfortable cutting deals in the polished marble corridors of Washington than meeting with Mainers struggling to make ends meet in Lewiston, Millinocket, or Fort Kent.”

The Maine governor particularly blasted Collins for “unconscionably” betraying her own party by failing to support its various efforts to deliver health care reform. As for the independent King, LePage noted that he “votes exclusively with liberal Democrats and found preserving ObamaCare to be a no-brainer.”

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Collins and King’s desire to expand Medicaid even further incensed LePage, who noted that “we have been there and done that” as a state already.

“The results 15 years ago were disastrous.The state doubled the size of its Medicaid program, but this failed to reduce the uninsured rate, emergency-room visits or uncompensated care by hospitals,” LePage said. “We were saddled with $750 million of Medicaid debt, and I spent my first two years as governor working to repay it.”

LePage lamented that Maine’s Public Law 90, the health care reform plan he helped to implement, become void when Obamacare was unleashed in 2012. Championing such a plan as a “model for the nation,” LePage said that the law reduced costs by allowing Mainers to purchase their health care insurance across state lines, among other strategies.

“Ms. Collins and Mr. King have ignored these ideas, since they are more interested in preening for the cameras than in making real progress,” LePage said.

Collins did indeed seem to enjoy “preening” when she received a spontaneous round of applause at an airport in Bangor, Maine, after she voted “no” on the latest repeal and replace attempt Friday. Collins glowingly dubbed the applause “extraordinary, heartwarming and affirming.”

But LePage was not amused.

“Given the opportunity last month to replace America’s failing health care system with a more cost-effective plan, Sens. Collins and King instead chose to preserve the status quo while pushing an irresponsible Medicaid expansion here in Maine,” LePage wrote. “Though they seem unwilling to deliver on their promises of better care, at least they have given Mainers a clear sense of their priorities.”

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LePage’s pushback against the senators’ refusal to deliver health care reform stood in stark contrast to the letter penned by 10 governors in late July urging the Senate to vote against the GOP plan and asking the federal government to continue pouring money into the states.

Democratic governors John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Steve Bullock of Montana, and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania signed the letter alongside Republican governors Brian Sandoval of Nevada, John Kasich of Ohio, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Phil Scott of Vermont.

Kasich, in particular, strayed far from his own party when he rejoiced in last week’s failure to pass the bill. During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Kasich said, “I actually think it’s a good thing” that the GOP plan failed, adding,”I think Republicans looked over the cliff. And I think they saw that there were going to be a lot of people who were going to be hurt, particular people who don’t have much of a voice, who the machine in the system grinds down, and they pulled back.”

“So, to — to a degree, I’m glad that they didn’t fulfill this — this pledge right now, but they have to work on it,” the Ohio governor continued as he urged the GOP to retain Obamacare and work on fixing portions of it. “And — and this is where they should call the Democrats in, and they should demand Democratic participation.”

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