Sen. Collins Has A Three-Point Shutdown, Debt Ceiling Plan
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to lift the debt ceiling. It would let the government borrow money through the end of 2014. It's a so-called clean bill, meaning it has no spending cuts or other measures sought by Republicans attached to it.
We're going to hear now from Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She's considered a moderate in her party. Senator Collins, welcome to the program.
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Thanks so much. It's great to join you.
BLOCK: And let's start with that bill to raise the debt ceiling. Democrats will need about six Republican senators to join them if that is to pass. Can they count on you as a yes vote?
COLLINS: I certainly don't want to see the United States default on its obligations and not pay its bills on time. On the other hand, I don't think passing a trillion-dollar increase in the debt ceiling without doing anything at all about our $17 trillion national debt is the right approach. So what I would like to see is, first, for us to concentrate on getting a plan in place to reopen government, and I proposed a three-point plan on Saturday that would do just that.
I'm looking at whether we could expand that plan to include a short-term increase in the debt ceiling in order to ensure that there's no default, but to give us a little more time to work on a long-term fiscal plan for our nation.
BLOCK: Now when you say short term, am I reading you right that you would not support a bill that would lift the debt limit past the next election, through the end of 2014? You want something shorter term than that?
COLLINS: I would much prefer a shorter term extension of the debt limit. My concern is that if the debt limit is extended for the next 14 months that we will never confront the unsustainable $17 trillion debt that is burdening our economy and future generations.
BLOCK: We've seen, Senator Collins, we've seen the new Republican senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, become front and center in this standoff. And I wonder if you think he's helpful to your party, to the Republican Party.
COLLINS: Well, I'm not going to comment on my colleagues. I think that's unprofessional to do. So I will say that I do not think that it was a good strategy to link the defunding of Obamacare to the continued operation of government. And I've said that from the very beginning. First of all, it's a strategy that cannot possibly succeed, given that there is a Democratically-controlled Senate, and President Obama is in the White House and would never sign into law a bill that would repeal what he considers to be his greatest accomplishment.
So it's a strategy that simply cannot succeed. And thus, I think it was a mistake to link the elimination of funding for the law with the continued operation of government.
BLOCK: I understand you're interest in not speaking ill of a fellow senator. But I do wonder if you share concern voiced by a lot of Republicans that the party has been - use whatever metaphor you want - held hostage, derailed, thrown into some peril by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. And I wonder if you share that concern.
COLLINS: Well, let me say that I believe in the big tent philosophy for the Republican Party, and I welcome people with a variety of views. The Tea Party faction has helped the party focus on some important fiscal issues. Obviously, I don't agree with their tactics in this case, but I do believe that they've brought some energy to the party and that they have brought a focus on fiscal issues that is helpful to our country.
BLOCK: Senator Collins, thanks for talking with us today.
COLLINS: Thank you.
BLOCK: That's Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.