Collins: Obamacare funding shouldn’t be tied to government shutdown; House cut food stamps programs too deep

Sen. Susan Collins talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
Pete Souza | White House
Sen. Susan Collins talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
Posted Sept. 20, 2013, at 4:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is no fan of the Affordable Care Act, but warned Friday that tying its funding to a possible government shutdown could be disastrous.

Collins spoke to reporters after stepping off a Washington, D.C., flight that landed at Bangor International Airport on Friday afternoon, shortly after the Republican-controlled House passed a short-term spending plan that would eliminate all funding for the Affordable Care Act.

The Democrat-led Senate is certain to support funding for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but the debate has led to speculation about a possible government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30 if there is no compromise on a spending resolution.

“I do not support Obamacare,” Collins said. “I think it will drive up the cost of health insurance premiums and create a lot of problems, particularly for small businesses and for individuals who are going to have a hard time getting the kind of insurance they want on the exchange,” as well as bringing about billions in new fees and taxes that will increase the cost of health insurance.

“At the same time, I think it is a huge mistake to link the defunding of Obamacare to a government shutdown,” Collins said. “We have an obligation to govern in Washington, and it would create chaos if government were to shut down,” she added, citing the government shutdowns of the mid-1990s.

“We do have an unsustainable $17 trillion debt that we need to deal with, and it’s going to require more leadership from the president and willing partners in Congress,” Collins said, “but shutting down does not get us any closer to a fiscal plan to deal with that debt.”

Collins also weighed in on the tense situation with Syria, which handed over a list detailing its chemical weapons cache on Friday.

“We now need an intensive effort to verify this,” Collins said. “Obviously we cannot trust President Assad to be completely forthcoming, and I want to make sure he does not have hidden stockpiles.”

She said that international inspectors should be granted access to the country to ensure that Assad’s government is being forthright with the international community. Once the list is verified, the weapons should be handed over, she said.

“That is a far preferable outcome to the United States unilaterally launching a military attack on Syria,” she said. Such a strike would be unwise, as it is unlikely that “limited strikes” by U.S. missiles would be able to take out Syria’s spread-out chemical weapons supply. Also, blowing up the chemical weapons could release toxic clouds that could harm civilians, she said.

The senator also criticized the House vote to cut $40 billion from the food stamps program over the next 10 years.

“I do not support the House plan to slash food stamps,” she said. “We have a lot of elderly people living in rural Maine who really depend on food stamps in order to get proper nutrition. We also have a lot of children that are living in poor families that also are dependent on food stamps. That doesn’t mean that the food stamps program does not need reform. It does.”

She said better program regulations, such as restricting the length of time able-bodied adults are able to receive stamps, should be put in place before slashing the budget.

“The house went too far, too deeply in its cuts,” she said, adding that she’s “willing to predict” the Senate will reject the cut.

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