December 15, 2018
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Alabama upset means a surprising power boost for Collins

J. Scott Applewhite | AP
J. Scott Applewhite | AP
In this file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and other senators rush to the chamber to vote on amendments as the Republican leadership works to craft their sweeping tax bill in Washington.

Democrat Doug Jones’ surprising upset victory in deep-red Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday may put Sen. Susan Collins of Maine at even more of a pivot point in her chamber.

Collins, a moderate Maine Republican, called for Moore to step aside in November after women went public with allegations of sexual misconduct they they said happened when they were underage. By campaign’s end, Moore denied all allegations from nine different women.

It only will take two Republican defections to sink party priorities now. Collins, who has been named the most bipartisan senator, needed two other Republicans to kill her party’s bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act in July.

But once Jones is sworn as early as the end of December, Republicans will only have a 51-49 advantage over the Democratic caucus in the chamber, so only two Republican senators can sink their party’s legislation.

That could strengthen Collins’ negotiating hand with Republican leaders as they look to pass their first major legislation during the presidency of Donald Trump ahead of the 2018 elections.

Republicans may try to make their tax cut push before Jones is seated. It’s unclear how Tuesday’s election will affect the party’s proposal, which Collins supported in the Senate earlier this month.

But it’s now mired in negotiations between the Senate and the House of Representatives, and Collins said on Sunday that she’s not sure what will come out or if she’ll support the final package. However, ABC News reported that Republicans may try to complete their work on taxes before Jones is seated, while Democrats are pushing back on that idea.

For a roundup of today’s Maine political news, click here for the Daily Brief. Click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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