May 26, 2018
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Protesters voice anger over tax bill outside Susan Collins’ Bangor home

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff

About 20 protesters gathered outside Sen. Susan Collins’ Bangor home midday Sunday to voice their opposition to the sweeping Republican tax reform bill and Collins’ vote in favor of it.

Carrying signs reading “Shame,” “No Tax Cut for Fat Cats,” “Don’t Trickle on Me” and other slogans, the protesters formed a long line along the edge of the road, attracting occasional honks of support from drivers passing through the quiet neighborhood.

Protest organizer Clare Mundell of Bangor, a member of the activist group Indivisible: Bangor, said, “We are really disappointed about her vote on the tax bill. … It’s an egregious bill, and the only people who will benefit are the wealthy and the corporations.”

[Faith leaders arrested for trespassing after hours-long sit-in at Sen. Collins’ Portland office]

That bill, which has nearly unanimous support among congressional Republicans and none among Democrats, will soon go before a conference committee, where differences between the House and Senate tax bills will be resolved ahead of a final vote.

Collins has been seen as a potential holdout, but gave her support to the Senate bill after attaching amendments to benefit to low- and middle-income taxpayers. She also got assurances from President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders that two separate measures would be introduced to offset the financial impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, though it is unclear now whether those assurances will be honored.

The mandate repeal is contained within the tax bill and is critical to its success by offsetting the cost of tax cuts by an estimated $338 billion over 10 years. It also takes an important step toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act, a long-held goal among many Republicans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that 13 million fewer Americans will have health coverage by 2025 if the individual mandate is repealed.

“It’s class warfare, pitting the rich against the poor,” said protester Valerie Walker of Frankfort, who wore a knitted “pink pussy” hat to show her solidarity with women who have reported sexual abuse and exploitation.

Leia Riker, a 14-year-old from Bangor, admitted she doesn’t understand all the details of the tax bill. “But it’s important to be here [at the protest] because it’s just disgusting what [Collins] is trying to do,” she said. “She’s taking money away from the people who need it and giving it to the people who don’t need it.”

Peter Phillips of Bangor said he respects Collins for her commitment to working in a bipartisan fashion on many issues, including her recent rejection of a bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act outright.

“There are times when she will hold the line” even against her own party, he said, and he hopes this will be one of those times.

[Protesters arrested for staging sit-in at Sen. Collins’ Bangor office]

Collins was not home at the time, or even in Bangor. Instead, she appeared as a guest on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where she discussed the tax bill and other issues.

Collins told “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson she has not yet made up her mind about the tax bill.

“I always wait until the final version of the bill is brought before us before I make a final decision about whether or not to support it,” she said. “There are major differences between the House and Senate bills and I don’t know where the [final version] is going to come out.”

She reiterated the importance of her amendments for middle-class families and admitted to feeling “concern” about the two bills she was assured would be introduced to help keep health insurance premiums from skyrocketing if the individual mandate is repealed.

Those measures would fund for one year payments to insurers, which Trump ended in October, to hold down insurance costs for low-income Americans and establish a high-risk pool to help pay for the care of very ill individuals. Collins said she has no reason to think the bills will not be introduced, though it has been widely reported that they may not be addressed in concert with the tax reform bill.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins, said in an email that the protest in Bangor was unusual.

“It is rare for protestors to go to her home,” Clark said. “Almost all of her constituents, even those who disagree with her, respect her privacy. She meets with thousands of Mainers every year — just this week she spoke with protesters who were in her Portland office. But, for security reasons, she does not meet with protestors at her house.”

But demonstrator Walker of Frankfort said bringing the demonstration to Collins’ home instead of her Bangor office in the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building was a deliberate decision.

“She’s coming after me in my house [with the impact of the tax bill], so it’s fitting that we’re here at her house,” she said.

Walker added that the group plans to protest in front of Collins’ home every Sunday for the foreseeable future.

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