U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Republicans should focus on growing their ranks as her party in Maine prepared to rebuke her on Tuesday amid grassroots anger over her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
The senator, who was elected to a historic fifth term in a bruising 2020 race with Democrat Sara Gideon, spoke with conservative radio hosts and TV networks on Tuesday to defend her Saturday vote — alongside all Democrats and just six other Republicans — for a Democratic impeachment article related to Trump’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Collins’ vote sparked outrage in Maine’s conservative grassroots that led the Maine Republican Party to consider censuring her for the vote. While state party leaders have not reacted publicly to it so far, they have been advancing plans since Saturday to rebuke the moderate senator in emails to their ranks. The plans were first reported by the Bangor Daily News on Monday.
After speaking with county chairs on Monday, Demi Kouzounas, the state party chair, sent an email indicating the party’s Executive Council would be drafting a letter to Collins on Tuesday stating their disapproval of her vote. A special meeting to censure her is possible, she said.
Responding to the party criticisms for the first time on Tuesday, Collins said in a statement that “there is room for people who disagree with one another in our party.” She noted her rarity in New England as the last Republican in federal office, something she said her party should fix while uniting around principles and not figures.
“I think that we need to send a message that you can be a good Republican and not necessarily agree with every position taken by the party,” Collins told News Center Maine.
In a Saturday floor speech, Collins said the riots were the “culmination of a steady stream of provocations by President Trump.” She cited his efforts to pressure Georgia election officials to “find” votes for him as proof he worked to undermine the integrity of the 2020 election. Trump was acquitted since the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority required to sanction him.
It is unclear when the party will send the letter to Collins and when a possible censure vote will take place. It is likely that state party officials have the 17 signatures from six counties needed to call a special meeting of the full committee.
Collins discussed the trial with party members last Tuesday, but mostly listened to members’ arguments, Katrina Smith, the Waldo County chair, said on Monday. But other Republican leaders, including former Gov. Paul LePage, have been quiet after the vote.