We criticize politicians who are out of touch, the ones who listen more to the people in power than they do to the people back home.

So it’s only fair to praise our members of Congress when they stand up for us in difficult times. We are in one of those times, and Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, is doing just that.

Last week, Collins announced that she would vote against Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of education, when DeVos’ nomination comes to the full Senate for a vote. Along with thousands of Mainers, we had called for Collins to reject the nomination of charter school activist DeVos, who has displayed hostility to public education, despite, as she showed in her confirmation hearing, not knowing much about it.

We don’t know the outcome of that nomination. The final vote is expected this week, and reports indicate that DeVos is likely to squeeze by with a tie-breaking vote cast Vice President Mike Pence, despite the opposition of Collins and fellow Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. That potential has already fueled criticism of Collins for not using procedural tactics to prevent the nomination from ever reaching a vote. This reaction is off the mark.

We had been critical in the past of Republicans in Congress who used process to block appointments made by President Barack Obama, and we are not going to start rooting for gridlock now.

It is very rare for the party in power to reject a nomination made by a president from the same party. It hasn’t happened since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, and it is unrealistic to hold Collins individually responsible if it doesn’t happen this year. Her vote against DeVos makes a significant statement, one of the many ways in which we expect that she will be asked to stand in principled opposition to her own party as it is led by Trump.

Collins has had a remarkable year by that standard. She was one of the first Republicans to meet with and call for confirmation hearings for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, in contrast to the shameful stonewalling by Senate Republican leadership.

When Trump became the nominee of her party, Collins announced that he lacked “the temperament, self-discipline and judgment required to be president,” and said she would not vote for him.

And in the early days of his administration, Collins has criticized the president’s assignment of Steve Bannon, a political consultant, to a seat on the National Security Council, and Trump’s executive order interfering with immigration and refugee resettlement from some Muslim-dominated nations.

Perhaps more importantly, Collins has taken a leadership role in slowing down the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and directing rash talk toward a constructive debate about ways to change the health insurance market without depriving millions of Americans of coverage. She has also made clear that she does not support a health care reform strategy that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood.

These battles are not over, and we expect Collins to keep fighting them. In addition to urging a vote against DeVos, we have called on her to reject Scott Pruitt, Trump’s wildly inappropriate nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

But her critics should remember that Cabinet appointments are just the administration’s curtain raiser. Trump’s first two weeks have provided multiple examples of a president who is reckless in his use of power and who has very little standing in his way that prevents him from using it.

The U.S. Senate is one institution that can say “no” to Trump — but only if Collins and a few other Republicans are willing to step up. We encourage Collins to keep listening to Maine people, as she did last week, and reflecting their values in Washington.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: