Was Sen. Susan Collins courageous or calculating when she announced that she would oppose Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education? Collins initially approved DeVos in the Senate sub-committee where Collins gave the semi-plausible explanation that she wanted the entire Senate to vote on DeVos. However, if Collins really thought that DeVos was as unqualified as Collins said only hours later in her public statement, she should have voted against her in committee. Instead, and only after it appeared that Collins’ opposition vote with the entire Senate would not make any difference, did she publicly come out against confirmation.

Collins cleverly tried to have it both ways. With only one other Republican senator vowing to vote against DeVos, a 50–50 tie in the Senate was broken by Vice President Mike Pence, ensuring that DeVos was confirmed. The calculus? Collins will have the appearance of being a centrist, appealing to independents and Democrats, without suffering any political consequences for her actions.

Collins risked nothing and will pay no political price for her actions. It is a win/win for Collins and a lose/lose for her constituents. Republicans should be angry with her for voting against DeVos in the Senate, but Collins can easily point to her vote in committee. Democrats should be angry with her because although it appears as if Collins is taking a stand, she was, in fact, counting on her actions having no effect whatsoever. Collins has cleverly calculated how to appear to be promoting herself without actually serving the interests of either her Republican, or Democratic, constituents.

James S. Myers


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