U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine took heat from Democrats on Thursday for voting against an amendment to a broad defense spending bill that was intended to block President Trump from diverting military funds for the construction of a wall on the southern border.

The amendment, offered by Senate Democrats, was defeated by one vote during a series of votes on spending packages before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

However, Collins’ vote comes just a day after she was the only Republican to sponsor a resolution that would force a second straight-up vote in the Senate to effectively block the wall funding by terminating a national emergency declaration by Trump. The declaration has allowed the administration to divert billions of Department of Defense dollars for construction of a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 15-14 vote against the spending bill amendment split along party lines, with Republicans opposing the measure and Democrats backing it. The underlying spending bill totals $695 billion, a $20 billion increase over 2019 levels, and includes a 3.1 percent pay hike for members of the U.S. military.

Maine Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Marra blasted Collins for the vote in a statement Thursday.

“If Sen. Collins were serious about preventing the president from raiding funds Congress had already set aside for military bases across the country, she would have voted to support this measure,” Marra said in the statement. “Instead she was the deciding vote against it.”


But Collins defended the vote, which was one of many taken Thursday that effectively moved forward the spending package, which includes measures that pay for defense spending at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Bath Iron Works and Pratt & Whitney.

Collins said the amendment offered by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was too broad and would have likely stalled or killed the spending package entirely – and not prevented the wall funding.

She said the vote on the Senate resolution to terminate Trump’s emergency declaration would still move forward and the Senate would still have the opportunity to stop the diversion of military funds for alternative purposes by the president, without jeopardizing legitimate military funding.

“The full Senate will soon have a chance to vote again on our resolution to terminate the national emergency declaration,” Collins said. “Our resolution seeks to address the executive overreach we have witnessed with the use of emergency authorities for border wall funding.”

She said the defense spending bill, which will still face additional votes in Congress and a conference committee with the House before it can move to the president’s desk, was the wrong legislation to address that overreach.

“This appropriations bill is urgently needed to protect our national security, support our military personnel, and fund critical national security projects in Maine,” Collins said. “It is simply not the appropriate vehicle.”


The bill as passed by the committee Thursday includes an additional $130 million for shipyard infrastructure improvements, some of which will be tapped by BIW. The bill also authorizes the purchase of 18 additional F-35 military jets, components of which are manufactured at Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick; an additional $390 million for material procurement for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers; $48 million for DOD university research, some of which will be available to the University of Maine; and $781 million for Navy ship depot maintenance, which funds the operations at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Collins said she co-sponsored the resolution to terminate the emergency declaration not because she disagrees with Trump over border security.

“There is no doubt that we need stronger border security, but our resolution has nothing to do with whether one supports or opposes the wall,” Collins said.  “Rather, it is about preventing the Executive Branch – now and in the future – from holding a power that the Founders intentionally entrusted to Congress.”

Twelve Republican senators, including Collins, joined with Democrats in March to pass a similar resolution, but the measure lacked the votes to overcome a Trump veto.

The next vote on the newest resolution may garner additional Republican support because a full list of military construction projects that would be put on hold or canceled by diverting funds to a border wall around the U.S. is now available. Additional Republican senators will now be faced with deciding if they will side with the president on the wall or vote to protect military infrastructure projects in their home states.

Other spending packages that passed the committee Thursday with Collins’ support include more than $114 million for offshore wind energy development, including $10 million for two offshore wind demonstration projects, one of which is the University of Maine’s Aqua Ventus project. The funding will allow the project to operate for at least another 18 months.

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