GOP Senator: Centrists 'Just Need to Make Their Voices Heard'
The GOP senator behind forging a deal to reopen the government last month said she agreed with the cause of stopping Obamacare but thought the tactics used were a "fantasy."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said low approval ratings for the GOP in the wake of the shutdown are "certainly a clarion call for the Republicans, for my party, to do a lot of self-examination."
"I think it's worth noting that the president's approval ratings are down as well. The Democratic Party's is down," she told PBS. "But you're certainly right that no one is lower than the Republicans right now. This reflects a loss of confidence in the ability of Washington as a whole to govern responsibly."
"And I believe that the shutdown of this past month of government for 16 days, the nearness that we came to defaulting on our debts, and the lack of a long-term fiscal plan to deal with our $17 trillion debt are the reasons why. The American people are clearly frustrated and fed up with the partisan gridlock and the excessive partisanship that they're seeing in Washington."
Collins stressed that she believes in "a big-tent Republican Party, where there's room for a variety of views."
"I have greatly disagreed with the tactics that led to the shutdown of government. There was no way that shutting down government was somehow going to lead to the defunding or repeal of the president's signature achievement of Obamacare," she said. "I opposed Obamacare, voted against it, have voted many times to repeal and reform it. But that was just a tactic that made absolutely no sense. And I think those poll numbers are reflecting some frustration. Having said that, I think that the Tea Party, the other influences in our party have kept a focus on the size of government and on our $17 trillion national debt that is an important focus for our party."
"But I certainly disagree with the strategy that was adopted. It was never going to be successful, and it was a fantasy to think that it was."
Collins acknowledged that centrists in Congress have been a dying breed, but says she sees a comeback on the horizon.
"In the last few years, we have seen, through a combination of factors, including gerrymandering, I would argue the 24/7 news cycle, a lot of different factors have combined to elect people who are at the extremes of both parties, the far left and the far right," she said.
"And that has led to a shrinking middle. But I think that the pendulum is starting to swing back. And evidence of that is the group of 14 senators that I put together, seven Republicans, six Democrats and an independent, to work together on a plan to pave the way to the end of the shutdown impasse. That's a pretty large number of senators working together and ultimately agreeing on a six-point plan. And that gives me hope that the center will come back. In addition, I think the center is where most people of this country are, and they just need to make their voices heard."