Election 2020

Collins: Unlike Men, 'Women Have to Prove That We Belong' in the Senate

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) talks with reporters in the Senate subway before a lunch in the Capitol on July 27, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Fresh off her decision to stay in Congress instead of running for governor of her home state, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) noted today that there’s still a barrier for women to prove that they belong in the U.S. Senate.

Collins, a reliable moderate who has served in the upper chamber since 1997, was easily re-elected to a six-term in 2014. She is 15th in seniority in the upper chamber.

“I realized how much remains to be done in a divided and troubled Washington if we are to serve the people of our states. I have demonstrated the ability to work across the aisle, to build coalitions, and to listen to the people of my state and my country. The challenges we face today are enormous – from frustrated families with stagnant wages and expensive health care to a nuclear-armed North Korea and Russian interference in the very fabric of our democracy, our elections,” Collins told the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Business Breakfast on Friday, concluding “the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate.”

This morning, Collins told MSNBC that it was “a very difficult decision” not to run for governor because “the attraction of being in Maine full-time, close to much of my family and many of my friends was very strong.”

“And governor, it’s a far more hands-on job where you can really make a difference on issues like providing more economic opportunities. But in the end, I decided that the issues right now in Washington are so consequential,” she said. “They’re so huge. And I am a person who likes to work across the aisle and builds bipartisan coalitions and that’s what I decided I wanted to do. In the end, it came down to where I could do more for my state and my country.”

The senator was asked about Harvey Weinstein and sexual harassment, and whether a similar culture exists on Capitol Hill.

“It’s always good for an organization to review its own culture to make sure that equality and justice prevail throughout,” Collins replied. “I have not experienced that but undoubtedly, we know from some press accounts that it has happened before. And it is reprehensible, regardless of the working environment in which it occurs, regardless of whether it’s Hollywood or Washington or Main Street America.”

“And I believe that these brave women coming forth and confronting one of the most powerful individuals in Hollywood will help others speak out about their experience and send a very clear message that this is not tolerated,” she said.

Collins added that “when women are elected to the United States Senate that we do face an extra barrier that men do not.”

“When a man is elected to the Senate it’s assumed that he belongs there,” she said. “My experience has been that we women have to prove that we belong there and once we do that we’re accepted. But there is an extra barrier that I’ve found.” There are currently 21 women senators.

Asked about the Twitter war between President Trump and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Collins said Trump’s approach has “caused chaos” and he should “remember that every single word that he says matters.”

“That’s why I’d encourage him to be more careful with his rhetoric because of the signal — the inadvertent signal that it may send not only to Americans but to our adversaries and our allies around the world,” the senator added.