Transcript: Senator Susan Collins in “Face the Nation” June 13, 2021

The following is a transcript of an interview with Senator Susan Collins which aired Sunday, June 13, 2021 on “Face the Nation”.


JOHN DICKERSON: Now for a discussion of topics here at home. A bipartisan group of senators last week announced a new infrastructure program that would cost $ 1.2 trillion over eight years. One of the group members is Senator Susan Collins, who is joining us from Bangor, Maine. Hello, senator.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Hello.

JOHN DICKERSON: So the formal talks between the White House and the Republicans broke down. You are now part of a group that says you have a deal. Why will your deal work where previous negotiations failed?

SEN. COLLINS: Well, first of all, I want to thank Senator Capito, who led the previous negotiations, because she certainly got the ball rolling. Where ours is different, it is first of all that it is bipartite. We have five Republicans and five Democrats who have come together to define the framework for a targeted and responsible infrastructure package. One of the differences is that it includes provisions for resilience, for strengthening the materials we use to build our roads and bridges, and for strengthening our electrical infrastructure. It includes energy provisions that are important to the administration and to many of our members as well.

JOHN DICKERSON: And what about the thorny question of how to pay for all of this? What-where- I heard that this could include an increase in the gasoline tax?

SEN. COLLINS: There will be no debt – an increase in the gasoline tax, and we will not cancel the 2017 tax reform bill. Let me talk about three of the pay-fors. One is the establishment of an infrastructure funding authority that looks a lot like the state revolving funds that we use for sewer and water projects. And it’s a bipartisan proposal that was first brought forward by Senators Mark Warner and Roy Blunt, as the second would be to reallocate some of the COVID funding that was not spent in the $ 1.9 trillion package. of dollars which was adopted in March. There were restrictions on the use of the funding. It could be used for water, sewer and broadband. We would make it more flexible so that it can be used for infrastructure projects. And third, there would be a provision for electric vehicles to pay their fair share for the use of our roads and bridges. Right now they are literally free riders because they pay no gasoline tax. So those are three of the provisions we looked at.

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the objections to recovering some of the money that was in the COVID relief plan is that some states have really benefited from it. They did – they did a lot better than they thought they would. Their tax revenues are increasing, but not all states. And so some states say you can’t withdraw that money that helps us get back covid and then use it for infrastructure.

SEN. COLLINS: Well, I’ve spoken to governors who are excited about that prospect, and when you have a state like California that has a huge surplus, and yet we’re giving that state billions of dollars more. , I think we can find a place to reallocate some of that money. Also, if you look at what has been spent, there are literally hundreds of billions of dollars in the pipeline, dating back to the first Cares Act which was passed in March of last year. We have invested a tremendous amount of money, and rightly so, in the fight against COVID. Last year we had five bipartisan bills, and this year President Biden added an additional $ 1.9 trillion. This included a lot of funding that was not directly to fight COVID

JOHN DICKERSON: If in this bill much of what falls off the president’s priorities for child care and senior care, is that true?

SEN. COLLINS: We focus on the traditional definition of infrastructure: roads, bridges, airports, seaports, waterways, highways, –

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you …

SEN. COLLINS: – broadband, and I think that makes sense.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask, leaving out the word infrastructure for a moment, the argument made by the president and his supporters is that in today’s economy, especially for women who have supported a greater share of the burden on childcare and elder care, than if you don’t provide help with these things, they are just as much of a barrier for women with a chance to achieve the American Dream and to be part of the American workforce as any infrastructure program. Do you agree – leaving out the word infrastructure, do you agree with that premise that there are these barriers?

SEN. COLLINS: I think we need to look at the workforce barriers, the need for more home health care. No one has been a greater advocate for home health care than me. And we also need to learn lessons from the pandemic that we can use, for example, telemedicine to reach people effectively. But we have to pay it back. So we can look at these issues, but they are not infrastructures and they should be considered separately. And I believe they will be.

JOHN DICKERSON: And what opponents of your position would say, of course, is the reason to think of it as infrastructure is if you say we’re going to leave it for another day, that’s that other day never happens and the reason to try to put them in this bill is to force them to focus on issues of vital importance to a certain segment of the population. You don’t buy this argument?

SEN. COLLINS: Well, first of all, I think these questions are important, and that’s why, for example, in the Tax Reform Act of 2017, we made the child tax credit refundable for the first time and we took advantage of a tax incentive to expand the incentive and help you would get if you were caring for an elderly parent or child. We put money in COVID bills to expand child care centers. And I’ve seen YMCAs right here in Bangor, Maine, expand their child care programs. So I think we need to look at what’s out there. But there is no doubt that this is an area where we need to look at our refund. We need to look at our child care development fund and we need to look at the tax code. And I think we can and must do it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me turn to the question of a New York Times article this week that says that during the Trump administration, the Justice Department subpoenaed certain information from Apple that uncovered the accounts of two Democrats from the House Intelligence Committee. You are part of the Senate Intelligence Committee. What is this report, what is your reaction to this report?

SEN. COLLINS: There are two serious allegations here. One of them concerns the question of whether or not there has been a leak of classified information by members of Congress. But the second, which is equally important, is that the Department of Justice abused its power by attacking members of Congress or the press for partisan, politico-political purposes? And that is why I support the request of the Deputy Attorney General that the Inspector General of the Department of Justice conduct a thorough investigation into these two matters. It’s really important.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you another intelligence question. You recently helped push through a law that would treat victims of the so-called Havana Syndrome. It was the American officials working in Cuba who were attacked by some kind of weapon. There is speculation among officials that the Russians are behind this weapon. Do you think that’s true enough for President Biden to talk about it when he meets with President Putin this week?

SEN. COLLINS: The Russians are certainly one of the prime suspects. We don’t know for sure, but keep in mind that over a hundred U.S. officials were injured by these directed energy attacks. And we must not only take care of their medical needs, but also find out who they are.

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator, –

SEN. COLLINS: I think Secretary Blinken has done a great job as Secretary of State, but I hope the President will address this issue with Sec – with President Putin directly.

JOHN DICKERSON: Excellent. And we’re out of time. Senator Collins, thank you very much for being with us. And we’ll be back right away with a lot more of FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


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