The leader of Senate Democrats sent a “Dear Colleague Letter” touting his success steamrolling Senate Republicans in the first eight months of the congressional session, namechecking Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine) as a key ally in his fight with Capitol Hill conservatives.
“I want to thank our Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray, for her steadfast leadership and for working on a strong bipartisan basis with Vice Chair Collins to pass all 12 appropriations bills out of committee, some with unanimous support,” said New York’s Sen. Leader Charles E. Schumer, notorious for his ability to coopt Senate Republicans to his purposes.
Schumer’s highwater mark was in 2013 when he convinced Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R.-Pa.), then the chairman of the conservative Senate Steering Committee, to sponsor a bill restricting gun rights and also convinced Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) to sponsor an open borders and illegal alien amnesty bill.
The senior senator from New York’s aim now is to cleave the House Republican Conference by offering the go-along-to-get-along House Republicans a safe harbor from the machinations of their conservative colleagues.
“We cannot afford the brinkmanship or hostage-taking we saw from House Republicans earlier this year, when they pushed our country to the brink of default to appease the most extreme members of their party,” Schumer said.
The senator used the epithet trotted out by President Joseph R. Biden Jr. when trying to separate the not-crazy Republicans from the cray-cray variety.
“Because of what we accomplished last year, our economy is gaining momentum; we cannot afford to jeopardize that progress because MAGA Republicans want to play political games,” he said.
Then, Schumer offers a path forward, so crucial in hostage negotiations. Still, his path asks congressmen to abdicate from their constitutional role as the initiators of spending bills and follow the lead of the senators.
If House Republicans dismiss Schumer’s path forward, he threatened them with a fate they fear above all others: a government shutdown.
“The only way to avoid a shutdown is through bipartisanship,” Schumer said. “I have urged House Republican leadership to follow the Senate’s lead and pass bipartisan appropriations bills.”
My allegory for understanding Collins is what I witnessed at an Ash Wednesday Mass held at Capitol Hill’s St. Joseph Church. St. Joseph’s is the red brick church on the Senate side, where senators and Supreme Court justices are regular communicants.
This Ash Wednesday, I spotted Collins amongst the notables and also Sen. Joseph Manchin III (D-W.V.). Manchin is another one of Schumer’s chess pieces. He co-sponsored Toomey’s gun rights restriction bill and has made a career of provocative conservative comments and then pivoting to vote for things like funding Planned Parenthood. Manchin voted against the Green New Deal, only to bring it back as the Inflation Reduction Act.
There they were, the two of them, and what unfolded was like a decoder ring for each senator.
Manchin, the son of an Italian grocer named “Manchini,” did not go up for ashes on his forehead offered before the Mass began, but he stayed for the Mass.
Collins went up for her ashes and then left before the Mass started.
Only Lincoln knows if Collins sees herself as a practicing Republican, but regardless, she should be wary of Schumer bearing gifts.
It was Schumer who gave license to leftists seeking to disrupt the peaceful transfer of authority to President Donald J. Trump when he told the Inauguration Day 2017 audience to resist Trump like the Civil War soldier whose letter from Rhode Island’s Maj. Sullivan Ballou to his wife, he read from before introducing the president-elect and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for Trump’s oath of office ceremony.
“I know how strongly American civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government and to pay that debt.”
Three years later, Schumer stood in front of the Supreme Court and threatened Supreme Court justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh as the high court was hearing oral arguments and an abortion case June Medical Services v. Russo case.
Schumer warned the conservative justices, and he namechecked those two Trump nominees they would pay a price.
“Inside the walls of this court, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments, as you know, for the first major abortion rights cases since Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch came to the bench. We know what’s at stake. Over the last three years, women’s reproductive rights have come under attack in a way we haven’t seen in modern history.
From Louisiana to Missouri to Texas, Republican legislatures are waging a war on women, all women, and they’re taking away fundamental rights. I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.
You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Collins voted to confirm both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, so after the Dobbs decision, the whirlwind came to her own Bangor home, where pro-abortion protesters left messages for her on the sidewalk in front.
The Bangor police dismissed the messages as not threatening at all, but the real implicit threat was: “We know where you live.”
All indications are that Speaker Kevin O. McCarthy (R.-Calif.) will give Schumer and Biden everything they want. The mainstream media will heap praise on Collins for avoiding the government shutdown and keeping the MAGA Republicans at bay.
Collins has the chance to flip the script on Schumer and lead the 49 Senate Republicans to lay the wood to Senate Democrats, who are defending 23 seats this cycle, while the GOP defends only 10.
Alas, rather than play the heroine, Collins yearns for another certificate for being a model prisoner.