I hate it when partisan hacks stink up my Sunday morning news programs. Ironically, this weekend it was Maine’s “Independent” U.S. Sen. Angus King who stole the show. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” for a segment on bipartisanship, Sen. King offered nothing but liberal talking points in response to all of host Chuck Todd’s inquiries.
Understandably featured in the segment was Maine’s 20-year veteran Senator, Republican Susan Collins, who for the fourth consecutive year topped a bipartisan index that measures the frequency at which U.S. Senators sponsor and co-sponsor bills from the other side of the aisle.
Like many, I was left scratching my head at King’s inclusion.
The nine-minute bit began with both senators being asked what hurdles elected officials face in bringing bipartisanship back to Washington. Collins’ answer touched upon ideological groups that drive political parties further to each end of the spectrum and require “100 percent compliance with 100 percent of their views 100 percent of the time.”
King puzzlingly returned with the Senate schedule being a major hurdle in overcoming partisanship. “We leave on Thursday night and come back on Monday morning,” King said. “No one lives here anymore… People literally don’t get to know each other, and that’s a problem.”
King backed his position by adding that more than 65 current senators have been in the Senate for less than 10 years, meaning “they don’t know how to win,” and are unfamiliar with success.
Based on King’s analysis, the Senate could enhance its productivity if constituents elected more unproductive lifelong politicians like himself. Perhaps they could be “independent” like King to reach bipartisan agreements. Despite working just four days a week and raking in annual salaries well over $100,000, U.S. Senators just can’t find the time to sit down and get to know one another. What a shame.
Todd then pressed Maine’s Senate delegation on whether party leaders are to blame for partisan politics in Washington. Without hesitation, King instantly showed sympathy for obstructionist New York Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer.
“Chuck Schumer is in a difficult place. Any time he makes a move, in fact at the beginning of this session he talked about how, you know, we’re going to try to work with the president when it’s necessary and when we think he’s right. Huge reaction from the Democratic base – you can’t, you’ve got to resist, you can’t compromise,” King said.
Given his stance on healthcare reform and Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, it appears King has become Schumer’s lapdog, as he too is taking advice solely from the fringe left.
The segment then transitioned into the national healthcare debate, where policy from Maine has come into the forefront. In 2011, Maine enacted PL 90, which has become part of the blueprint in the GOP’s new plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The reason PL 90 saw success in Maine before being scrapped by ObamaCare was because it covered patients with pre-existing conditions by establishing “invisible high-risk pools” and expanding age rating bands that come with insurance.
The successes of PL 90 are highlighted on HealthAffairs.org where authors Joel Allumbaugh, Tarren Bragdon and Josh Archambault write:
“In practice, [the invisible high risk pool] functioned like a hybrid of a reinsurance program and a high-risk pool. It operated like a reinsurance program in that it helped cover claim costs for individuals with high medical claims in the market. It operated like a high-risk pool in that it only targeted a subset of individuals based on specific conditions. However, unlike ‘traditional’ high-risk pools Maine’s program did not remove individuals with pre-existing conditions out of the traditional market or charge them higher premiums.
Secondly, the state expanded rating bands from 1.5-to-1 to 3-to-1, the maximum allowed under the ACA. (Unfortunately, further changes were not possible within the framework of the ACA.)
It was the combination of these reforms—an invisible high-risk pool and expanded age rating bands—that produced positive results by lowering premiums and attracting younger and healthier people to purchase insurance.”
Todd pressed King on whether the Maine Model was something he’d support after Collins acknowledged the program had a $5 million surplus when it was abolished by ObamaCare.
“It’s all in the details,” King replied. “There are a lot of people in Maine that argue that it wasn’t all that, that there were limitations, that a lot of the coverages were dropped and expenses for people over 60 went way up.”
Sure Sen. King, there are people in Maine that argue against PL 90 – they’re called Democrats. They’re the same crowd that would rather see Americans continue suffering through ObamaCare than offer real solutions to combat the nation’s skyrocketing healthcare costs (simply because their beloved ex-president’s surname is attached to the legislation).
In closing, Todd asked what takeaway each senator has drawn from the success Gov. Paul LePage and President Donald Trump have seen in Maine. Collins gave an enlightening, honest response while King offered a mind-bogglingly numb retort.
“I think what you learn is to listen,” King began. “I remember everybody thought Hillary [Clinton] was going to win on the day before [the election], and I remember saying: ‘If and when she wins, she’s got to do some serious listening to the people who voted for Donald Trump.”
“I was disappointed in the President’s speech last night because he’s still in campaign mode talking strictly to his people… I think we need a little quiet, what I call ‘eloquent listening,’” King said. “People who are concerned about the Trump policies need to be listened to, too.”
King’s response is a complete paradox. He has learned from their success to be a better listener, but still sneaks in a jab at both Republicans for wearing earmuffs. Your independence was radiating from my television with that response, Angus.
One thing anyone could gather from King’s appearance on Sunday is that little has changed for the lifelong liberal politician. Like every partisan hack, instead of acknowledging Republicans’ success, King pounced on the opportunity to criticize and belittle his political opponents, and pushed the same liberal talking points he has for decades.
That’s fine. King’s responses were exactly what those muted by him have come to expect over the years. His façade cannot last forever, and nobody in Maine asked him for a lecture on bipartisanship anyway.
This post first appeared in The Maine Wire.