Susan Collins, in full Susan Margaret Collins (born December 7, 1952, Caribou, Maine, U.S.), U.S. politician who was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 1996 and began representing Maine in that body the following year.
Collins was born in Caribou, Maine, into a family that was active in both the timber industry and state politics. She was president of her high school class and graduated from the U.S. Senate Youth Program. Collins then attended St. Lawrence University and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. (1975) in government.
Collins then became a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. William Cohen, moving to the Senate in 1979. During that time, she met Thomas A. Daffron, then Cohen’s chief of staff, and the couple married in 2012. Collins continued to work for Cohen, holding various administrative posts until 1987. That year, she joined the cabinet of Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. and served as commissioner of the state Department of Professional and Financial Regulation until 1992. After serving as regional director ( 1992) in the U.S. Small Business Administration, she became deputy state treasurer of Massachusetts in 1993.
Collins returned to Maine in 1994 to run for governor, but lost to Angus King in the general election. Later that year, she founded the Center for Family Business at Husson College, where she served as executive director. In 1996, she ran for the Senate seat of Cohen, who resigned to become secretary of defense. Collins won and took office the following year.
Long characterized as a centrist and moderate, Collins has been attacked by challengers on the political right as a “Republican in name only,” particularly because she has been willing to work with Democratic members of the Senate and with Pres. Barack Obama. Collins broke with her party’s majority and supported marriage equality, gun control and abortion rights. However, she joined other Republicans in supporting increased surveillance of the nation’s borders and opposing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010; PPACA)-though she later opposed most initiatives to repeal PPACA. By the end of the 113th Congress in 2015, she had not missed a single Senate vote.
Collins made headlines in 2016 when she wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post declaring that she would not vote for her party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, whom she accused of “utter disregard for common decency.” Trump eventually won the presidential election, and Republicans secured majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. With a Republican-controlled Congress, repeal of PPACA seemed likely. However, Collins helped kill several repeal bills in 2017 by refusing to support the measures. That year, she also helped pass a massive tax reform bill.
Collins gained additional attention in 2018 when she expressed uncertainty about Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, whom some viewed as a threat to Roe v. Wade and who has been accused of sexual assault. Collins, a supporter of abortion rights, ultimately voted for Kavanaugh and he was confirmed 50-48. In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump, who was accused of withholding aid from Ukraine to pressure the country to open a corruption investigation into Joe Biden (Biden later became the Democratic presidential nominee). In the Senate trial early the next year, Collins voted not to indict the president, and he was cleared in a nearly bipartisan vote. Later in 2020, she voted against another Trump pick for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, stating that the vote should be delayed until after the presidential election; Republicans had used that argument to block the confirmation of Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. Barrett, however, was ultimately confirmed. These developments came as Collins faced an increasingly difficult reelection bid. Amid growing polarization within the state and Maine, her moderate approach drew criticism from both parties. However, she won another term in 2020.
In the presidential election that year, Biden defeated Trump, though the latter – along with numerous other Republicans – alleged widespread voter fraud despite a lack of evidence. Collins was among those who fought back against those allegations. On Jan. 6, 2021, she and other members of Congress met to certify Biden’s victory, but the proceedings were temporarily halted when Trump supporters attacked the Capitol. Collins later denounced the deadly siege and claimed Trump provoked it. The House of Representatives accused him of “inciting a riot” and voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 13, 2021, a week before his term ends. The Senate trial took place the following month. and Collins was among seven Republicans who joined Democrats to convict Trump. Although it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote to date, 57 to 43, the former president was acquitted.