ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: Back when the Senate was debating the stimulus bill, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, forced Democrats to strip some funding from the bill to cut down its cost. One cut she championed – $870 million for pandemic flu.
She even posted a Wall Street Journal story on her website as proof of the power that moderate Republicans and Democrats were wielding over the White House with regard to the stimulus.
In a speech on the Senate floor in February Collins, in touting her role in trimming the stimulus, said, "I support these programs. I’m a strong supporter of them. But it simply does not make sense to fund smoking cessation programs as part of an economic stimulus package. It doesn’t make sense to include $870 million for pandemic flu preparedness. Again, an issue that I care deeply about because of my role on the homeland security committee."
People on the left have been hammering Collins in blogs today for forsaking pandemic flu preparedness. Not a light accusation since she is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee, which has held a number of hearings in recent years on the subject of pandemic flu.
Her office put out a statement this afternoon in which her Communications Director defends the cut in stimulus funding for pandemic flu preparedness and says Collins simply wanted flu funding to go through normal channels.
Indeed, normal channels did produce funding for pandemic flu preparedness when Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill in March. But it only yielded $154 million – nowhere near the almost $1 billion that was in the stimulus.
The statement from Collins’ office also points to hearings and reports on pandemic flu that Collins has pushed for on the Homeland Security Committee, including this week’s hearing on the response by the federal government’s to the recent outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and our nation’s preparedness for a pandemic flu.