Susan M. Collins
Home Town: Caribou, ME
Committees: Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Special on Aging
Susan M. Collins was elected to represent the State of Maine in the United States Senate in 1996 and was re-elected to a second term in 2002. She was the 15th woman in history to be elected to the Senate in her own right.
Senator Collins is the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), which has jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and is the Senate=s chief oversight committee. She also serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Special Committee on Aging. Previously, she served for six years on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Senator Collins was also the first freshman Senator ever to lead the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Senator Collins coauthored the Collins-Lieberman intelligence reform legislation, which was signed into law in December 2004. The law represents the most sweeping changes to our intelligence community in more than 50 years and implements many of the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.
Born December 7, 1952, Senator Collins was raised in Caribou, a small city in northern Maine, where both her parents have at one time served as mayor. Her family runs a fifth-generation lumber business, founded by her ancestors in 1844 and operated today by two of her brothers.
A 1975 magna cum laude graduate of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Senator Collins worked for former Maine Senator William S. Cohen for 12 years. In 1987, she joined the cabinet of Maine Governor John R. McKernan as Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation, a position she held for five years. She then served as New England Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 1992 to 1993.
In 1994, Senator Collins ran her first campaign for public office and became the first woman in Maine history to receive a major party nomination for governor after winning an eight-way Republican primary in June of 1994. She lost the general election in the fall.
In December of 1994, Senator Collins became the founding executive director of the Center for Family Business at Husson College in Bangor, Maine, a position she held until she resigned in 1996 to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Cohen. She won both a contested Republican primary and a four-way general election later that year.
Senator Collins has been a tireless advocate for education. As one of the architects of landmark education reform legislation, she led the successful charge to triple funding for early reading initiatives. She also authored the law providing a $250 tax deduction for teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies. Her goal of expanding access to higher education led her to co-author the 1998 Higher Education Act and to support increases in Pell Grants and other student financial aid.
Senator Collins's priorities include maintaining a strong national defense and strengthening our homeland security. She also continues her longstanding efforts to help small businesses create jobs; to combat consumer fraud; and to improve health care, particularly for citizens living in rural areas. She led the fight to restore millions of dollars to the Medicare program for home health care so that elderly citizens can receive needed care in their own homes. Senator Collins also founded the Senate Diabetes Caucus, and led the effort to more than double federal funding for diabetes research.
Senator Collins=s work has won praise from her home state newspapers as well as national newspapers from coast to coast. Following passage of the Collins-Lieberman intelligence reform legislation, the Bangor Daily News wrote, ASen. Collins was tireless in crafting the largest change to the nation=s intelligence agencies in a half century. She has served Maine and the nation well in her efforts, and deserves enormous credit for her thoughtful, forceful pursuit of this reform.A The Lewiston Sun Journal wrote, AHer reputation as a moderate and her willingness to work with politicians regardless of their political affiliations make her an effective voice in Washington.A The Maine Sunday Telegram said, AThe Maine senator=s ability to stay focused on a goal is one of the reasons she=s gained a powerful post.@
The Los Angeles Times referred to her as a Achampion of good government,@ while The New York Times has said, AMs. Collins has a long history of taking on the Washington bureaucracy.@ The Associated Press also named Senator Collins one of the top ten Congressional Members to watch in the 109th Congress.
Senator Collins has received many professional and civic honors from groups ranging from the American Diabetes Association to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association to the National School Boards Association.