Parts of the U.S. government shut down for 16 days in October because Congress could not reach a budget deal. As the shutdown dragged on, U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine grew more and more frustrated. Collins, a Republican, saw no real progress being made to reopen the government. Republicans and Democrats, unable to agree on how to move forward, blamed each other instead of offering any real solutions. Finally, Collins went to the floor of the Senate and delivered her own plan. “I ask my Democratic and Republican colleagues to come together,” she said on October 8. "We can do it. We can legislate responsibly and in good faith.”
Collins quickly found support from other women Senators, starting with fellow Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Democrats Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota also voiced their desire to help end the crisis.
Collins then formed a group of 14 Senators—men and women from each party. They discussed her plan and negotiated changes to it. Each side made compromises. Much of Collins’s plan served as the foundation of a final version created by the Senate leadership. When the shutdown ended, much of the credit went to Collins.
“Senator Collins really led the effort,” said Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who was part of the group.
Collins was born on December 7, 1952, in Caribou, Maine. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became a staff assistant for U.S. Senator William Cohen of Maine. Later, she served in the cabinet of the state’s governor, John McKernan. In 1994, she ran for governor herself. She did not win that race, but in 1996, she was elected to the U.S. Senate. She was reelected in 2002 and again in 2008.
For her demonstration of leadership and her promotion of teamwork and cooperation to end a national crisis, Senator Susan Collins is a nominee for TFK’s 2013 Person of the Year.
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