Hot Mic Picks Up Collins' Views on Trump Budget, Colleague's Looks

An otherwise mundane markup of a government spending bill managed to spur controversy when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) aired her opinion on the looks of a House Republican who suggested if she were a man, he would challenge her to a duel for helping to block action on a health care bill.


Collins, the chair of a Senate Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over federal transportation and housing programs, said in a conversation with colleague Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) at the close of a meeting that Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) is not only “huge,” he’s “so unattractive it’s unbelievable.” 

But there was one problem: A hot mic captured it all and Collins was forced later in the day to apologize to the lawmaker. “Neither weapons nor inappropriate words are the right way to resolve legislative disputes,” Collins said in a statement.

But for those following the budget the conversation between Collins and her ranking minority member was more revealing of the lawmakers’ mutual concern about the status of the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills. So far, the Senate has passed none of the bills and the House is struggling to get the first of them passed later this week. There are only about 15 work days until current funding for the government expires in September.

Collins called the budget submitted by President Donald Trump slashing transportation, housing, and other domestic programs by $54 billion “incredibly irresponsible” and said she is “worried” about how lawmakers will be able to fund the government this fall. 

At present, Republican leaders are said likely to revert to another stopgap measure to avoid a crisis on Sept. 30. At the same time, she and Reed discussed the lack of a plan to raise the federal debt limit to avoid a government default next fall. 

“You’ve got [Office of Management and Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall,” Reed said. “Then you’ve got [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin saying it’s all got to be clean. We’re going to be back in September, and, you know, you’re going to have crazy people in the House.”

Reed was speaking to Collins at the same time that the House Freedom Caucus was weighing opposition to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) plans to advance spending bills before the August recess.

But Reed had encouraging words for Collins when dealing with House members. 

“Trust me,” said Reed, a West Point grad and former Army officer. “Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? ‘Cause you could beat the s--- out of him."