Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in 2009 opposed funding for future pandemic preparedness as part of an economic stimulus package during the Great Recession. (Photo: Aaron Bernstein/Bangor Daily News)

As Coronavirus Grips US, Critics Remember Susan Collins' Insistence Pandemic Flu Funding Be Cut From 2009 Stimulus Package

"Senator Collins went out of her way to stop funds from going to pandemic preparedness, and now Mainers are concerned because of Collins' history of opposing funding for situations exactly like this."

Julia Conley

Political observers on social media pointed to an overlooked vote by Sen. Susan Collins from over a decade ago as one example of Republicans' disregard for public health, which has helped the coronavirus outbreak rapidly spin out of control in the U.S. as the government lags behind other industrialized countries in tracking and controlling the spread of the disease.

Roll Call correspondent Niels Lesniewski highlighted an April 2009 article from the publication in which Collins was forced to defend her refusal to include pandemic flu funding in an economic stimulus package two months earlier, several months into the Great Recession.

Michael Grunwald of Politico also remembered reporting on the vote:

Democrats warned at the time that the loss of $870 million in pandemic funds from the $787 billion package would result in an inability to effectively fight an infectious disease outbreak—but Collins insisted the funds should not be included in an appropriations bill because they "do not boost our economy."

"Senator Collins went out of her way to stop funds from going to pandemic preparedness, and now Mainers are concerned because of Collins' history of opposing funding for situations exactly like this," said Willy Ritch, executive director of Maine-based grassroots advocacy group 16 Counties Coalition. "We need to tell Senator Collins to stop playing games with our health and vote to protect Maine families."

Others, including Democrat Betsy Sweet, who is running for Collins's Senate seat, echoed the criticism:

The April 2009 article was published as an outbreak of H1N1 began. The outbreak would kill more than 12,000 people in the U.S. before it was declared over the following year.

During the debate over the stimulus bill, Collins was one of three Republican senators planning to vote for the package. As Steven T. Dennis wrote at Roll Call, "Collins wielded enormous influence...and the trio demanded substantial cuts from bills that passed the House and Senate as the price of their support. The flu funding, originally sought by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), was a high-profile casualty, one that Collins herself cited on the Senate floor."

As the H1N1 outbreak began, Obey denounced his colleague's move.

"Whether or not this influenza strain turns out to have pandemic potential, sooner or later some strain will," Obey told the Washington Times at the time. "We are not prepared today. Let's hope we don't need to be." 

On Twitter, Collins's staffer, Annie Clark, pushed back on the discussion about the senator's key role in eliminating the pandemic funding, saying Collins said in 2009 that she simply objected to including the funds in the stimulus package and that funding was passed later that year.

Dan Aibel of the blog Collins Watch called Clark's claim "disingenuous."

"Collins didn't just 'say' the funding should be removed from the stimulus; she made removal of pandemic flu preparedness funding A CONDITION OF HER VOTE," Aibel wrote. "And was quite open about it. This was widely reported at the time."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo