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Critics remember Susan Collins’ insistence pandemic flu funding be cut from 2009 stimulus package

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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.

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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.”

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“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:

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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.

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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.”

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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.”


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Stephen Colbert tries to dissect a bizarre conspiracy theory about Andrew Cuomo’s nipple ring

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"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert unpacked the latest conspiracy theory from those bored Americans socially isolating in their homes.

This week, while wearing a white collared shirt with the disaster relief seal on it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was photographed in a way that made people speculate about whether his nipples are pierced.

https://twitter.com/alexjs85/status/1244726770974236672

While the governor's office has denied the New York leader installed the barbell, it was a question Colbert felt was important to discuss.

"Ah-hah!" Colbert exclaimed. "A classic nipple mystery! Just like 'Man-boob on the Orient Express! or 'The Talented Mister Nippley!' I promise I'm not making this up. I kind of wish I was. But internet sleuths are examining this picture of Cuomo that appears to show an outline of something that may or may not be a nipple barbell."

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New evidence shows Trump—who says he knew Covid-19 was ‘going to be horrible’—allowed exports of crucial supplies to continue

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While countries in Europe and Asia spent the first several weeks of the year preparing their healthcare systems and populations for the coronavirus outbreak by stockpiling crucial medical supplies, the Trump administration spent that same time sending dozens of medical shipments overseas as President Donald Trump denied the coronavirus would have much of an impact on the United States.

As The Intercept reported Wednesday, while the new coronavirus ravaged countries including China, Italy, and Iran in February and early March, U.S. manufacturers were sending large shipments of respirators, ventilators, and protective medical equipment to Germany, Belgium, and Japan.

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Trump ignored White House economists’ warning of devastating impact of pandemic months ago: report

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White House economists released a study last year that warned a pandemic could kill 500,000 people and devastate the economy months before the coronavirus outbreak, but top officials and the president appear to have ignored their warning.

A study by the Council of Economic Advisers ordered by the National Security Council predicted that a pandemic similar to the 1918 Spanish flu or the 2009 swine flu could lead to a half-million deaths and cost the economy as much as $3.8 trillion.

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