Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine received a hero's welcome when she returned to her home state after shooting down the Republican effort to repeal and replace the previous administration's Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare." The Maine senator has repeatedly called for bipartisan collaboration to reform the U.S. health care system.
On July 27, Collins and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska bucked their Republican colleagues' pressure and voted against a so-called skinny repeal of the ACA. The last-ditch effort to dismantle the health care law was effectively ended when Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona also voted against the bill. At least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans needed to vote in favor of the legislation for it to advance.
On July 28, Collins arrived back to her home in Bangor, Maine. When her plane touched down and the GOP senator entered the airport waiting area, the crowd erupted in applause.
"This is true: Susan Collins on our plane to Bangor, gets applause as she passes through Bangor airport waiting area," tweeted out a witness on the scene.
On July 30, Collins described her reception in Bangor as a highlight in her political career.
"It really was extraordinary, heartwarming and affirming," Collins told CNN. "I got off the plane and there was a large group of outbound passengers, none of whom I happen to know, and spontaneously some of them started applauding and then virtually all of them started to applaud."
The Maine senator added "I've never had that happen in the 20 years that I've been privileged to serve in the Senate."
Not everyone was giving Collins a slap on the back for her vote against the GOP repeal of the ACA. Following the legislative defeat, President Donald Trump took to social media to blast Collins, McCain and Murkowski.
"3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down," Trump tweeted out. "As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal."
Collins had firmly been against all of the Republican proposals to repeal or replace the ACA, citing her concerns that her party's alternatives would not sufficiently address the health care needs of her constituents. The Maine senator also criticized all of the GOP proposals' defunding of Planned Parenthood and the partisan process of crafting the legislation.
"We're dealing with an issue that affects millions of Americans and one-sixth of our economy, and we need to approach reforms in a very careful way," Collins said following her vote against the "skinny repeal." "That means going through the regular process of committee hearings... and vetting proposals with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
Collins concluded "Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, and we must work together to put together a bipartisan bill that fixes the flaws in the ACA and works for all Americans."
While McCain's vote against skinny bill generated the most attention, Collins had been at the forefront of opposing her own party's replacement plans.
"The first 'no' vote from a Republican was Susan Collins," independent Sen. Angus King of Maine told the Portland Press Herald. "That is really hard. The pressure she withstood was really astonishing."
Collins also had political capital to spare. A Morning Consult survey released July 11 found that Collins was the seventh most popular senator in the nation, with 65 percent of her constituents approving of her job performance and only 26 percent disapproving.