Sen. Collins tallies roll call milestone

     WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins made history Thursday when she cast her 6,000th consecutive roll call vote. The fourth-term senior senator from Maine has never missed a vote since taking office in January 1997 — a record that makes her the longest-serving member of the current United States Senate never to have missed a roll call vote.

     “It is a great honor to represent Maine in the United States Senate, and I am deeply grateful for the trust that the people of Maine have placed in me. Public service is a responsibility that I have always taken very seriously,” said Collins. “Voting is a senator’s most important responsibility, and one of my goals has always been to make sure that Maine is represented to the extent that it is humanly possible for me to be present for votes.”

     The senator added, “I realize how fortunate I am to have been blessed with good health and to have avoided emergencies that required my presence.”

     The Caribou native cast her first vote Jan. 22, 1997, when she voted to confirm Madeleine Albright as secretary of State. Her second vote, the same day, was to confirm former Maine Sen. Bill Cohen as secretary of Defense. She was the presiding officer in the Senate Chamber when he was confirmed. Collins had worked for Cohen for nearly 12 years in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

     In addition to never missing a roll call vote, Senator Collins continues to return home to Maine for weekends and during congressional recesses to meet with constituents, visit communities, businesses, and schools throughout the state, and to spend time at her home in Bangor.

     Immediately preceding her 6,000th vote, Senate leaders from both parties including Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), congratulated Collins on this remarkable milestone.

     “What she has done is symbolic of her service to this country and to the state of Maine,” said King. “It’s been mentioned that she sits in the seat of Margaret Chase Smith, one of Maine’s most important leaders of the mid-20th century — and every day that Margaret Chase Smith appeared on the Senate floor, she had in her lapel a red rose. So in order to recognize Senator Collins today, I want to present her with a rose symbolic of her kinship to Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

     “Senator Collins, what an accomplishment. Thank you on behalf of the people of Maine and the people of this country.”

     U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remarked, “I’m not sure surgery, a tsunami, or the most wicked Maine Nor’easter could stop the woman who occupies Margaret Chase Smith’s seat today.”

    “It’s no surprise to me that Susan Collins is such a hard worker,” said Reid. “She started this as a young woman digging potatoes for 30 cents a barrel at her neighbors’ farm in Caribou, Maine … hard work and diligence is her byword.”

     “We want to congratulate her because she is a fierce fighter for Maine, she is absolutely independent, and for her it’s not the other side of the aisle,” said Mikulski. “For her it is not about aisles, it is about building bridges.”

     Collins’ voting streak was inspired by Smith, who did not miss a vote for 13 years until surgery forced to her to do so. Collins surpassed Smith’s record in 2005.