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ACA repeal foe, high drug prices adversary Susan Collins to stay in Senate

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who has been the bane of her party's efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is staying put on Capitol Hill, she revealed during an Oct. 13 breakfast speech in her home state of Maine.

Collins had been mulling over a Maine gubernatorial run next year, but said she has decided against it.

Collins, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, said that shortly after she was re-elected for the third time in 2014, many residents in her state began urging her to consider running for governor.

"The hands-on nature of the governor's job is very appealing to me," Collins said. "I would love being in Maine full time where most of my family and so many of my friends live."

But she said she wants to "continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our economy, help our hard-working families, improve our healthcare system, and bring peace and stability to a violent and troubled world" — declaring the best place to do that is in the Senate.

"I am a congenital optimist, and I continue to believe that Congress can — and will — be more productive," Collins said.

The Maine senator, who is one of 21 women in the Senate, is best known in recent months for her opposition to Senate bills to repeal the ACA, including the last effort authored by her Republican colleagues Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

She also helped bring down three efforts in July to dismantle the ACA.

Collins has urged her colleagues in the Senate to back a bipartisan effort by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to put short-term ACA fixes in place to stabilize the individual insurance markets.

When Collins was chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, she led an extensive, bipartisan investigation into the extreme spikes in the prices of certain prescription drugs — ranging from Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. medications that help save people experiencing heart failure to Mylan NV's emergency anaphylaxis medicine EpiPen.

Collins coauthored a bipartisan bill with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri to promote generic competition to help lower the cost of prescription drugs. The bill was enacted as part of the renewal of the legislation authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to collect user fees from industry.

"But more work remains to be done," Collins said.

Alexander and Murray have reconvened hearings to scrutinize drug prices, with the next hearing taking place Oct. 17.