Collin's for her part disputes that the money would have helped:
's office dismissed the stimulus-linked criticism as "blatantly false and politically motivated," and claimed that she's long been a leader on pandemic flu preparedness as part of her work to fight bioterrorism in the Senate. Plus, as Collins' communications director, Kevin Kelley, wrote me in an email: "There is no evidence that federal efforts to address the swine flu outbreak have been hampered by a lack of funds," today.
But when Collins' spokesman goes on to explain what the government could be doing differently to prepare itself for the outbreak, the tone suddenly changes. "Senator Collins does, however, believe that it is a problem that the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services still do not have top positions filled," Kelley said. "She hopes the Senate will move promptly to confirm Governor Sebelius for HHS Secretary." So after pushing back against her liberal critics, Collins explicitly puts herself to the left of her GOP colleagues who have been trying to obstruct Sebelius's nomination. At the least, Collins hasn't given up on trying to redeem herself as a genuine centrist.
Even if this is the case, pandemic spending seems pretty important, yet Collin's played politics with its appropriation. More broadly, this illustrates a more general problem with theose who crusade against government "waste". Whenever crusaders identify programs that should be cut, the programs don't seems so useless. An example is when Bobby Jindal took a whack at volcano monitoring. Isn't that self evidently useful? Jon Chait pointed out a pattern of this during the McCain campaign.
No one would dispute that some of our money is wasted by the government, but I wish the "anti-pork" crusaders would identify the real wastes (agribusiness subsidies and useless military projects, to name two) and stop hamstringing useful spending.