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Democrats avoid a U-turn on defense after Collins defends Trump’s aggressive national security policy

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., held up to each other late Tuesday night in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. It was the latest example of a dialogue they’ve shared over the years.

“Keep fighting,” Jones, the former U.S. attorney turned senator, told Collins, the 80-year-old member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, while they waited to go upstairs.

“Stay with it,” Collins replied.

Collins and Jones were among the first members of the new freshman class to bring the phrase “when they speak, everybody listens” to their leadership — and the Senate — earlier this summer when they urged Democrats to join them in authorizing a select committee to investigate President Trump.

They were echoing something the Marquis de Lafayette once said to President Andrew Jackson: “A word is so small in the immense language of war, but a word speaks so far.”

But there was an added twist to this fight this time: Jones joined Collins this summer, as Trump imposed tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports. “If the administration moved to a national security justification for tariffs, but we didn’t hear anything from the Department of Defense about this, what were we doing,” Collins asked him then.

But neither senator, of course, feels that way any more. “This is a shame, and I think you’re right to criticize him for taking such a step,” Collins told Jones this week as they waited for cameras to swarm them.

Just as Jones hoped, the call for a special committee to look into Trump’s leadership just kept growing: Then-Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said it on Sunday, echoing the words of Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., before her.