Maine congressional delegation eager to review Iran nuclear deal

Good morning from Augusta, where the holding pattern until Thursday’s meeting of the Legislature continues. 

Chatter in the halls is still dominated by the ongoing dispute over more than 70 bills languishing on Gov. Paul LePage’s desk — legislation that Democrats say have now become law, but LePage says have not. 

The issue seems destined for the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. LePage indicated yesterday that he may not seek the court’s opinion until January. The focus has been on LePage, but the Legislature is also allowed to seek such an opinion. However, in interviews yesterday, Democrats would not say they’d do it. 

That means the fundamental government question of whether a bill has become law could stay unanswered for months. It’s not a purely academic question, either: Some of the bills in question are emergency legislation, meaning that if they are law, the governor should already be enforcing them — something he’s said he won’t do. The rest will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, a date that’s on track to come well before January. 

Until then, the rest of us will have to wait and see. We’ll be watching. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

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Pingree, King welcome Obama’s nuclear deterrent deal with Iran

Earlier this morning, President Barack Obama announced that more than a decade of negotiations had finally borne fruit as a six-nation coalition led by the United States reached a nuclear deal with Iran.

Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the U.S., European Union and United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.

Both Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, face criticism at home from more hawkish opponents who are distrustful of deals with Iran or the U.S. respectively.

Congress has pledged to examine the details of the deal (you can read its full text here) and many Republicans are pushing for a vote to block the deal entirely. Obama has pledged to veto any legislation that would prevent the deal from being enforced.

For now, two members of Maine’s Congressional delegation offered a calm but welcoming response to the announced deal.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st Congressional District, said:

“The best way to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is through a comprehensive, international agreement like this one.  We will get a chance to talk about the details in the days ahead, but I hope my colleagues in Congress don’t let partisan politics stand in the way of approving what could be a historic deal to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Here’s the response from U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent:

“I welcome the announcement that the United States and its negotiating partners have reached an agreement with Iran, and I look forward to thoroughly examining the details to determine whether or not the deal contains the necessary provisions to ensure that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons capability. As I have long said, this deal cannot be based on trust. It must be based on strict enforcement and verification provisions, and a responsible review of the deal by Congress is a critical part of that process. It’s now time for Congress to step up and analyze this agreement on its merits to see if it meets the high standards necessary to be successful.”

The other half of Maine’s delegation — Republicans Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin — have not yet released formal statements about the deal.

Collins has sought further congressional oversight of the nuclear talks, but has been less antagonistic toward the president’s diplomatic effort than many of her colleagues.

She criticized Obama in November for extending an interim agreement with Iran, which lifted some sanctions while negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program continued. She also voted in March for a measure that would require Senate approval before any deal could be finalized, though the effort failed.

But she was also one of seven Republican senators in March who balked at her caucus’ effort to derail the talks with a formal letter to leaders in Tehran. At the time, Collins said it was inappropriate for the Senate GOP to circumvent the president and State Secretary John Kerry.

Poliquin has previously called for a congressional review of the deal.

“I believe that any time our government negotiates deals of this magnitude with foreign countries, the American people and Congress must be able to review any and all details of an agreement,” he said in May. — Mario Moretto.

UPDATE: Here is further reporting on the reactions from Maine’s congressional delegation, including fresh responses from Collins and Poliquin. — Mario Moretto.

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A chicken-egg situation

My name is Mario Moretto, and I’m addicted to my smartphone.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m definitely among the 40 percent of respondents to a recent corporate survey who said they check their phones “constantly” throughout the day.

I often blame work. “I’m a journalist,” I’ll often say. “I need to constantly check email and social media to keep my finger on the pulse.” My job is definitely part of it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also a little more personal. I love being up-to-speed on everything; I love being constantly in touch with pretty much everyone I know; I love being able to get a quick answer to questions that come up in conversation with my friends.

All this is to say that I’m a big fan of technology. But even I sort of bristled at the idea of using smart tech to wean ourselves off of … smart tech.

My colleague Erin Rhoda drew my attention to this phenomena. Apparently there are so many people who want to break free from their smartphones that tech companies are selling apps and gadgets to help you forget your other gadgets.

Seems like trying to kick a cake addiction by buying doughnuts, but hey … whatever works, man. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.