Can Pope Francis help Congress get along, pass a budget?

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re on the downslope from a whirlwind of a day in the political realm. 

OPEGA’s Good Will-Hinckley report, Chellie Pingree’s separation from Donald Sussman and Susan Collins making a decision against the Iran nuclear deal dominated the headlines, which you can peruse below in the reading list. 

I suspect most of the attention in the next few weeks will be focused on Congress, which returned to Washington on Tuesday to a deadline-driven agenda. 

Debate began Tuesday on President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, though barring any surprises he has the support he needs to push it through. However, votes on that aren’t expected for perhaps a few weeks and — as we’ve seen — anything can happen. 

The big elephant in the room for Congress is the federal budget, which expires Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. The debate will be around a stop-gap budget bill to keep the government running, but previous decisions will come to the fore. The issues are familiar: Will there be an agreement on the debt ceiling? Can we avoid auto-pilot budget cuts known as sequestration that have been looming since 2011? Can we finally pass a highway budget?

As if those issues aren’t tough enough, it is widely expected that Republicans will dig in their heels in budget negotiations when they try to force deep cuts to government funding for Planned Parenthood. The organization has been at the center of controversy following the release of secretly recorded videos that raised questions about how the organization handles research materials from aborted fetuses. 

There are also a range of tax breaks, a defense policy bill and a spending measure involving the Federal Aviation Administration’s operations. 

However, if there’s one thing you don’t miss from Capitol Hill this fall, it’s Pope Francis’ historic planned Sept. 24 visit to Washington and address to Congress.

Cain campaign hires Hascall

Democratic former state Sen. Emily Cain of Orono has named a campaign manager for her bid to unseat first-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican. Cain, who lost to Poliquin in 2014, has been campaigning for a rematch since early this year.

This week, Cain announced that she has named Corey Hascall as her campaign manager. Hascall is a campaign veteran, having worked for Democrats on a congressional campaigns, for a working waterfront referendum in 2005 and against casinos in 2003. Hascall has also helped with numerous legislative and municipal elections, according to a written statement from Cain’s campaign.

Hascall, who said the Cain-Poliquin contest is the most important issue that will face voters in 2016, is a life-long Mainer who was raised in South Portland and graduated from the University of Southern Maine and the Maine Development Foundation’s Leadership Maine Phi Class.

Before Cain and Hascall can level their sights on Poliquin, there’s a primary to think about. Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci announced in July that he will challenge Cain for the Democrats’ nomination.

If you’re interested in more about that race, check out this BDN preview from last month. 

Reading list

President Obama says Deflategate proves we need unions

I thought President Obama was more of a fan of basketball than football. In the latter case, I’d expect him to be more of a Chicago Bears fan than a New England Patriots pan. But like any good politician, he’ll say anything to make a point.

At a union rally in Boston on Monday, Obama brought up Tom Brady’s recent battle with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over soft footballs the Patriots used in the AFC Championship Game in January. Brady was first suspended for four games by Goodell, then had the suspension overturned by a U.S. District Court judge, who said Brady’s union rights had been violated.

“Even Tom Brady is glad he belongs to a union,” said Obama, according to “They had his back. And if Brady needs a union, we definitely need unions.”

As with Deflategate, there is bound to be some disagreement about that. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.