King still undecided on Gorsuch, but says filibuster not ‘out of line’

Good morning from Augusta, where we’ll have a busy week as action in the Maine Legislature ramps up and be looking to Washington, D.C., where Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, is expected to get a Senate vote this week.

The Mainer to watch is independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, who hasn’t said how he’ll vote. Democratic leaders plan to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination and breaking that requires 60 votes that majority Republicans likely won’t have. However, they could amend rules to prevent a filibuster, so Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed one way or the other.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, came out in favor of Trump’s nominee last week, calling Gorsuch “unquestionably qualified” and imploring Democrats to not filibuster, saying “playing politics with judicial nominees is profoundly damaging to the Senate’s reputation and stature.”

Of course, politics were played by Republicans on the high court last year, when Merrick Garland, who was former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat vacated after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, was denied a hearing and vote in the Senate with Republicans arguing that the new president should make the pick. (Collins, a moderate, backed a vote on Garland.)

King, who caucuses with Democrats, hasn’t explicitly endorsed their strategy on Gorsuch, but he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Garland got “the granddaddy of all filibusters” and that “a 60-vote requirement for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court doesn’t strike me as out of line with Senate tradition.”

King usually isn’t a party to obstruction and voted for 12 of Trump’s 18 Cabinet nominees. But he made a process-oriented case for the filibuster, saying the lifetime high court appointment is important enough to “have some level of buy-in from both parties.”

He also said he’ll announce his stance on Gorsuch on Tuesday or Wednesday. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The road to a mining compromise might be bumpier than we thought. Last week we reported in the Daily Brief that according to the Republican co-chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, support was coalescing around a bill from Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Brunswick, to add new restrictions to open-pit mining in Maine, which is the subject of another bill that includes a long list of rules proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (and a few bills to ban mining altogether). Carson responded to inquiries from the BDN over the weekend to say he is planning to offer amendments to his bill today that would ban open pit mining and wet mine waste management, including tailings ponds — areas where waterborne mining refuse is pumped to allow solids to separate from water. “This is a serious issue so we need to make the bill comprehensive and get it right,” wrote Carson. “I am encouraged at this point.” Republican Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, who co-chairs the committee, said this morning he also remains hopeful that a compromise is in the offing. Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins
  • Maine workers’ compensation costs will plummet $9.5 million. Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa announced that he has approved the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc’s 2017 lost cost for Maine, which proposed a premium decrease of 4.3 percent. The new rates, which went into effect on Saturday, could save Maine businesses some $9.5 million. Cioppa credited the drop to successful efforts by Maine employers and employees to improve safety in the workplace. — Christopher Cousins
  • Hasson confirmed as education commissioner. Robert G. Hasson Jr. was confirmed last week in a unanimous vote in the Senate. As you read in Daily Brief on Thursday, it turned out to be just a formality. — Christopher Cousins

Today in A-town

The House and Senate are off until Tuesday but committees are at full throttle.

Check out today’s full committee schedule by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

The last-place Yankees’ home state wants baseball to be its official sport

If you’re a fan of Red Sox, spring, warmer weather or any combination of those, you’ll like this item. If you’re a fan of more winter and more snow even though it’s April, well, you should know better. If you’re a fan of the Yankees, unsubscribe or prepare to be annoyed.

More powerful that a date on a calendar when it comes to the arrival of spring is the first pitch in a regular-season Boston Red Sox game, which is scheduled for just after 2 p.m. today at Fenway Park.

More good news: the New York Yankees are already in last place in the American League East following their loss on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Rays. This proves how misguided a New York state legislator is for proposing to make baseball the Empire State’s official sport. Sure, the Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown but we’re assuming that is just because real estate prices there were low when it was created. Or a myth.

If New York needs a sport to call its own, we suggest the one in which all the kids are throwing water bottles up in the air with hopes they land upright. We don’t think that one’s taken. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.