Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins gave her blessing to fellow Senate Republicans’ tax bill on Friday and progressives were angry over the weekend.
But she signaled on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that her party doesn’t necessarily have her vote on the final tax product, which will emerge from negotiations between Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives, saying she’ll wait to “see what comes out.”
Collins’ support may depend on promises that she has secured from Republican leaders, but they may not be able to make those guarantees. Three Collins amendments were included in the bill that passed the Senate along party lines early Saturday, including a property tax deduction. The Maine senator has already secured promises from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that two bills aimed at stabilizing the Affordable Care Act will also pass. Collins also has promises from McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, that the bill won’t trigger automatic Medicare cuts. But the House is a different beast than the Senate and conservatives there have balked at Collins-backed changes to health care law.
The senator was also grilled on debt estimates on Sunday, but she mostly brushed them aside and cited uncertainty. “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd hit Collins with a montage of her past statements of concern about the national debt. The conservative Tax Foundation says the Senate plan will increase the national debt by $516 billion over 10 years after economic growth. That’s lower than the $1 trillion price tag estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation. But Collins says even an uptick in growth would erase that gap, that she’s talked to others who think it will stimulate more growth and that economists “just don’t agree on this.”
Her Bangor office will be protested by a progressive group on Monday. Mainers For Accountable Leadership, a progressive group that has protested Collins often in the past, will protest Collins at her Harlow Street office at 1 p.m., saying in a news release that it is “disappointed” in her vote. But there’s a lot more to be decided before this tax plan is final.
Two new candidates join Maine’s 2018 gubernatorial race
There are now 23 people in the field after two new longshots joined the race to replace Gov. Paul LePage. Democrat Steve DeAngelis and independent Ken Capron filed papers to with the Maine Ethics Commission to run for governor last week. DeAngelis of Readfield is a longtime teacher at Maranacook High School. Capron, a former Republican legislative candidate from Portland (and a loyal Daily Brief reader), runs MemoryWorks, a group supporting people caring for others who have dementia. Both will try to qualify for Clean Election funding.
- Collins says Trump’s team should not have contacted the Russians over sanctions. Among her other comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which you read about above, Collins said Obama-era sanctions shouldn’t have been discussed between Trump and the Russians but the fact that they did doesn’t prove there was collusion. Collins sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing its own probe into Russian interference in the election.
- Being a principal is tough in Maine. Only about half of all of them survive their position for more than five years. Stressful days, long hours and the difficulty of dealing with student problems are cited as reasons for high turnover at the position, according to experts. The fact that principals don’t stay in their positions long threatens outcomes for students.
- The Department of Health and Human Services is renewing a nutrition program it previously wanted to gut. The state is receiving $3.9 million for 2018 in the SNAP-Ed program, which pays for cooking classes, grocery store field trips and other activities aimed at helping food stamp recipients and other learn to cook and eat nutritiously on a tight budget. After saying last year it wanted to dismantle the program, DHHS has issued a request for proposals to continue it.
Not so super
Sunday night’s full moon was the only so-called “supermoon” of 2017, giving TV weather forecasters something to chatter about and social media a respite from Russia, Trump and tax bill jockeying.
To me, it just looked bigger than usual. But there is a scientific explanation.
“A supermoon happens when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth in its orbit. Supermoons make the moon appear a little brighter and closer than normal, although the difference is hard to spot with the naked eye,” according to space.com.
But Sunday’s big ball in the sky failed to impress celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, who tweeted that supermoons don’t deserve the “super” title and that calling them “super” insults truly super things like supernovas, Superman and Super Mario Bros.
Lighten up, Neil. Here’s your soundtrack. — Robert Long
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.