Collins retreats from claim that GOP tax plan will ‘lower the debt’

Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins continues to face fallout from her Saturday vote for Senate Republicans’ tax plan. Five protesters representing progressive groups were arrested for trespassing in Collins’ Bangor office on Monday evening.

But there’s a more nuanced challenge to her justification for the vote. A columnist found that economists cited by Collins are less certain about the impact than she made it seem in a Sunday interview. She has also asked for more money in a related health care bill.

Collins said on Sunday that the bill will ‘lower the debt.’ Estimates say the opposite. Her office is saying that she isn’t guaranteeing that. The Maine senator’s interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” was under the microscope on Monday. Host Chuck Todd confronted her with three estimates saying the bill would increase the federal deficit. She responded that growth “produces more revenue and that will help to offset this tax cut and actually lower the debt.” Todd cited a study estimating a $516 billion debt increase over 10 years after growth and Collins named three economists who “will tell you otherwise.” The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin contacted two of them, who said they were just arguing that the bill would produce growth that partially offsets costs. A Collins spokeswoman told Rubin that the senator “did not mean to state definitively that the tax cut would pay for itself,” but that it “potentially” could.

She also has asked to double the funding in a health care proposal that she has said is key to her vote on the tax package. Collins has promises from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to offset the tax bill’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate with the passage of two other bills. One is sponsored by Collins and would provide federal funding for reinsurance programs to help states cover high-cost patients. The Hill reported on Monday that she has doubled her funding request from $4.5 billion over two years to $10 billion. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has said previously that a program of that larger size could offset premium impacts from the mandate’s repeal. But there could be Republican resistance to this idea as the House of Representatives and Senate reconcile their tax plans and create a final one.

Partisan battle heats up in Lewiston’s ‘nonpartisan’ mayoral race

The candidates are running a lower-key battle than the last race in Maine’s second-largest city, but the parties are getting louder. Ben Chin, an organizer for the progressive Maine People’s Alliance, and City Councilor Shane Bouchard are vying for Lewiston’s open mayoral seat in a Dec. 12 runoff. Between the November election and Nov. 28, Chin has raised just over $3,800 from donors giving $100 or less. Bouchard has raised just under $3,100 with almost all of it coming from himself. Chin’s campaign is far lower-key than his losing $90,000 fight against Mayor Robert Macdonald in 2015. But Maine’s two major political parties are similarly involved. The Maine Democratic Party spent nearly $2,200 to help Chin during the same period and the Maine Republican Party urged supporters to help Bouchard in a Tuesday fundraising email, painting Chin as a “liberal extremist.”

Reading list

  • U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, will decide by Jan. 1 on whether to run for governor in 2018. At an event on Monday, the five-term congresswoman said she’s being encouraged to run for the Blaine House and that the prospect of working on issues important to Maine in the state appeals to her. If she decides to run, she would move to the top of what is currently a 10-person Democratic primary field and create a scramble among Democrats for the party’s nomination in the 1st District, which has been a safe Democratic seat that would become more vulnerable without an incumbent.
  • Gov. Paul LePage awaits the results of an Oxford County investigation of Sheriff Wayne Gallant. The Maine Constitution stipulates that a governor can remove a sheriff from office as a result of a complaint. Gallant, who has admitted to sending a lewd photo of himself in uniform from his office, denies allegations that he sought sex from employees. LePage told Maine Public’s Mal Leary on Monday that Gallant should resign if the allegations are true but that his office has received nothing on the matter.
  • The second “stealth” destroyer being built at Bath Iron Works started sea trials Monday. The future USS Michael Monsoor headed down the Kennebec River and out to sea for an initial series of systems and operations tests. The Navy chose to build only three Zumwalt-class destroyers — all at BIW — amid cost spikes and questions about how the vessels would best be used in the fleet.
  • A Maine woman pleaded guilty to manslaughter after she broke into a 72-year-old’s home, triggering a fatal heart attack. Tara Shibles, 37, of Thorndike was sentenced to six years in prison, with all but 10 months suspended. While drunk, she broke into the Burnham home of Joyce Wood, who died after a frantic 911 call. Police found Shibles asleep in Wood’s bed when they arrived. Monday’s sentencing hearing mixed details of the home invasion with statements from Wood’s family.

A holiday wish fulfilled

We at Daily Brief try to shy away from product endorsements and free advertising, but we are going to make an exception this holiday season. We’re talking ourselves into it because it’s a locally owned business and … well … beer.

Craft Beer Cellar in beautiful downtown Gardiner sold out of its beer Advent calendars, which seem so much better than the ones that are packed with milk chocolate that tastes like melted plastic. The store now offers a “12 Beers of Christmas” package.

For the adult in your life who has everything and understands the true meaning of wassail, it seems like a winner. But in the spirit of celebrating responsibly, stick to the one-per-day regimen. We don’t want any lords a’ stumbling. Here’s your soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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.

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.