Good morning from Augusta, where U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin announced on Monday that they will vote for the Republican tax plan amid protests at two of the senator’s Maine offices that led to arrests.
The bill is tracking for passage this week. But there is more to watch, particularly because of a promise to Collins from President Donald Trump and House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that she will look to have fulfilled before year’s end.
The Senate could now move to include two Collins-backed health care bills in a year-end spending bill. The Republican tax bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that people have health insurance or face a penalty. That’s expected to increase premiums, so Collins says it should be offset with the passage of bills to restart subsidies helping lower-income people buy coverage and provide $10 billion to states to fund high-risk pools for high-cost patients. Collins told Bloomberg on Monday that she expects those bills to be added to a Senate version of a spending bill to be considered by year’s end. Many House Republicans have balked at these provisions, leading Collins’ critics to say she’s being duped.
Poliquin wouldn’t necessarily vote against a spending bill that included the subsidies, but he told the Bangor Daily News that he considers them a bailout. The congressman from Maine’s 2nd District has stood behind Collins’ contributions to the tax bill, including three amendments that she championed. He told the BDN on Friday that he also supports Collins’ high-risk pool bid. However, he said he wouldn’t support continuing the subsidies as a standalone measure, saying “I don’t think we should bail out insurance companies.” But Poliquin also said that he wouldn’t necessarily vote against a larger spending package that contained them and that he’d have to evaluate the whole plan. That nuanced stance could foreshadow tougher tacks from other House Republicans, but the process will shake out soon.
A PAC is hiring a whole ‘brigade’ for this Maine campaign
A political action committee is hiring operatives to help Republican Eric Brakey unseat independent U.S. Sen. Angus King. Protect Freedom PAC is hiring an unknown number of campaign operatives for the Republican state senator’s uphill campaign against King, offering full-time salaries and housing. According to Federal Election Commission filings, the Virginia-based PAC hasn’t raised any money yet that it has had to report. It was founded by Elizabeth Tate, who has supported U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and his father, Ron Paul, who ran for president in 2008 and 2012. Brakey got his political start as a Ron Paul operative. We’ll watch her operations in Maine, as well as the activities of the so-called “Brakey Brigade.”
- An anonymous conservative ‘news’ site made an impact in this month’s Lewiston mayoral election. Two such sites have popped up in the past year, but it was the Maine Examiner that may have derailed the first political campaign. It published emails in which Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin called certain Lewiston residents “a bunch of racists” after a day of canvassing. The site also published other emails and Chin went on to lose the election by a razor thin margin against Shane Bouchard.
- An organization that is suing the LePage administration says it will have to shut down next year because the state is withholding federal funding. The executive director of Coastal Counties Workforce, told a judge in U.S. District Court in Portland on Monday that his organization has already curtailed operations and would close in June unless the state releases $8 million in federal grants from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for job training.
- Joe Biden is coming to Portland in January. The former Democratic vice president announced the Jan. 31 visit at Merrill Auditorium as part of a national “American Promise Tour.” The tour promotes a new memoir by Biden. He may run for president in 2020.
- Former workers for the shuttered Great Northern Paper Co. in Millinocket and East Millinocket aren’t happy. They say the pension checks they’ve just begun receiving are “a small fraction” of what they were promised when they started working for the company, which filed for bankruptcy in 2003.
This is how Christmas is supposed to be
I always put money in the Salvation Army kettle, I make small donations year-round when the neighborhood kids come calling and when at restaurants, I usually tip closer to 25 percent than 15 percent. Those are things many of us do but they pale in comparison to what a three men did Saturday when they left a $500 tip on a $38 bill at Denny’s in Ellsworth.
“He literally saved Christmas for my children and I,” said Trisha Murphy of Sullivan, a single mother who is studying to be a certified nursing assistant. “Good people do still exist. Yesterday was the day I met Santa.”
There are a lot of stories like this, and that warm our hearts here at the Daily Brief. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
The Daily Brief will be a little less daily through the new year. We’re splitting up some precious year-end vacation time, so you’ll see us on Tuesdays and Thursdays until Jan. 2, when we will return to the daily schedule. Here’s a bonus soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd. 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.