How we got to the brink of another federal shutdown and what it means for Maine

Good morning from Augusta, where the federal government will shut down by midnight if Congress can’t advance a spending bill. The Senate adjourned overnight without having the 60 votes needed to advance a month-long bill passed by the House of Representatives.

The fight between Democrats and Republicans is mainly over protections for young immigrants. Maine’s U.S. senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, support a bipartisan bill to would address immigration, including so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The bill they back would give Dreamers a path to citizenship, put $2.5 billion toward border security and replace a lottery-based immigration program with a merit-based one. But it’s too dovish for many Republicans. Democrats want to see a long-term solution in any budget deal.

Maine’s delegation is evenly split on the House bill. President Donald Trump is supporting the bill passed by House Republicans on Thursday, which included long-term funding for the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program. Collins told reporters on Thursday that she would “reluctantly” support the bill to keep the government open. Democrats are withholding their votes and King said on CNN’s “New Day” that he opposes it, calling continuing resolutions “a terrible way to try and govern.” U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, voted for the House bill and Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, opposed it.

How would a shutdown affect Maine? The most notable effect of the last federal government shutdown in 2013 may have been the closure of Acadia National Park. It’s unclear what would happen this time. An Acadia spokeswoman said Thursday that parks will “remain as accessible as possible,” but rangers and patrols will likely be reduced. Spokespeople for Gov. Paul LePage and his budget office didn’t respond to inquiries on Thursday, but the state laid off 56 employees in its disability determination system whose salaries were federally funded in 2013. Here’s a list of services that were open and closed then, though it could be different this time.

Today in A-town

There’s not a lot going on at the State House today, other than another gathering of people interested in recreational marijuana. The House and Senate are out until next week and the only legislative committee in town today is the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee. That committee is struggling to amend a bill it worked on for much of last year to implement a sales, regulation and taxation system, which was killed by veto in October. The new version of the bill is supposed to pull more support but certain provisions that have been preliminarily accepted, such as a delay on the creation of marijuana social clubs, have already angered some advocates. The Legislature needs to act by next month, when existing law says the state is to have already developed the system. You can listen in to today’s deliberations by clicking here. They start around 9 a.m. with a hearing on a Plan B bill to delay the system until the Legislature can finish its work, which, according to that bill, would be May of this year.

Reading list

  • The Trump administration has upheld a decision by the Obama administration not to let Maine ban soda and candy purchases with food stamps. LePage announced in his weekly radio address that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied Maine’s second application to do so. Maine officials intend to revise and resubmit the request.
  • Damage from the wind storm in October cost Maine’s electricity providers nearly $77 million to repair. Central Maine Power, whose service area was hardest hit, told the Maine Public Utilities Commission its cost was about $69 million and Emera Maine put its total cost at $8.6 million. Some of those totals — including $27 million for CMP — will be recovered with hikes on electricity rates.
  • A new report says Maine’s youth criminal justice system has problems, but so does the national system. The report suggests that public resources would be better spent on community-based services rather than large facilities like Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. The report comes as Long Creek faces criticism from a number of groups about violence and other problems within its walls.
  • Maine has reduced prescriptions of opioid-based medications after a new law passed aiming to do just that. A new report based on data from insurance companies found that prescription claims dropped by 20 percent between 2016 and 2017. In July 2016, a new law spearheaded by LePage put strict limits on the duration and potency of prescriptions on opioid drugs. But overdoses haven’t slowed and doctors say the limits have harmed some patients.

Soundtracks run in my family now

The Daily Brief team admits that the soundtracks we sprinkle in every day in honor or mild criticism of elements of the political world are as much for us as they are for you. We are all music lovers, and the decisions about which songs to include often spur heated debate at DB HQ.

We dedicate soundtracks to ourselves sometimes but it’s rare for others to dedicate them to us. Enter my son. I was cooking what I called a Triple Corn and Friends Chowder for my family during a recent snow storm and my 7-year-old burst into the room and said, “Daddy, here’s the perfect song that should be playing whenever you cook!”

Yay! Here’s my soundtrack!Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. Nick Sambides Jr. contributed. If you’re reading this 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.