Good morning from Augusta. The U.S. Senate is scheduled to convene this morning to consider President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, so we are expecting to soon hear where the undecided Sen. Susan Collins stands on him.
The centrist Republican from Maine is one of four undecided senators who could swing the nomination, which became uncertain after California professor Christine Blasey Ford went public in September with allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. Two other women made similar allegations and he denies all of them.
Collins will decide soon, but she hadn’t at the Daily Brief’s deadline. For now, we’ll update you on yesterday’s developments on the nomination and what they could mean.
Collins finished reading FBI interviews on the Kavanaugh allegations on Thursday, but indications are that the report doesn’t say much that we don’t know already. The Maine senator has been hunkered down for much of the week and only emerged on Wednesday and Thursday to make brief utterances that nevertheless made headlines and nudged speculation.
On Wednesday, she called Trump’s mocking of Ford at a rally “just plain wrong.” On Thursday, she came out of a briefing on the FBI’s new report on the Kavanaugh allegations to say the review “appears to be very thorough.” Her spokeswoman said Collins finished reading those interviews around 6:15 p.m. yesterday.
Collins was one of three undecided Republicans — alongside Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — who forced Trump to re-open Kavanaugh’s FBI vetting process after the Senate hearing where Ford and Kavanaugh testified, calling it “a sensible agreement.”
But that report is confidential, so we can’t see it as senators parse what it says in the open. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in a Thursday statement that it “does not confirm or contradict Judge Kavanaugh’s statements, nor does it undermine the credible testimony of Dr. Ford.”
That led King to say that he made his Kavanaugh decision based on the judge’s record, essentially putting him back at the position he held when he announced opposition to Kavanaugh before allegations emerged. Around that time, we thought Collins looked like a yes.
Collins was facing new pressure on Thursday over her vote and she’ll face more today. Every day, there seems to be new letters to Collins or protests outside of her offices in Maine and Washington, D.C. Yesterday, she got a letter from more than 100 former Maine law clerks urging her to oppose Kavanaugh.
A group organizing opposition to Kavanaugh said 150 Mainers went to the nation’s capital to protest the nomination. Kavanaugh wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that seemed aimed at quelling concerns about his judicial temperament, headlined “I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge.”
The reaction to Collins’ decision — one way or the other — will be massive. You can watch today’s Senate proceedings with us today here. Initial votes are set for later this morning.
Blaine House hopefuls wrap up two days of debates
The people who want to succeed LePage spent a lot of time on stage together since Wednesday morning. The four candidates for governor wrapped up four debates in two days with a forum for people in the fishing industry on Thursday in Rockland. Democrat Janet Mills, Republican Shawn Moody and independents Alan Caron and Terry Hayes agreed on a few things, including ensuring that access to a working waterfront should be prioritized and protected.
If access was up for debate or threatened, Moody even offered to attend municipal Planning Board meetings as governor to advocate on behalf of fishermen, who he referred to as a “bunch of independent cusses.”
Moody and Caron also called for the state’s vocational and career ed tech programs to be reformed as a way to bolster the industry and Maine’s lagging workforce. In conjunction, Caron proposed offering a free two-year free higher education program to Mainers who agreed to enter the state’s workforce afterward.
All four felt similarly in favor of but cautious about harnessing renewable wind energy in the Gulf of Maine, a prickly topic that has rankled some fishermen in recent years and threatened access to fishing waters.
“The role of the fishing industry is one of partnership with this potential resources. I think the fishing industry should be at the table,” Mills assured.
As for characteristics that make each of them qualified, they’re good listeners, they said.
“I’ve been majoring in Maine for 30 years, and this is my capstone project,” Hayes said. “I’m honest, I’m going to tell you the truth even when it may not reflect best on me, but I’m also going to listen, to learn and to lead.” And, she promised, “I will read all your emails.”
The debate bandwagon will hit most corners of the state and will take to the airwaves later this month. The Bangor Daily News is one of several co-sponsors of a televised Oct. 23 gubernatorial debate in the ballroom of the Cross Insurance Arena in Bangor. It’ll be aired live on Bangor ABC and Fox affiliate WVII. You can RSVP for the event through AARP Maine’s website. Submit suggested questions by emailing email@example.com. We also will collaborate with WGME for the final televised debate of the governor’s race on Nov. 1.
LePage’s wind commission had its first meeting
The wind power panel didn’t give notice of its first meeting and is exempt from public access laws, but the governor’s office said future meetings will be public. In January, Gov. Paul LePage issued an executive order that said he would place a moratorium on new wind turbine permits across most of the state and created the Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission to study turbines’ impact on Maine’s environment and economy.
This was challenged by environmentalists who noted that state law governs turbine permitting. But it had limited effect since there were no new applications for permits before the state then and a lawsuit against LePage from wind advocates over the move was dismissed by a judge in July after the administration admitted that it wasn’t enforcing the order.
LePage’s order exempted the panel from Maine’s public access laws, allowing it to meet in secret without advance notice. They did that on Thursday, though LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz later emailed reporters to say it had met for the first time, released a list of members and said that the Republican governor will open future meetings to be public.
Jeremy Payne, the executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, which sued LePage, said on Friday that the panel is a one-sided “charade” that is intended to “send a signal to the market generally that Maine is not open to clean energy business.”
- The company that wants to run a transmission line to deliver Canadian hydro power to Massachusetts has started running ads. Central Maine Power late last week started peppering the airwaves with an ad touting the benefits to Maine of the $950 million project, known as New England Clean Energy Connect, or NECEC. The ad touts benefits CMP cites for the project, including creating 1,700 new jobs, broadband access and more than $18 million in increased property taxes annually to communities hosting the power lines. Meanwhile, opponents are amping up with a steady flow of written arguments against the project in preparation for a series of regulatory hearings, and Alna recently became the third small town, following Caratunk and West Forks plantation, to withdraw its support for the project.
- Fishermen and regulators face a stark choice on Maine shrimp. They could continue to ban the harvest of Maine shrimp for the sixth consecutive year in hopes that a stock that has shown little sign of rebounding would revive. Or they could allow a limited season this year, knowing that it could decimate the shrimp population to such a degree that it would never recover. Researchers and policymakers sorted through those unappealing choices Thursday as The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission presented a draft of its Northern Shrimp 2018 Stock Assessment Report.
- Lots of Americans — including Mainers — like beer. Data from the U.S. Census and industry sources show that the brewery-building boom nationally and in Maine continues with gusto. All 50 states saw an increase in the number of breweries between 2012 and 2016, according to the most recent data available. In those five years, the number of breweries nationwide more than tripled from 880 to 2,802. More recent numbers from the Maine Brewers’ Guild show that the growth of craft brewers in the state is up almost 40 percent since January 2017, from 93 then to 130 now.
Let there be peace
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to Nadia Murar of Iraq and Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo for their work to support sexual assault survivors and in the effort to reduce human trafficking and sexual violence — especially in war zones.
They were chosen from among more than 330 nominees, and their stories are compelling. The BBC reports that Murad, 25, “endured three months as a sex slave at the hands of Islamic State militants. She was bought and sold several times and subjected to sexual and physical abuse during her captivity. She became an activist for the Yazidi people after escaping in November 2014, campaigning to help put an end to human trafficking and calling on the world to take a tougher line on rape as a weapon of war.”
Mukwege, 63, has treated more than 30,000 rape victims, mostly in war-ravaged regions of Africa.
Their accomplishments speak for themselves. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long
We have to work on Monday, but most state, federal and municipal employees have the day off. So in their honor, we will not publish Daily Brief on Monday unless something earth-shattering happens. We plan to return Tuesday, Oct. 9.
If you will be celebrating Columbus Day, here is your soundtrack.
If you are observing Indigenous Peoples Day, here is your soundtrack.
If you have to work like us, here is your soundtrack.
In any case, enjoy the weekend and make Monday matter. — Robert Long
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.
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