Alabama’s Senate race may have made Susan Collins more important overnight

Good morning from Augusta. Democrat Doug Jones won a surprising upset victory in deep-red Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday, putting Sen. Susan Collins of Maine at even more of a pivot point in the chamber.

It only will take two Republican defections to sink party priorities now. Collins, a Republican who has been named the most bipartisan senator, needed two other Republicans to kill her party’s bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act in July. Once Jones is sworn as early as the end of December, Republicans will only have a 51-49 advantage over the Democratic caucus in the chamber, so only two Republican senators can sink their party’s legislation. That could strengthen Collins’ negotiating hand with Republican leaders as they look to pass their first major legislation during the presidency of Donald Trump ahead of the 2018 elections.

Republicans may try to make their tax cut push before Jones is seated. It’s unclear how Tuesday’s election will affect the party’s tax cut push, which Collins supported in the Senate earlier this month. But it’s now mired in negotiations between the Senate and the House of Representatives and Collins said on Sunday that she’s not sure what will come out or if she’ll support the final package. But ABC News reported that Republicans may try to complete their work on taxes before Jones is seated, while Democrats are pushing back on that idea.

The fight over Medicaid expansion returns to the Legislature, again, today

The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is scheduled to convene today to hear a report on revenue forecasts for Maine over the next few years. They will also discuss how to fund a Medicaid expansion bill enacted last month by referendum. The meeting comes as Democrats and expansion proponents circle the wagons to protect voter intent and Gov. Paul LePage and opponents dig in their heels against it. The meeting begins around 1 p.m. You can listen by clicking here or just watch the Bangor Daily News for coverage.

A longshot U.S. Senate candidate wants Trump impeached

The only Democrat running for Senate in 2018 called on Maine’s congressional delegation to impeach and remove the president on Tuesday. The call came from Zak Ringelstein, a Portland teacher running against independent U.S. Sen. Angus King in 2018. In a news release, he urged the delegation “do the right thing” and work to remove Trump, citing a list of grievances that included sexual misconduct allegations. But impeachment isn’t happening under current circumstances and King caucuses with Democrats and has won over many progressives since Trump took office, so Ringelstein’s call and bid are real longshots. State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn and Libertarian Chris Lyons of Brunswick are also taking on King.

Reading list

  • Maine is involved in another controversy over the creation of another national monument. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed changes to a national monument created last year at the edge of the Gulf of Maine. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, created by former President Barack Obama in 2016, encompasses nearly 5,000 square miles. Zinke has recommended that the monument not be protected from federal fisheries laws.
  • The Maine Public Utilities Commission has decided to launch an investigation into the October power outages. The PUC voted unanimously Tuesday to probe the response to October’s wind storm by Central Maine Power and Emera Maine. The two utility companies have 30 days from Tuesday to report their responses to the storm, what they learned and what might change.
  • The Lewiston mayoral candidate backed by LePage won in a squeaker on Tuesday. Republican Shane Bouchard, a landscaping contractor, bested Democrat Ben Chin by just 150 votes among more than 7,100 votes cast. This is the second time Chin has lost a mayoral bid in Lewiston, despite the city traditionally voting Democrat prior to the LePage era.
  • Another study group released another list of ways to deal with Maine’s opiate crisis. A task force created earlier this year by the Legislature issued its report Tuesday. The panel’s recommendations focused on better ways to treat people fighting addiction and help them through the recovery process.
  • The state paid for a report on obesity in Maine but won’t let anyone see it. The Department of Health and Human Services used tobacco settlement money from the Fund for a Healthy Maine to interview workers with the Healthy Maine Partnerships about public health issues, including obesity. The state has refused to release the report, which was completed in March, even to the participants. DHHS responded to a Freedom of Access Act request from the Bangor Daily News by saying it would respond to the request within three months.
  • U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree wants new scrutiny of allegations that President Donald Trump sexually harassed women. The Democrat from Maine’s 1st District was one of 59 House members who signed a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, demanding an investigation of the accusations. They asked for a response within 10 days, but the effort is likely to go nowhere. Republicans control the House and no president has been impeached while his party held a majority in the House.

Got a light?

I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of Swedes and Italians. They had very little in common. Except St. Lucy.

Not the Peanuts character.The martyred virgin saint. Her feast day is today. Read all about her here.

Growing up, the Italians who lived near us did not make a big deal of St. Lucy. The Swedes didn’t either, other than to make sure they ate some curly, spiced pastries called Lussekatters on her feast day before turning their attention to much more disgusting traditional Swedish Christmas food like lutefisk, which is basically lye-soaked cod Jello, and sill, stinky pickled herring, that Warren Lindgren sold from his market next-door to our house.

You did not want to live downwind of the Swedish Christmas kitchen.

But it wasn’t until I met a Swedish woman in college that I learned about the best St. Lucy’s Day tradition. In Sweden, they dress a girl in a white gown, then put a crown of lingonberry branches and burning candles on her head. That seems really dangerous. Michael Jackson could attest.

I used to break out that burning head candle motif as a behavior modification tool when my daughters were younger and got antsy 12 days before Christmas. “Settle down or we will do that Swedish burning head thing” worked almost every time. Here’s St. Lucy’s 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.

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.