Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine talks to reporters after her closed door talks about infrastructure on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, July 15, 2021. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: ​​“You really have to find this balance … to encourage people to come up here, but not overdo it,” said Greater Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce Director Donna Saucier, as many in the St. John Valley — where the majority of people speak Acadian French, even if not as a first language — worry about loss of population and culture. “We don’t want to be Bar Harbor.”

What we’re watching today

A bipartisan infrastructure proposal faces more uncertainty today as Democrats appear poised for a vote that cannot succeed without Republican support. The $1.2 trillion plan supported by lawmakers, including Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, has been on a rickety path ever since a group of senators and President Joe Biden announced they had reached an agreement in late June.

Democrats have indicated they plan to move forward with a cloture vote in the Senate today, which would allow the Senate to begin debate and would require 60 votes to succeed. There is no bill text yet, although negotiations can continue after the vote and the move by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is seen as an effort to amp up the pressure on senators to finalize something. But Republicans, including Collins, have asked him to delay the vote until next week, saying they are close to an agreement.

“We’re making progress, but we need more time,” Collins said.

Procedural issues aside, several sticking points seem to remain, including how to pay for the cost of the bill. Republicans have indicated they oppose Biden’s proposed efforts to raise revenue by increasing IRS enforcement, while Democrats have pushed back against user fees, such as increasing the gas tax. The bill does not inherently need a revenue mechanism, but members of both parties have said they want one, citing significant deficit spending on COVID-19 relief in the past year.

Some Republicans are also wary of supporting the $1.2 trillion package while Democrats move forward separately with a $3.5 trillion budget bill using the budget reconciliation process. Democrats could incorporate some aspects of the bipartisan agreement into the budget bill if the former effort ultimately fails.

A failure to open debate today does not mean the bipartisan bill is dead. Schumer could attempt another vote next week, when more Republicans may be likely to support it. Major legislation sometimes goes through multiple failed cloture votes, as the CARES Act did last year. But how lawmakers react to the vote — if it happens today — could be an indicator of what is to come.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine high court approves extension of redistricting timeline due to census delays,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Legislative leadership from both parties asked the court in late May to consider extending the timeline to allow the independent redistricting commission to come up with maps after the data were released in August. Justices granted the petition on Tuesday, with Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill writing that the court should ‘seek to preserve the overall intent of the constitutional apportionment process to the greatest extent possible.’”

The new timeline means lawmakers are likely to vote on new congressional and legislative maps in early October. The state’s redistricting commission will have 45 days after the U.S. Census Bureau releases data to draft maps, and lawmakers will have 10 days after that to vote. If the Legislature cannot reach a two-thirds agreement, the redistricting process will still default back to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. 

— “Maine’s rainy day fund has grown to historic high with latest $224M deposit,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The fund now stands at $492 million, a historic high, according to the governor’s office. In announcing the deposit on Tuesday, [Gov. Janet] Mills held up the fund as a prime example of her success in handling the pandemic, likely to be the cornerstone of her reelection campaign against her predecessor, Paul LePage, who touted growth in the state’s rainy day fund during his eight years in office.”

— “Group tasked with bringing high-speed internet access to Maine sworn in,” Piper, BDN: “The quasi-governmental organization, created under legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, along with Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, has broad authority to sign contracts with private companies, offer grants and loans and build broadband infrastructure directly. It is set to work with $150 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan and will subsume the state’s current broadband agency, ConnectMaine.”

Ad firm predicts $75M in political spending in Maine next year

Maine is unlikely to see anything like last year’s Senate race in 2022, but it still could be the most expensive midterm election in history here. AdImpact, which tracks advertising for political groups and other interested parties, is predicting $75 million in political ad spending here next year across TV, radio and digital platforms. That would easily surpass 2018 levels.

The firm initially predicted two years ago that Maine’s 2020 U.S. Senate race alone would see $55 million in ad spending, a total that seemed huge at the time but ended up accounting for less than half of what was ultimately spent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But next year’s gubernatorial election here still is not expected to attract the same level of national interest despite the matchup between Mills and LePage, with Senate races in Arizona and Pennsylvania and governors’ races in Georgia and Florida expected to soak up more of the attention — and the national money. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

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