In this Aug. 20, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden talks at the top of Black Mountain in Rumford after hiking with the Summit Project. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Good morning from Augusta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It would be great if we could snap our fingers and wave a magic wand and have developers come and be excited about building [affordable housing],” Rockland City Councilor Nate Davis said of attempts to change citywide zoning to improve housing availability. “But municipalities don’t really have all that many tools at their disposal to do this.”

What we’re watching today

Progressives and moderates are at odds as Congress returns to consider next steps on a proposed $3.5 trillion Democratic-led spending package. Democrats are looking to move quickly on the landmark budget bill, which includes a range of party priorities including free community college, universal pre-K, climate change initiatives and an expanded child tax credit, largely paid for by tax increases.

The proposal, which requires the vote of every Senate Democrat and all but a few in the House, already seems in jeopardy as moderates led by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, have balked at the price tag. But party leaders want to move quickly given an impending House vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that has at times been linked to the larger budget package. 

A group of moderate House Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District, pushed for a quick vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure package, which passed the Senate last month, without waiting for the larger bill, which is expected to pass along partisan lines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to a vote by Sept. 27.

But House progressives are skeptical of the infrastructure bill, saying it falls short on a number of party priorities, including fighting climate change. They want to see that such measures will be included in the Democratic-led budget package before voting on the bipartisan bill. 

That could set up a collision course later this month, because it seems increasingly unlikely that Democrats will have a deal on the budget bill by the infrastructure vote deadline to which Golden and his fellow moderates agreed. The real action is in the Senate for now, but the Maine representative — facing a stiff reelection challenge from former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin next year — and his bloc could come back into play if the bills are decoupled later.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Facing tight deadline, Maine redistricting panel will release proposed maps next week,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Although both caucuses have been working independently on maps, neither presented any proposals at the commission’s Friday meeting. Public input in the process has been limited so far, and advocacy groups have encouraged the commission to release possible districts.”

Caucus leaders will meet with the commission’s chair today to set deadlines to release proposed maps. The commission has already burned through two-thirds of the time it was allocated by Maine’s high court to draw new districts after census delays pushed the apportionment process to the fall. Lawmakers will likely convene in early October to vote on the proposed maps, but the decision would fall back to the courts if they do not agree in time.

— “Some Maine employers already required COVID-19 vaccines before Joe Biden’s mandate,” Lia Russell, BDN: “In Penobscot County, some of the largest employers include local hospitals that have already been subject to a mandate from Gov. Janet Mills that health care workers be vaccinated. Another of the area’s largest employers, Bangor Savings Bank, just last week instituted its own requirement that new hires be vaccinated and that unvaccinated employees get weekly COVID-19 tests.”

Maine’s more moderate federal delegation members have criticized the requirement. Both Golden and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, worried about the effects the mandate could have on businesses. Collins was more concerned about the feasibility of implementing it, while Golden was skeptical in general. All four members advocated for vaccination.

— “Maine nursing home offered bonuses for workers who don’t publicly criticize closure plan,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The facility has been quiet since it announced its closing on Aug. 30, roughly two months before its expected closure. But the home is going to great lengths to convince employees to stay on ahead of the departure of contract staff that will require the home to immediately discharge residents, showing how dire the staffing challenges are in Maine, something industry experts fear could worsen as the pandemic continues.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews and edited by Michael Shepherd. 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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