Good morning from Augusta. The Maine Legislature returns tomorrow to vote on congressional and legislative maps for the next decade.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There’s no reason for one. I don’t think anybody around here sees that as a benefit,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, told Politico on the potential for a government shutdown if Congress can’t reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. “There’s no earthly reason we can’t get this done.”
What we’re watching today
It is a busy week for Maine’s delegation as Congress faces an infrastructure vote and a key budget deadline. By the end of the week, lawmakers could pass a significant infrastructure bill as they struggle to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, risking a government shutdown and a default on U.S. debts that could be detrimental to the economy.
First up, House Democrats have scheduled a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill for Thursday. A small group of moderates, including Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District, pushed a few months ago for decoupling that bill from a larger budget reconciliation package. It now appears that the budget bill will not pass this week, as Democrats have not reached an agreement on what will be in the bill, how it will be paid for, or a final price tag.
The question is whether that puts the infrastructure bill in jeopardy, too. Progressives who see the bipartisan package as insufficient and not meeting many of Democrats’ campaign promises have threatened to withhold their votes unless the reconciliation bill passes as well. House Democrats have until Thursday to sort that out.
Congress is also on deadline to avoid a potential government shutdown — and worse. Lawmakers must once again raise the debt ceiling to allow the government to borrow money for spending that has already been authorized. But Senate Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins, rejected a Democratic-led proposal Monday evening that would fund the government into December and lift the debt ceiling until after the 2022 midterms.
Economists have warned of significant consequences if Congress does not reach a deal. A government shutdown would kick in Friday morning, mostly affecting non-essential federal workers at a range of agencies from the National Park Service to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would be furloughed until lawmakers agree on funding.
The exact date when the government would default on its debts is not yet clear, though estimates suggest it would be in the latter part of October. A default has never happened in U.S. history and would lead to much wider cuts, such as the inability to pay federal employees, including active-duty troops, and lapses in Social Security and other federal benefits programs. Interest rates would likely spike, while the stock market would also take a hit.
The economic research firm Moody’s Analytics predicts the loss of nearly 6 million jobs in the event of a default, CBS News reported last week, calling it a “catastrophic blow” to the current economic recovery. Members of Congress can easily avoid all of that by raising the debt limit — but they are running short on time to do so.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine redistricting commission reaches deal on Senate maps, avoiding court fight,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “In Penobscot County, the district including Brewer will now run west through Hampden and include fewer Hancock County towns, while towns to the northwest of Bangor are absorbed into a district that also includes Piscataquis County. Several towns in northern Penobscot County, including Millinocket, were added to the district currently represented by Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, which includes southern and eastern parts of Aroostook County.”
— “Maine lobstermen’s group sues feds in effort to stop new right whale rules,” Piper, BDN: “The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, alleges that the National Marine Fisheries Services’ biological study that was the basis for the regulations is based on flawed data. The survey, the lawsuit argues, attributed right whale deaths to the Maine lobster industry that were actually caused by other fisheries or by non-fishing boats that collide with the endangered whales.”
— “No violations at salmon farm where more than 100,000 fish died, state says,” Bill Trotter, BDN: “Maine Department of Environmental Protection investigated the incident, which occurred Aug. 16, and found that the dissolved oxygen levels in water outside the pens were above the minimum limits, and that the pens where the fish died were not overcrowded.”
Outside groups target Golden on both sides of budget bill
Both progressives and Republicans are amping up the pressure on the 2nd District congressman as key votes await. Democrats have not reached an agreement on what will be included in the budget reconciliation bill, which was originally proposed to be a $3.5 trillion package encompassing a range of Democratic priorities but now looks to be smaller. Golden hasn’t said whether he will vote for the yet-to-be-written legislation. Those Democratic priorities included aggressive investments to fight climate change and money to fund home care for seniors and people with disabilities.
He is facing public pressure on multiple fronts. Maine Conservation Voters and the Lewiston-based IBEW 567 union launched an ad this week encouraging Golden to vote for the bill, citing “clean energy jobs.” Business Forward, a national small business group in favor of the bill, is spending nearly $100,000 on radio ads in the 2nd District as well.
On the flip side, the conservative group Club for Growth has been running TV ads for two weeks comparing Democrats, including Golden, to pickpockets. The National Republican Congressional Committee also dropped a new digital ad campaign on Monday framing the bill as a tax hike, although the extent of tax increases in the bill is not clear. Democrats’ original plan called for tax increases on people making more than $400,000, as well as increasing the corporate tax rate.
It all adds to the more than $1 million that Republican groups have already spent in the district as Golden faces a likely 2022 rematch with former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican whom he defeated in 2018. Voters in the 2nd District had better buckle up as money continues to flow in for the next year (or turn off your TVs and avoid the internet). 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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