President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., center, during a signing ceremony for 'Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act' and 'Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018,' in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Also attending the ceremony are Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, third from left, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., second from right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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What we’re watching today

The former president railed against the Maine senator as she strikes an ever-careful balance in place in the party. Sunday brought us a series of instructive events in understanding U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ place in national politics, beginning with her criticism of President Joe Biden on ABC’s “This Week” and culminating in former President Donald Trump deriding her as “Wacky Susan Collins” as he keeps pushing false election claims.

Biden’s presidency has generally united Republicans in opposition to his biggest goals. (One exception was the $1 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Collins helped negotiate.) In recent months, Democrats have not been able to win the support of all their members — not to mention Collins and Republicans — for their ambitious spending and voting measures.

With a U.S. Supreme Court seat opening, Collins is one of the likeliest Republican votes for a Biden nominee. But she said Sunday that Biden’s handling of the pick has been “clumsy.” While she said she would welcome the court’s first black woman, the Maine senator said Biden’s campaign pledge to nominate one adds to a perception that the court is a political organ.

She also discussed her work leading a group looking to shield the Electoral College count after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. While Collins said it was “unlikely” she would support Trump if he runs in 2024, that was more couched than her anti-Trump stance in 2016, notable after she voted to convict him on an impeachment charge last year.

It was the electoral issue that drew the Trump rebuke in the evening, putting Collins in the strange position of taking flak from Republicans’ once and potentially future leader while aligning with her party on most of the big issues during the Biden era. How far other Republicans go with her on the count could be a preview on Trump’s hold over the party.

What we’re reading

— Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin went to the Texas-Mexico border on a trip led by House Republicans earlier this month, showing how the border has become one of the party’s top issues ahead of the 2022 election. But Rep. Jared Golden, the two-term Democrat whom Poliquin is trying to oust, has largely voted with Republicans on border security.

— Portland’s “Green New Deal,” which increased affordable housing requirements on bigger projects and established higher environmental standards for buildings, deterred developers in its first year in effect. The number of new housing units proposed was down 82 percent in 2021, although projects built under the new requirements accounted for one-third of all affordable units built in the city last year.

— Legislative Democrats can thank former Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon for most of their early fundraising lead over Republicans. The main political committees representing party leaders raised $1.4 million on the Democratic side to $444,000 on the Republican side. Gideon’s unsuccessful 2020 U.S. Senate campaign sent $666,000 to caucus committees plus another $333,000 to the Maine Democratic Party.

— Rep. John Tuttle, D-Sanford, died on Friday at age 70. The veteran of both chambers served his region for most of his adult life in the Maine Legislature and also was a city councilor at the time of his death.

News and notes

— The Maine Legislature will continue remote committee hearings into next month with three days of floor sessions scheduled for Feb. 10, 16 and 23, presiding officers said on Friday. That first session day will coincide with Gov. Janet Millsin-person State of the State address.

— Mills is attending the final day of the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Portland will be hosting the group’s summer meeting in the heat of Mills’ reelection campaign with former Gov. Paul LePage, who left the national governors’ group in 2012 citing the cost of dues.

Follow along today

9 a.m. Maine Department of Environmental Protection staff will brief lawmakers on “forever chemicals” being found on agricultural land across the state. Watch here.

11 a.m. The labor committee will work on several bills, including those that would extend special retirement plans to workers in the medical examiner’s office, state police crime lab and the Computer Crimes Unit of the Maine Department of Public Safety. Watch here.

The Daily Brief is written by Bangor Daily News politics editor Michael Shepherd and made possible by BDN subscribers. Enjoy unlimited access to all we have to offer by subscribing

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...