An effort to officially sanction Gov. Paul LePage for his obscenity-laced voicemail to a state legislator stalled today after Republican and Democratic leaders tussled over procedure.
Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau told reporters he didn’t see a path forward after Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves initiated a maneuver aimed at impeaching the governor.
The current stalemate further diminishes the prospects of action against LePage, but virtually guarantees his recent conduct will be a campaign issue through the election.
The day began with a polling message from House Speaker Mark Eves to members of the House asking whether lawmakers will agree to a special session to “take action regarding the Governor’s conduct.”
Legislators have until next Tuesday at 5 p.m. to respond. If they don’t, they’ll be recorded as a “no,” Eves’ letter read.
On its face, the letter seems clear cut. But it could have political ramifications, if not electoral ones, too. Democrats believe the public backlash to the governor’s latest controversy favors their call for his resignation or impeachment.
But Republicans, particularly in the House, are ready to move on, a stance that mathematically could block a special session. Senate President Mike Thibodeau says while some Senate Republicans want to censure the governor, they see Eves’ unilateral action as politically motivated.
“I get it. It’s 60 days before an election and it’s a great time to maximize your political advantage,” he says.
In a statement, Eves said the poll to lawmakers was broad enough to allow Republicans to take “the action they believe is appropriate.”
“It’s probably the weakest I’ve seen Mike Thibodeau, as he was today,” says House Democratic leader Jeff McCabe.
McCabe described Thibodeau’s decision to give up on the special session as a “cop out.” He says Maine people want lawmakers to respond in some way to the governor’s conduct.
“Citizens around the nation, citizens here in Maine, expected us to do something. They expected us to be able to do something in a bipartisan manner, sort of put the partisan politics aside,” he says.
Thibodeau released a statement in which he reiterated previous criticism of LePage’s conduct. He says he believes the governor crossed the line, brought negative attention to the state and would “no doubt benefit from additional help to address his explosive behavior.”
State Sen. Roger Katz has been repeatedly critical of the governor’s conduct. But he also takes issue with Democrats’ actions today. He says Republicans in the Senate wanted to censure the governor, but not more.
“To go beyond that really, unfortunately, smacks of politics in an election year. It’s not looking good as an institution,” Katz says.
House Democrats had hoped to use today’s poll and the Tuesday deadline to put Republicans opposing sanctions against LePage on the record. But in a statement, House Republican leader Kenneth Fredette said Eves’ request is illegal.