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Trump Budget Threat Worries Maine Congressional Delegation

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix.
Rick Scuteri
AP Photo
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix.

At his campaign rally in Phoenix, President Donald Trump vowed to block passage of the federal budget for the next year if Congress fails to pay for his proposed wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. Members of Maine’s Congressional delegation say they’re concerned by those comments.

Trump was playing to a supportive crowd when he made his threat against a federal budget that Congress has been working on for months.

“Build that wall, now the obstructionists Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government we’re building that wall,” Trump said during the rally in Phoenix.

Democrats in Congress have already expressed their opposition to building a wall on the Mexican border as Trump promised in his campaign. But, an appropriations bill that includes the money has already been approved on party lines in the House.

First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, opposed the bill, and says the cost of the wall would far exceed what’s allotted in the House-approved measure.

“Things that you know could have a huge impact on our next budget going forward but they kind of want to throw in at the last minute just to see if they can get some money to get it going,” Pingree says.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is also concerned about the president’s ultimatum, saying about Trump’s statement, “This was disruptive comment.”

Collins, a Republican who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has spent months working on the dozen bills that make up the federal budget.

“We are making good progress on the appropriations bills and on a budget resolution,” she says.

Collins fears if the president insists on getting everything he wants in the budget, including funding for the wall, it will lead to a partial federal shutdown come Oct. 1, when the current budget runs out. And she says that would have direct impacts on Maine.

“If government shuts down that means that, for example, Acadia National Park shuts down,” says Collins. “So surely we should be able to come up with a way to keep government funded.”

Such as, says Collins, another continuing resolution that simply continues funding at current levels. The downside, though, says Collins, is that a continuing resolution would lock in existing priorities and prohibit money from being shifted to more important issues, such as the national opioid crisis.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, says that while he’s not fan of the continuing resolution, it’s better than a shutdown.

“A CR, a continuing resolution, is a very poor way to govern,” says King. “Particularly for the defense department, you can’t plan, you can’t rely on what the level of funding is going to be.  It just has a lot of ramifications throughout the government. It is better than a shutdown.”

Second District Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin declined to be interviewed for this story.

When Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day, it will have just a little over three weeks to complete work on a budget, or a continuing resolution, to keep government operating at full capacity.

This story was originally published Aug. 23, 2017 at 4:55 p.m. ET.