Maine’s Federal Lawmakers Hope To Avert Government Shutdown

Aug 21, 2018

The U.S. Senate is in session this week, but the House doesn’t return until after Labor Day. Come September they will have to reconcile differences in the dozen bills that will fund the federal government starting Oct. 1. Maine’s congressional delegation says it is hopeful that agreement will be reached, and a shutdown of any part of the federal government will be avoided.

President Donald Trump has said that he is willing to shut down the federal government if he does not get funding for his wall on the border with Mexico. In fact, He has said it would be “good” to shut down the federal government.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine disagrees.

“A government shutdown is never a good idea. It is never the answer to policy disputes. It ends up costing the taxpayers more money than otherwise would be spent. It disrupts federal programs, creating chaos and confusion,” she says.

Collins, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the president needs to understand that the bills include money for work to improve border security, not just a physical wall. And that’s important, she says, because there are border areas where a wall can’t be built and will require technology and more border patrol agents instead.

“The president has been offered as much money as can reasonably be spent, effectively, in the next fiscal year,” she says.

Collins says both the Senate and the House have made a lot of progress passing several appropriations bills, and some negotiations are underway to resolve differences over spending amounts for various programs. But Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, says many of the House bills contain poison pills, policy changes that she hopes the Senate refuses to support.

“We’re going to find out if some of the poison pills that are in there cause problems. Some of them, I am sure, will be stripped out in the Senate. They are somewhat more levelheaded than the Republican house is right now,” she says.

Pingree is not at all confident that all the budget issues can be settled, given all the other business before Congress, including reauthorization legislation and the Senate confirmation proceedings for several judicial nominations.

“My guess is we will go to some sort of a continuing resolution. Maybe leadership will have the votes, so we end the process by the end of the year. But I would be surprised,” she says.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine says he hopes a continuing resolution can be avoided and the regular budget bills passed before the clock runs out. He agrees with Collins that tremendous progress has been made in committee, but acknowledges that all that work could be jeopardized by House Republican leaders.

“Will the House put what they call poison pills in the budget dealing with issues that aren’t really in the budget? The endangered species act or something like that. And the whole sort of cloud on the horizon is the wall,” he says.

King says the president’s insistence that the budget package include full funding of a physical wall along the border could derail the process, and that the proposed budget would enhance border security.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District declined to be interviewed for this story.