Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are co-signing an amicus, or friend of the court, brief to be submitted to the federal court in Florida that will hear a constitutional challenge of the federal health care reform law.
The brief was initiated by U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and boasts signatures of 30 Senate Republicans. The lawsuit was brought by the attorneys general for several states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small-business trade organization.
At issue is a requirement that U.S. citizens purchase health insurance beginning in 2014 or face a fine — known as the “individual mandate.”
Snowe was the only Republican to support any version of health care reform, but ultimately voted against the final bill. The version Snowe supported did include an individual mandate, but her aides said she opposed that provision and hoped to change it through the amendment process.
Snowe was concerned with the concept of government mandating an individual purchase of something, especially because she did not believe health insurance would be sufficiently affordable, her office has said.
Snowe and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., tried to amend the reform to reduce the number of people subject to the mandate and allow Congress more flexibility to review the mandate altogether, but it failed in committee.
“The individual mandate has no place in a health care reform bill unless and until affordable health insurance is available for all Americans,” Snowe said in a release about the brief.
“We must take seriously the gravity of this imperious and intrusive government mandate and repeal the individual mandate before millions of Americans are forced to purchase health care coverage that they neither want nor can afford.”
Supporters of the individual mandate say it will help keep health insurance costs down because it spreads risk: Those who decline to buy insurance are often the healthiest, while those who buy it are often need it most and, therefore, cost more to cover.
Snowe, one of the senators most likely to vote across party lines, faces re-election in 2012. Many expect she will face a strong primary challenge, given the experience of several incumbent Republicans in the 2010 election cycle.
Some also speculate she’s trying to improve her conservative credentials by signing her name to the court challenge.
Snowe’s office insists it’s a consistent position: She filed an amendment to repeal the individual mandate when the legislation was considered by the full Senate.
PROMOTIONS FILL GOP POSTS
With control of the Maine House, Republicans are promoting from within to find chiefs of staff.
Alison Sucy, chief of staff for the House Republicans since 2001, will be chief for the new House speaker. Republicans have nominated Rep. Bob Nutting of Oakland for the speaker’s post.
Sucy, a Vermont native, graduated from Bangor High School and the University of Maine and has a law degree from Washington and Lee School of Law in Virginia.
Diane Johanson, who has worked in the Legislature for 17 years, will take over as chief of staff in the House Majority Office.
Although Johanson is a native of Oregon, she is descended from Col. Isaac G. Reed, who was a member of Maine’s Constitutional Convention in 1819-1820, according to the House Republican Office. He also served in the Maine Legislature and designed the Maine State Seal.
Johanson is a graduate of Bath High School and of the University of Maine. She also has experience working in the Senate Republican Office.
A LESSON FOR DEMOCRATS
Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, is enjoying a surge of popularity these days as House Democrats look for some stability following an election in which they — in the words of one of their members — “got crushed.”
After a Legislature in which Democrats held 95 seats, Republicans now control the House 78-72-1.
Martin has served 36 years in the House — including 19 as speaker — and eight years in the Senate.
At the Democratic caucus last week, several members made reference to Martin in their speeches, and incoming freshmen made a point to introduce themselves.
During her speech, Minority Leader Rep. Emily Cain of Orono relayed a story about Martin.
“I once heard a story about when John stepped down from the speaker’s office and there was debate about whether or not he should be a chair of a committee. Legend has it that he quipped, ‘I don’t need a gavel to run a meeting.’ “
Cain said those words should serve as a reminder to Democrats that while they aren’t in the majority, it doesn’t mean they can’t still have significant influence.
LePAGE ANNOUNCEMENT TUESDAY
Gov.-elect Paul LePage will announce a new round of transition team advisers Tuesday, according to his spokesman.
Last week, he set to work his 10-member budget team, which included Republicans, Democrats and independents.
ROSIER REVENUE PICTURE?
Also Tuesday, the state’s revenue forecasters will meet to update their revenue projections.
Unlike many of their meetings in the past few years, that’s likely to mean good news, because revenue is coming in stronger than originally projected.
Don’t expect the budget gap to disappear, however.
BACK TO SCHOOL FOR EX-PARTY CHIEF
Arden Manning, the former executive director of the Maine Democratic Party who most recently served as the party’s coordinated campaign manager, is heading to France next year for graduate school.
Current Executive Director Mary Erin Casale said Manning will leave the party officially Dec. 31.
“I’ve had a good six months of working with him to learn the ropes,” she said.
Casale said after taking some vacation time, she’ll be back and ready to lead the party. The election for party chairman is in January.
We’re unsure whether this will make the history books, but outgoing Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, is the first-ever pregnant speaker of the Maine House.
Pingree, whose due date is March, will see her legislative term end Dec. 1 when the new lawmakers — and a new speaker — are sworn in.
Pingree, who is in her early 30s, has said she plans to take a few years off to start a family before returning to politics.
She is the second female Maine House speaker, following Libby Mitchell.
MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:
MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: