WASHINGTON — As lawmakers prepared to vote on the debt ceiling deal brokered by President Obama and congressional leaders, it’s a sign of the political heartburn the agreement is causing many in Congress that no one in the Maine congressional delegation has yet endorsed the deal.

The House apparently will vote first, later today or tonight, on the deal raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling in exchange for promised spending cuts of more than $2 trillion – $1.2 trillion now and the rest later, either through approving recommendations of a special committee or through triggering automatic across-the-board cuts.

But after saying Sunday night they would study the details, none of Maine’s two Democratic House members or two Republican senators have yet said how they will vote.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st, said late Sunday that she has “some big concerns about the effects of the proposed agreement on working families and I want to review the details before deciding whether to support it.”

Pingree is a member of the House Progressive Caucus. It is the votes of House Democratic liberals and House GOP conservatives that stand to be the toughest to gain. Liberals are concerned about too deep cuts in domestic spending on social programs and unhappy that the package doesn’t include higher taxes on the wealthy or some type of new tax revenue. Conservatives are concerned the cuts don’t go deep enough, that there is no guarantee of a balanced budget amendment – just a guarantee of a vote on one – and also with some Republicans unhappy that defense cuts also are part of the mix.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd, said Sunday that “at the very least it’s good to see that leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize that we must avoid default and are working toward a solution. I look forward to closely reviewing the legislative text when it becomes available.” Michaud is a member of the Blue Dog caucus of fiscally conservative Democrats, and the support of the package by him and other moderate Democrats could be key to the prospects of it passing.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe were similarly noncommittal Sunday night.
Ken Lundberg, a spokesman for Snowe, said that “there’s still much to assess and much to consider. The senator will carefully evaluate the plan to determine the potential impact on Mainers, and what the plan does for long-term financial stability.”

Collins said it is clear that “Congress must act both to avert a default on our obligations and to address our unsustainable $14.3 trillion debt.”

But Collins said that she too must still review the agreement before deciding whether to support it.

“Compromise is never easy, and it took far too long to reach this point,” Collins said in a statement. “I am reviewing the details of the agreement that congressional leaders have reached with the president.”

Collins said today that she was still looking at the details, but expressed some concerns about potential cuts down the road to Medicare programs that fund rural health care providers and to defense spending.

“I am pleased that the agreement reins in spending and puts real budget caps on future spending,” Collins said. “But I do have some concerns about what would happen if the special committee that’s created does not report savings that meet the target,” triggering automatic across-the-board cuts.

If that happens, “there could be deep cuts in the Medicare program for providers such as rural hospitals, home health care agencies, physicians, and other health care professionals,” Collins said. “I am also very concerned that there could also be deep cuts in defense.”

 

Collins and Snowe, who are regarded as moderates in the Senate GOP caucus, also could be key parts of the coalition of hoped-for GOP and Democratic votes needed in the Senate to pass the measure.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected]