William Kayatta Jr., President Obama’s nominee for Maine’s seat on the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, is set for a Senate Judiciary Committee vote April 19.

Kayatta was among the nominees on the committee’s list for votes last week, but it was the first time his name was on that list and it is traditional for the committee to wait until its next session to vote on a nominee the first time a name appears on the list.

Kayatta’s committee vote will have to wait until April 19 because the Senate is on a two-week spring recess.

But it’s good news for Kayatta, because the Judiciary Committee is expected to clear him for a full floor vote, and that apparently will happen early enough to let Kayatta get a Senate confirmation vote before the election-year slowdown hits.

Some experts say a non-controversial nominee can still get a vote late in the year, and note that Kayatta has the support of GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Kayatta, a nationally prominent trial attorney and a partner in the Pierce Atwood law firm in Portland, faced only a few questions during his hearing last month, none indicating any controversy that’s likely to impede his confirmation.

DOWNEASTER FUNDING INTACT

A federal funding source that provides as much as $6 million a year for Downeaster train service between Portland and Boston remains intact – at least for another three months.

The temporary transportation funding bill approved by Congress last week – after the Senate and House failed to agree on differing versions of a long-term bill – allows Maine to keep using money from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program to help fund the Downeaster’s annual $15 million operating budget.

The pending long-term transportation bill in the Senate also would allow Maine to continue funding the Downeaster with the federal money. However, a House version would end that ability.

The federal money was supposed to be used just temporarily when Downeaster service started in 2001. Maine won an exception in the 2005 transportation bill to keep using the money for the train. Congress has not passed a new transportation bill since then, so Maine’s exception has been renewed each time the current bill’s policies have been extended.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, a member of the House Transportation Committee, says the GOP-led House should simply pass the Democratic-led Senate’s bill, which has more bipartisan support and contains more money overall for Maine road repairs and transportation programs.

KING KEEPS THEM GUESSING

In a move that will keep them guessing in Washington, independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King last week named two new campaign aides: one a Democrat and one a Republican.

King has said that if he wins the race to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, he will decide on which party’s caucus to join – if he joins either – after he arrives in Washington.

King’s campaign said that Marge Kilkelly, a former Democratic state legislator, and Edie Smith, a former GOP strategist, both signed on as aides. Kilkelly will be policy director and Smith will be political and field director.

It will be difficult for King to operate in the Senate without joining the Democratic or Republican caucus, because the party caucuses make committee assignments.

Many Democrats hope the socially liberal but more fiscally conservative former Maine governor will join the Democratic caucus.

King supported George W. Bush for president in 2000 but Democrat John Kerry in 2004. He backed Barack Obama in 2008 and is backing him again this year.

SHIPYARD GETS MORE MONEY

The Navy is spending another $15.8 million on improvements to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, bringing to $92 million the total amount of repair and modernization work announced during March by the Navy.

The $15.8 million announced last week will be spent on energy conservation and repair work to the Removable Submarine Covers at the shipyard in Kittery, which overhauls nuclear submarines.

The project was announced in a joint statement by Collins and Snowe, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

The shipyard is thought by some analysts to be vulnerable if the military undertakes a new round of military base closures, but the Maine and New Hampshire congressional delegations maintain that it does valuable work and should not be a target.

SENATORS OPPOSE OIL TAX BREAKS

Collins and Snowe were the only two Republicans to vote last week for a Democratic proposal to scale back taxpayer subsidies for major oil companies. The proposal gained 51 votes, falling short of the 60 needed for passage. Several Democrats from oil-producing states voted against the measure.

The votes by Collins and Snowe were not unexpected. Both Maine Republicans have been critical of the tax breaks for major oil companies.

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

[email protected]mainetoday.com

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