Friday, December 6, 2013
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Governors are becoming increasingly concerned with the accumulating effects of the federal government shutdown. That includes Gov. Paul LePage, who this week became the first governor to respond to the shutdown by calling a civil emergency, an action that allows him to suspend a wide range of laws and regulations.
On Friday, LePage and 24 other governors participated in a conference call with President Obama about the effects of the shutdown. According to a White House readout of the call, the President told the governors that U.S. House Republicans' "brinksmanship strategy of shutting down the government and threatening default as a bargaining tactic is one that the country cannot afford."
The President also told the bipartisan group of governors that a prolonged shutdown was hurting states, consumer confidence and businesses. Obama also said he's willing to negotiate ways to address the country's "fiscal health," but he wouldn't do so in a "crisis atmosphere" of the government shutdown and the threat of default.
It's unclear what the governors said during the conference call. Adrienne Bennett, the governor's spokeswoman, confirmed that LePage was on the call, but she didn't respond to a subsequent request for comment.
Here's a video of Gov. Paul LePage explaining his civil emergency declaration and the audio reaction by Democratic leaders House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland.
Click here to listen to Monday's quickie interview with Ken and Mike on WGAN. It's a short one this week, but we touch on a couple of stories, including Newport Republican Rep. Kenneth Fredette's bill to repeal the newly enacted sales tax hike a year ahead of schedule. We also chat briefly about the ongoing controversy over MaineCare rides.
Augusta state Sen. Roger Katz, the assistant Republican leader, said the federal government's decision to terminate approximately $20 million in funding for the Riverview Physchiatric Center was "premature, punitive and puts the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk."
In a prepared statement, Katz also criticized legislative Democrats for using the issue to question the leadership of Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
"She has the toughest job in Maine and I am confident she is doing everything she can to solve the problem," Katz wrote.
Just about every political organization or candidate is attempting to get traction out of the partial shutdown of the federal government. Whether it's the Maine Democratic Party ripping U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for vocally opposing the shutdown while voting against a measure designed to prevent it, or the Maine Republican Party attempting to cast U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, as voting against veterans, political operatives are using the stalemate to fundraise and drive public opinion.
The Republican Governors Association is taking a more -- uh, um -- nuanced approach. It has rolled out an advertising campaign dubbed the "American Comeback" in which Republican governors are cast as the anti-Congress. That is, they get stuff done.
Some news outlets have described the ads as a not-so subtle rebuke of the tea party Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who have pushed the shutdown strategy. Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, chairman of the RGA, has predictably steered clear of assigning the blame of the shutdown to House Republicans (Other Republicans, and the public, have not been so charitable.)