Wednesday March 09, 2011 | 04:09 PM

As expected, Maine’s two GOP senators voted against a Democratic budget proposal and for a House GOP proposal, even as they expressed unhappiness with the latter option, too.

Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe reiterated their contention that the Senate Democrats’ spending bill funding the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 didn’t cut enough. But despite their vote in favor of the House GOP bill slashing more than $60 billion through the end of the year, both Maine Republicans said that measure cuts too deeply in programs important to Mainers such as low-income heating assistance and weatherization.
 
“I am left with a choice between a proposal that doesn’t go nearly far enough and one that makes many wrong choices,” said Collins, in a post-vote statement that was similar to comments she made Tuesday. “It has long been apparent that neither proposal had the 60 votes required to pass.  It is frustrating that, instead of sitting down and negotiating a serious proposal, we are forced to vote solely to ‘send a message.’”
 
Collins said that she hopes Congress and the White House will “now begin serious, bipartisan negotiations on a long-term funding bill that makes responsible cuts and takes into account our national priorities. And the president must be a committed leader of these negotiations by offering a realistic proposal that forcefully limits spending.”
 
Snowe said that at least when it came to the bill originally crafted in the House, GOP leaders allowed votes on hundreds of amendments from lawmakers from both parties. She blasted Democratic leaders for not allowing her and other Senate Republicans to try to alter either the Senate Democrats’ bill cutting $4.7 billion or the House GOP bill cutting more than $60 billion.
“The best way to proceed would have been to avoid a partisan show-down and all-or-nothing, up-or-down votes,” Snowe said, also reiterating comments she made Tuesday. 
“Frankly, I do have concerns that (House GOP) environmental policy changes as well as reductions in the bill to programs including cuts to Title X, education, and funds for a vital bridge repair project in Maine - should have received the benefit of full debate and consideration of amendments on the Senate floor."
 
But Snowe said that the Democrats’ bill “falls far short of addressing our perilous fiscal situation.”
Snowe, too called for negotiations, saying that, “Going forward, it is now critical that the president convene congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle to sit down and work to achieve results on the nation’s spending priorities and bottom line.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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