Wednesday May 22, 2013 | 11:11 AM

WASHINGTON – Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Arizona Sen. John McCain called to task some of their Republican colleagues on Tuesday for blocking efforts to appoint conferees to negotiate a budget with the opposite chamber.

The somewhat unusual, intraparty comments came in response to an attempt by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ken., to prohibit the budget conferees from including a debt ceiling increase in any compromise. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate passed separate budgets that contain major policy differences on tax and spending priorities.

McCain responded that it is perfectly acceptable to pass along “instructions” to the budget conferees. But to impose restrictions, he said, would be “absolutely out of line and unprecedented.” He then criticized Paul and other members of his party for blocking the appointment of conferees.

“I would like to point out to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that for four years, for four years we complained about the fact that the [Democratic] majority leader … would refuse to bring a budget to the floor of the United States Senate,” McCain said.

Collins took to the Senate floor to back up McCain. Collins is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which decides how to spend the money included in what are essentially budget blueprints passed by the two chambers.

“We have called repeatedly for a return to regular order in this body. Well, regular order is going to conference,” Collins said. “Both the House and the Senate have passed budget resolutions and it is important that there be a conference committee to work out the differences, which are considerable, so that we will have a framework with binding allocations for the Appropriations Committee.”

McCain then called it “bizarre” that Republicans in the Senate would not allow Republican budget conferees in the House to ensure the party’s stance on the debt ceiling is represented in the process.

“It certainly is ironic, at the least,” Collins replied. “It is an opportunity for the Republican House to argue for its budget. I voted against the final version of the Senate budget but I think we should go to conference to try to work out an agreement.”


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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.
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