August 13, 2012

Washington Notebook: Wedding weekend for Collins

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - Two of Maine's political power brokers have tied the knot.

Sen. Susan Collins and Thomas Daffron married Saturday in a small private ceremony in Collins' hometown of Caribou.

The two met in the early 1970s while Collins was an intern in then-Rep. Bill Cohen's office in Washington, D.C., where Daffron worked as Cohen's chief of staff.

Although they've known each other for decades -- with Collins calling Daffron a mentor throughout her career from junior to senior Capitol Hill staffer and eventually senator -- their friendship turned romantic only in recent years, the couple have said.

Collins and Daffron have tried to keep private about their nuptials. But a few details dribbled out, such as their gift registries at Crate & Barrel and other stores. The Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column also recently noted that Secretary of State and former Sen. Hillary Clinton held a dinner party for Collins at the Clinton home. All 17 female senators, as well as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, attended.

Collins has said that the couple originally wanted to wed during Congress' July Fourth break but opted for August instead for reasons that no bride in history likely ever has cited.

Collins has not missed a single recorded vote on the Senate floor since her election in 1996. And with her perfect voting streak approaching 5,000 at the time (a mark she has since surpassed), Collins was not going to risk missing a vote should the Senate be called back into session during the break.

And if senators are called back to D.C. during their August recess -- an unlikely but plausible scenario -- while the couple is honeymooning? Well, Daffron probably won't be surprised by his new wife's choice.

AXING TAX ON OLYMPIC MEDALS

Members of Maine's congressional delegation are joining the chorus of lawmakers who want U.S. Olympic athletes to be able to keep more of their hard-earned spoils.

Bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress to eliminate federal taxes on the cash bonuses -- or honorariums -- given to U.S. Olympians who win medals. Gold medalists receive a $25,000 bonus, while winners of silver and bronze medals receive $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.

"Many of these athletes have struggled and sacrificed for years as amateurs and very few of them are raking in big endorsement fees," U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, said in a statement announcing her support for the Olympic Tax Elimination Act. "These athletes are a great source of pride for the U.S. and I think the least we can do is give them a little bit of a tax break on what they get when they win a medal."

Other members of Maine's congressional delegation have also expressed support for axing the tax on Olympic winners.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.

IN RECESS, OFFICIALLY

It was mentioned in this column last week that, because of some last-minute posturing, Congress didn't formally adjourn for its five-week August recess, even though pretty much everyone still left town. Well, members finally rang the official recess bell this week.

All of the House Democrats along with 78 Republicans had voted last week against an adjournment resolution in symbolic protest of the amount of work that Congress was leaving on the table.

As a result, one or two House and Senate members would be responsible for holding brief "pro forma" sessions every few days that consisted of an opening prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and little else.

Party leaders apparently agreed to end the parliamentary theatrics, however. During the House's first session on Tuesday, the speaker pro tem introduced a resolution to adjourn until Sept. 10. And with pretty much no one in the chamber to object, the resolution passed by unanimous vote. 

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

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