Saturday, March 8, 2014
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Sen. Angus King, one of the “group of 14” who urged negotiation, is named to a key conference committee.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Sen. Susan Collins was joined by 13 who nudged fellow lawmakers to find a compromise to end the shutdown.
2012 file photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Understandably, ending the government shutdown and avoiding a default got most of the attention from Wednesday’s agreement. But this budget conference committee was an important – if overlooked – part of the deal.
The group will be attempting, once again, to find middle ground between Democrats and Republicans on such perennial issues of spending levels (tax increases versus program cuts) and deficit reductions. Along the way they will have to talk about what to do with the across-the-board budget cuts known as “sequestration” and “entitlement reform” – code for possible changes to programs such as Medicare.
If the committee fails, the American people may be hearing about another potential government shutdown and federal default in a few months.
The last time anything similar took place was in 2011, when a “supercommittee” tried to find bipartisan ground on spending and deficits. It failed and the result was continued gridlock, followed by the sequestration cuts, dueling budgets and, eventually, a government shutdown and a near default.
Let’s hope the talks are more fruitful this time.
MAINE-BORN NOMINEE FOR BENCH
In non-shutdown news, a high-profile attorney who has been nominated for one of the top bench seats in the country was actually born in Maine.
Patricia Ann Millett was nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court is sometimes called the second most-important bench in the country – after the U.S. Supreme Court, of course – because it hears appeals for complex cases involving the federal government. Four of the nine current Supreme Court justices served in the D.C. Circuit.
Millett was born in the small central Maine town of Dexter – located north of Skowhegan and Bangor – in 1963. Although she only spent the first few months of her life in the state, Millett’s mother was from Dexter and her family roots in Maine go back generations, according to biographical information.
She is now head of the Supreme Court division of the large D.C. law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. A Senate committee voted 10-8 to endorse her nomination, but she and two other nominees for the court have yet to be voted on by the full Senate.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: