Politics

December 22, 2013

Washington Notebook: Maine lawmakers weigh in on least productive Congress

U.S. Rep. Pingree calls it a ‘do-nothing’ Congress, but she and others note some pluses for Maine.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Sen. Angus King

2013 file photo

“On the veterans side, we have been able to get a lot of bills passed and signed, but there are still a lot that we are waiting for the Senate to take action on,” said Michaud, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

DEFENSE BILL BENEFITS MAINE

Two of the last votes of the year cast by lawmakers in each chamber were to approve a $630 billion defense spending bill that contains some notable items for Maine.

The local line items include:

Authorization for an additional $100 million for a DDG-51 Navy destroyer to be built at Bath Iron Works. The money closes about one-third of a shortfall for the ship, one of five to be built by BIW under a multi-year contract. The remaining money will have to be included in upcoming defense appropriations bills. Both Collins and Pingree serve on appropriations committees.

$6 billion to continue purchases of the F-35 fighter jet. The Pratt & Whitney facility in North Berwick manufactures parts of the engine for the F-35.

$23.5 million for construction or modernization projects at Maine military bases, including $11.5 million to speed up consolidation and improvements of the structural shop at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

$503 million for research and development of a new CH-53K marine helicopter, some of which will likely go to Hunting Dearborn in Fryeburg, which manufactures the rotor shaft.

Resolution of a long-standing legal dispute between the Navy, General Dynamics (owner of BIW) and the Boeing Corp. that will result in BIW receiving essentially $200 million in hardware for the third and final DDG-1000 destroyer to be built at the shipyard. The money resulted from a settlement of litigation over the cancellation of the A-12, a stealth attack aircraft that never made it into production.

Both Collins and King played roles in shaping aspects of the defense authorization bill through their respective positions on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

SNEAKER POLITICS

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Obama’s top trade negotiator received new sneakers this week laced with an overt political message.

The sneakers were made by New Balance, the Massachusetts-based company that employs about 900 people at three facilities in Maine. And the message: These shoes are made by Americans with U.S.-sourced components.

Staff with Michaud’s office delivered the New Balance sneakers to the offices of Hagel and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Friday. Michaud and members of the Maine and Massachusetts delegations – as well as others – have been pressuring the Pentagon to require military branches to comply with the Berry Amendment when sourcing athletic footwear for new recruits entering basic training.

Passed in 1941, the Berry Amendment requires the Defense Department to purchase food, clothing and some other items from domestic manufacturers. That’s why all parts of a military uniform are U.S.-made with American components, with few exceptions. But the military branches give new recruits vouchers with which to purchase athletic footwear of their choice rather than issue them standard equipment.

New Balance says it has a line of sneakers that meet the letter of the law. The new shoes delivered Friday were meant to counter suggestions to the contrary.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight with both of you: Berry-compliant footwear exists,” Michaud wrote in a letter that accompanied the new kicks. “I have enclosed a pair of Berry-compliant footwear for each of you so you can see them for yourselves. These shoes are made by American workers in Boston, Massachusetts, and Norridgewock, Maine, with components from a supply chain that stretches into 11 other states.

“The Berry Amendment is clear; it says our troops should wear American-made uniforms,” Michaud continued. “The only reason our troops are not training in these shoes is (the Department of Defense’s) unwillingness to fully comply with the law.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@pressherald.com

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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