WASHINGTON — Thanks in part to Sen. Olympia Snowe and her surprise decision last week to abandon her bid for a fourth term, fellow Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas received the “Worst Week in Washington” prize.

The dubious honor bestowed by The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is well read, particularly inside the Beltway.

Cornyn is chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is in charge of electing GOP senators. Last week was a rough one for Cornyn because his party’s hopes for regaining the Senate majority were diminished both by Snowe’s announcement and the decision of former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey to run in Nebraska.

Cillizza said it must have been particularly galling for Cornyn to not even get much of a heads-up from Snowe.

“Rubbing more salt into Cornyn’s wound, Snowe informed him of her decision just hours before announcing it publicly,” Cillizza wrote. “The only thing worse than a retirement in a swing seat is an unexpected one.”

While Snowe’s retirement and Kerrey’s decision to run aren’t Cornyn’s fault, he’s still responsible for trying to win those seats, Cillizza said.

That’s why he said: “John Cornyn, for watching your easy ride hit some turbulence, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.”

SNOWE BACKS ‘NO BUDGET, NO PAY’

Snowe says lawmakers don’t deserve to get paid if Congress fails to decide on time each year how to spend taxpayers’ money.

Last week, Snowe became the sixth senator to back a “no budget, no pay” bill that would withhold lawmakers’ paychecks if annual budget and spending bills aren’t finished by Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year. Paychecks would stop after Oct. 1 and would not resume until the bills are completed. Members would not get retroactive pay.

“It is only logical that members of Congress should not be paid if they aren’t doing their job properly,” Snowe said in a prepared statement.

For years, Congress has been slow to pass annual spending bills, and often hasn’t approved overarching annual budgets at all.

The only other Maine lawmaker to back the legislation is Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, one of 31 supporters of a companion bill in the House.

Snowe will leave the Senate after this year, but her pay could be in danger if the bill passes quickly — which doesn’t appear likely.

BILL TAKES AIM AT BATH SALTS

Sen. Susan Collins has joined the move to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana and chemicals that are used to make drugs known as bath salts.

The legislation Collins co-sponsored last week already has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would take the chemicals identified by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as used to make bath salts and classify them like banned drugs including methamphetamine and cocaine, according to Collins’ office.

“Quite simply, these chemicals are dangerous and do not belong on store shelves,” Collins said in a statement. “I am deeply concerned with the terrible effects of these chemicals on people in Maine, and across the country. The longer we wait to seriously address this issue, the more people we put at risk.”

‘CONGRESS NEEDS TO STEP UP’

Michaud says Congress should come up with the $26 million that President Obama has requested this year to fund a new White House office to coordinate federal resources targeting unfair trade practices by other countries.

Michaud has lauded Obama for establishing the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.

“Now Congress needs to step up and make this new office a priority by fully funding its operations,” Michaud said last week in a prepared statement. “Politicians like to talk about the need to create a level playing field for our businesses so that they can compete in the global marketplace. Now it’s time for Congress to back that rhetoric up with action.”

BENEFIT FROM NEW BOILER RULES

A top-ranking Obama administration official says federal rules are being revamped to allow homeowners with wood pellet boiler stoves to get Federal Housing Authority mortgage financing.

Making it easier to use the boilers could save Mainers a lot of money on heating costs, Collins said.

She brought up the issue with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shawn Donovan at a Senate hearing last week.

Because HUD had not considered wood pellet boiler systems conventional primary heating sources, that made it difficult for homeowners who use them to get FHA financing.

Donovan said at the hearing that he agreed with Collins, and that HUD is updating its rules.

“There are moments when the federal government, and government in general, can be a little bit behind the cutting edge in terms of new technology,” Donovan said. 

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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