William Kayatta Jr. of Cape Elizabeth, President Obama’s choice to fill Maine’s sole seat on the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, is scheduled to get a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The fact that Kayatta is receiving a hearing relatively quickly after his Jan. 24 nomination means he just might get a full Senate confirmation vote this year, said one legal expert.

Typically, judicial nominations grind to a halt by August in an election year.

“It is a great sign that he is having a hearing rather soon after being nominated,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor and expert on federal judicial nominations. “There still may be time to move through the process.”

Kayatta, 58, is a nationally prominent trial attorney and a partner in the Pierce Atwood law firm in Portland.

If confirmed, Kayatta will replace Judge Kermit Lipez, who has served in Maine’s seat on the appellate court since 1998.

The nation’s 12 circuit courts are a step below the U.S. Supreme Court and the final stop for most cases appealed from federal district courts, since few cases ever reach the Supreme Court.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine both back Kayatta and have called for the 1st Circuit seat to be filled promptly.

There is no guarantee Kayatta will get a full Senate vote this year, given the backlog of judicial nominees.

“The problem will be getting a floor vote, but the Maine senators can make a strong plea that one vacancy on a six-judge court is critical and must be filled swiftly,” Tobias said.

SENATE REJECTS COLLINS’ BILL

The Senate rejected a bill last week authored by Sen. Susan Collins that seeks to block new federal regulations limiting emissions from industrial boilers.

While 52 senators voted for the bill as an amendment to a pending transportation bill, it needed 60 votes to pass. Among those voting yes was Sen. Olympia Snowe.

The bill would give the Environmental Protection Agency 15 months to come up with final rules. It would also extend compliance deadlines from three years to five.

Collins says the regulations will be expensive for businesses in Maine and elsewhere to comply with, and she isn’t satisfied with changes the EPA already has agreed to make in how the rules are put into effect.

Proponents of the new rules say boilers spew mercury and other toxic emissions that cause health problems such as asthma and premature deaths.

Collins’ bill “would undermine the foundation of the Clean Air Act and put the health and prosperity of our children and grandchildren at significant risk,” said Ed Miller, a vice president of the American Lung Association of New England.

EXPANDING TRADE ENFORCEMENT TOOLS

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, sometimes criticizes his fellow Democrats in the Obama administration, alleging the administration doesn’t take a tough enough stance against foreign trade practices that endanger jobs atplaces like northern Maine paper mills.

But Michaud and Vice President Joe Biden both voiced full approval last week when Congress passed a bill ensuring the Department of Commerce can slap tariffs on illegally subsidized imports from countries like China.

“By passing this law, Congress has taken a clear stand against the unfair trade practices that have put countless American jobs in jeopardy,” Biden said in a statement.

A federal court of appeals in December said current U.S. law didn’t allow for the tariffs being imposed on certain countries, including China, but this legislation essentially overturns that ruling.

Michaud, chairman of the House Trade Working Group, said the bill allows the Obama administration to impose fines on illegally subsidized Chinese coated paper, which has eaten into the profits of mills like the one Sappi operates in Skowhegan.

Michaud and the Obama administration “are on the same page on this bill because both know how important it is to ensure our government can utilize all available trade enforcement tools against all countries that violate international trade law,” said Ed Gilman, Michaud’s spokesman.

SNOWE URGES VISIT TO NEW BALANCE

Sen. Snowe wants the Obama administration’s top trade official to make a visit to the New Balance factory in Skowhegan.

Snowe says Ron Kirk, Obama’s trade representative, should hear firsthand from New Balance workers about fears that the pending Trans-Pacific trade treaty could result in flooding the U.S. market with inexpensive shoes from Vietnam.

That could cost jobs in places like Maine, where New Balance, the last major athletic shoe manufacturer that still produces footwear in the United States, employs 800 workers in the Maine communities of Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Norway, Snowe said last week.

The Obama administration says the agreement will spur U.S. exports to Vietnam and other Asian countries, creating U.S. jobs.

But New Balance has said it will be tougher for a U.S. factory to be competitive if the deal eliminates a tariff on imported Vietnamese shoes.

“I invited Ambassador Kirk to visit New Balance’s Skowhegan facility to get a unique glimpse of a business that has not only developed their domestic manufacturing options, but continues to innovatively produce new products while creating additional job opportunities in the Northeast,” Snowe said in a statement last week.

No word back yet about whether Kirk has accepted Snowe’s invitation.

SUPPORTERS PLOT PINGREE’S FUTURE

As soon as Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced her decision last week not to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Snowe, a liberal group pleading with Pingree to run was plotting her next Senate bid.

The Washington-based Progressive Change Campaign Committee said it hopes Pingree will run for Collins’ Senate seat.

But the group wasn’t asking Pingree to take Collins on in 2014 if the Maine Republican seeks re-election to a third term – as Collins is expected to do.

Rather, the group wants Pingree to wait to see if Collins goes the route of Snowe.

“Chellie Pingree would have been a bold progressive fighter in the Senate, and we are confident that she will be when Susan Collins retires,” said Adam Green, the group’s co-founder.

Pingree, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, was the subject of draft movements by several liberal groups when Snowe bowed out.

‘MOST IMPORTANT SENATE CANDIDATE’

Think Republican Olympia Snowe’s surprise decision not to run for re-election shook up the political scene in Maine? It is viewed in momentous terms in Washington, too, because it gives Democrats the chance to hold on to their Senate majority.

So when former Gov. Angus King, an independent, jumped in the race, here was one headline last week in the Washington Post:

“Why Angus King is the most important Senate candidate in the country.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC