Last week when he was sworn in as a member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin called for a balanced budget and dove into energy issues.

The new Republican congressman from Maine’s 2nd District has challenges, including a Democratic president, anger among some conservatives for his support of the House speaker, and four Democrats who could be considering runs to oust him in 2016.

For now, though, he’s focused on his work.

In an interview Thursday, Poliquin, 61, of Oakland rattled off issues that he’s now negotiating with colleagues, including debt and energy, saying his agenda is “all about jobs.”

“I’m someone who does not sit back and watch things,” he said. “I get involved.”

In November, Poliquin beat Democrat Emily Cain for the seat vacated by Democrat Mike Michaud, becoming the first Republican in 20 years to represent the district. His party succeeded nationwide in 2014, widening its edge in the U.S. House of Representatives and taking control of the Senate.


The former Maine state treasurer’s first floor speech in the House on Wednesday tackled federal debt, calling for an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget each year. Such a measure is unlikely: It would need a two-thirds vote in Congress before being sent to state legislatures for approval. Critics say it could harm the country’s ability to respond to crises.

But Poliquin said in the interview that it would instill “an institutional discipline to make sure that Congress can control its spending,” which will “give a lot more confidence to job creators.”


He also said he will co-sponsor a bill that would force federal regulators to approve or deny new natural gas pipeline projects within a year or trigger automatic approval, a measure that Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, pushed for last year. The White House has said that President Obama would likely veto the bill because it “could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information.”

But Poliquin – who also voted with a majority of House members Friday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico – said expediting the natural gas permitting process would help Maine consumers.

“If you can do that, you drive down the cost to heat our homes and drive down the energy costs to operate our paper mills,” he said.


On Thursday, Poliquin also voted for a bill that would alter standards under the Affordable Care Act that determine who must be offered employer-provided health coverage, defining full-time workers as those working 40 hours per week instead of 30 hours. The House approved the bill, whose supporters say the current standard pressures businesses to save money by cutting workers’ hours.

Just after Poliquin’s swearing-in Tuesday, 25 Republicans voted against the reappointment of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as House speaker. Those members didn’t think Boehner was conservative enough, but Poliquin and other Republicans rallied to win him a third term in charge of the House.

At the party’s 2012 national convention, Boehner approved a group of delegates that left out 10 supporters of Ron Paul, a libertarian-leaning presidential candidate who lost the party’s nomination to Mitt Romney. The Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian conservative group, endorsed Poliquin in 2014, but it lobbied for Boehner’s removal as speaker.

Vic Berardelli of Newburgh, the Republican Liberty Caucus’s northeast director, said he got emails and calls from people who said they may leave the party because of Poliquin’s vote for Boehner. But Berardelli said he’s giving Poliquin a pass because party leaders gave him a plum assignment on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the securities, banking, insurance and housing industries.

Even so, Berardelli said Poliquin will have to prove his conservative mettle to activists if he wants to gain their future support, calling the congressman’s job “a delicate balancing act.”

Poliquin’s Facebook page was littered with comments asking him to vote against the speaker, but he said he wasn’t lobbied to vote against Boehner. In meetings with leaders, Poliquin said he has been convinced that they share his pro-jobs agenda, even if they may not always agree.


“I’m not going to vote with them on everything,” he said. “I don’t work for Mr. Boehner; I work for the people of the 2nd District.”


Democrats are already gunning for him in 2016.

Cain, a former state senator from Orono, has been asked by party leaders to run again in a presidential year, which traditionally boosts voter turnout. Maine House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, has said he may run. Also, two Bangor city councilors, Joe Baldacci and Ben Sprague, said they aren’t ruling out runs.

Baldacci, 49, a lawyer and the brother of John Baldacci, a former Democratic governor and congressman, and Sprague, 31, a financial adviser and former independent who registered as a Democrat in December, said they’ve both been encouraged to run.

Baldacci said his party should spend “more time focusing on issues that resonate with the voters in order to understand the lessons of 2014” before politicking for the seat, while Sprague said for now, his priorities are Bangor and his family and “it doesn’t do the process any good to start the campaign season this early.”

Poliquin brushed off potential challenges, saying he’s “fully consumed with helping our families live better lives.” On Thursday, Poliquin said he was set to meet with U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, to urge him to support the Keystone XL pipeline.

“I’ll work with anybody to make sure that we move a pro-jobs agenda forward in Washington to grow jobs in Maine,” Poliquin said.

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