Ethan: Phil, do you remember the first rule of politics?

Phil: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

Ethan: Sadly, no. That is the Golden Rule and rarely used by elected officials. Try again.

Phil: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican?”

Ethan: Nope. That was Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment. One more guess.

Phil: “When your opposition is making a fool of themselves, give them a microphone, sit down and shut up.”


Ethan: You got it! Have you noticed how well my Democratic colleagues in the State House have been adhering to this rule while your Republican colleagues have detonated an all out civil war on each other? Turn up the mic!

Phil: Shockingly, I have. Republican leaders appear to have abandoned the unity that allowed them to regain the Maine Senate, increase their numbers in the House and re-elect Gov. Paul LePage. How could legislative egos cast aside this historic message from “we the people?”

Ethan: If the consequences of your intraparty war weren’t so dire for all of us, it would be such a beautiful thing to watch.

Phil: I smell what you’re stepping in. A shutdown is no one’s idea of good legislative leadership. There is still time to avoid it. However, it will require one or more of the factions to recede from their current position.

Ethan: Um, that would be House Republicans. Didn’t you watch “Sesame Street” when they sang, “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others by the time I finish my song?” Senate R’s, House D’s and Senate D’s have all agreed. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette is clearly the thing that just doesn’t belong.

Phil: Fredette is simply saying, “Let’s use our power to fulfill our campaign promises on tax relief and welfare reform.” Neither of these is in the budget at this point.


Ethan: That’s because his House members are not the only ones who got elected last fall. A lot of other people were elected to ensure we don’t give tax breaks to the rich and don’t take assistance away from people who need it.

Phil: Fair enough, but from what I can tell, the issues you mention have made it into the budget. The issues I mention did not. That is not compromise and probably why Fredette walked away from the deal.

Ethan: I would say locking down income tax rates forever and reducing the estate tax for multimillionaires means your side of the aisle got some pretty big concessions in the budget. Certainly big enough for Senate Republicans to celebrate the deal as an “historic opportunity to control spending” and certainly big enough for a lot of Democrats to be grumbling.

Phil: You grumble no matter who gets a tax cut.

Ethan: From what I see, you have Fredette leading the ideological wing of your party. And you have Senate President Michael Thibodeau leading the governing wing of your party. At this late hour it is time to put ideology aside and put governing front and center.

Phil: Hold on. The hour is not that late. We still have a month. Everyone simply needs to take a breath, calm down and get back to the table.


Ethan: I disagree. The hour is very late. It will take two weeks to print the budget, a couple days to get it through the House and Senate, and then LePage has 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto. That means we need 26 days and by my count there are only 23 left.

Phil: Your scenario assumes LePage would hold it for 10 full days. If past is prologue and House Republican voices aren’t included, he’ll veto it before the ink is dry.

Ethan: Maybe or maybe not. But regardless, it is time to get this budget deal to the floor of the House so everyone can read it. The longer negotiations occur behind closed doors, the more chance there is for special interest boondoggles to be inserted without notice. And the closer we get to June 30, the more pressure people will feel to simply accept a deal they don’t fully understand.

Phil: You mean like ObamaCare?

Ethan: More like the Patriot Act. Like this budget may be, the Patriot Act was literally introduced on Tuesday and passed on Thursday.

Phil: While I agree that this is the time of year for sneaking in nefarious provisions of law, I remain optimistic the Legislature has time to get this right and should.


Ethan: So is your take that the Senate Republicans made a mistake in accepting the deal with Democrats?

Phil: Made a mistake? Not sure I would say that. They got the ball moving after negotiations had been stuck for weeks. Now it is time for House Republicans to get on the scoreboard.

Ethan: Be careful. Most of the time when you’re trying to get on the scoreboard this late in the game, you strike out.

Phil: But sometimes you hit a home run, something Maine people desperately need.

Ethan: Not sure if Maine people need the home run Fredette wants. But, as hard as it is for me to say, your party definitely needs to stop making a fool of themselves.

Phil: On that we agree.

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