Collins, King vote against Senate bid to defund Planned Parenthood

The U.S. Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood in a symbolic effort Thursday, but Republicans didn’t get any help from Maine’s two senators.

Sen. Susan Collins was one of two Republicans to vote against it, saying in a statement that she has “consistently opposed eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood” and doing so would mean “depriving millions of women of access to basic healthcare and forcing them to give up the health provider of their choice.”

Congressional Republicans have put the organization under a spotlight since the summer over its use of aborted fetuses for medical research, a long-standing practice that has led to the development of vaccines and other treatments.

It drew attention after an anti-abortion group published videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing prices for fetal tissue. Activists have said that means the group could be illegally profiting from the sale, but experts have said that’s unlikely and Planned Parenthood has said the videos were deceptively edited.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, called Republicans’ move on Thursday part of an “unfounded yet relentless assault on Planned Parenthood” and “another example of misguided outrage that would only hurt those who need help the most.”

The bill, which also would repeal key pieces of the Affordable Care Act, faces a certain veto from President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

On Thursday, Nicole Clegg, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s vice president of public policy, said in a statement that the group is “grateful to both Senator Collins and Senator King for opposing this latest effort to undermine access to essential care.”

“Maine women, men and young people should be able to receive the care they need from a provider they trust,” she said. “Sadly, Senators Collins’ and King’s commitment to women’s health was not the prevailing view tonight.” — Michael Shepherd

Legislative watchdog to review health funds …

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted on Thursday to open a probe into how more than $50 million in the Fund for Healthy Maine is spent each year.

The investigation was requested in September by Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, and Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner. It won’t begin immediately, but a committee document said its focus will be on how grantees spend the money, how reliant they are on it and how much is used for administration versus health services.

The fund is mostly made up of money from a 1998 tobacco settlement, and by law, it must be spent to fight smoking, obesity, substance abuse and fund health care, prescription drugs and school health programs.

It’s an often-reviewed area of Maine government. The Legislature’s Health and Human Services closed a separate review of the fund on Monday, saying the Maine Department of Health and Human Services didn’t cooperate with requests for information. The Legislature’s oversight arm also examined the fund in 2009.

… but not LePage’s involvement with the World Acadian Congress

However, the committee voted 8-3 against investigating allegations that Gov. Paul LePage pressured World Acadian Congress’ President Jason Parent into resigning in 2013.

The Republican governor’s office has denied those allegations, which were raised in July by Bangor Daily News blogger Mike Tipping, the spokesman for the progressive Maine People’s Alliance.

Tipping quoted Parent and board members as saying that LePage threatened to withhold $500,000 in state funding for the two-week celebration in 2014 because he was upset that Parent publicly presented a license plate to former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who went on to lose to LePage in the 2014 election.

An investigation was requested by Rep. Robert Saucier, D-Presque Isle, and Rep. Danny Martin, D-Sinclair, but Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, an oversight committee member, said investigating the claims of a blogger absent other information wasn’t worth the time. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • A Portland artist wants your broken or unused crayons for a project.
  • A couch in Portland has been stripped of all its fabric, but it’s free and with a little “repulstery,” the owner says it “could be elegant once again.”
  • Someone in Lewiston goes to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Lisbon Street every day because of the … ahem … assets of one of the employees. (Warning: A bit of foul language at the link, if that bothers you.)
  • I have no way of explaining this ad. It’s something about a woman with a mullet, Biddeford, a 22 oz. Twisted Tea and perhaps even Walmart and the “deep, deep, dirty South.” Read it for yourself. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.