LePage renews pressure on Collins, King to end Obamacare

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is trying to get his Republican base to urge Maine’s senators to support the party’s latest Affordable Care Act repeal effort.

He sent an email to supporters calling the latest bill ‘our last chance.’ The email, sent through the Maine Republican Party, also says that party leaders are “very close” to having the votes to pass the plan from Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

What would it do? Broadly speaking, the Graham-Cassidy bill would eliminate subsidies for Affordable Care Act exchanges and a higher reimbursement rate for Medicaid expansion states and replace it with lower block grants. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that would cut federal health care coverage in Maine by more than $1 billion by 2027.

It may need U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ vote to pass. Vox lays out the vote-counting well: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is already opposing the bill, so Republicans would likely need support from Maine’s Collins or Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to pass it on a party line. A vote is expected by month’s end, according to The Washington Post.

But Collins has concerns with the proposal, though she hasn’t stated a position yet. Her spokeswoman, Annie Clark, said on Monday that the senator has “a number of concerns” with the Graham-Cassidy bill, including Medicaid cuts and impact on the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions.

LePage isn’t the best vote-whipper here. The governor has all but declared war on both Collins and King lately — especially after they voted against Republicans’ last bid to kill the Affordable Care Act in July. LePage told supporters at a party event that if conservatives tell Collins they don’t want her, she’ll “back down” on the 2018 gubernatorial run she’s considering. If LePage’s support for the bill didn’t matter then, why would it now?

CorrectionAn earlier version of this story misstated the month of the last repeal vote. It was in August.

Quick hits

  • Collins met with officials from Maine hospitals at her office in the Capitol. The meeting featured discussions about how to improve Maine’s health care system in a way that financially supports the state’s rural hospitals. To that end, Collins is working on the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act in response to a shortage of physicians in rural areas. Visiting Collins were Art Blank, CEO of Mount Desert Island Hospital; Jeffrey Austin, vice president of government affairs and communications of the Maine Hospital Association; and Dr. Steve Diaz, chief medical officer of MaineGeneral Health.
  • The University of Maine system trustees are zeroing in on the economy. The board’s been meeting since Sunday and continues today with a discussion about Maine’s workforce challenges and initiatives that are underway to meet them. The full agenda can be seen by clicking here and if you want to listen, click here.

Reading list

  • An adviser to President Donald Trump has suggested Maine’s new national monument  be opened to commercial forestry. The revelation came in a summary leaked to The Washington Post that was written by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who suggested Trump include that provision in an executive order.
  • A U.S. Marine from Maine who died in the line of duty is back home. Capt. Ben Cross, who died during a training crash off the coast of Australia, was laid to rest during a ceremony on Saturday in Bethel.
  • The Pine Tree Development Zone economic development program will be under a microscope for the next few months. Lawmakers are focused on improving transparency and efficiency within the program while the LePage administration suggests it might come up with its own alternative.
  • Maine officials are trying to block Equifax from profiting from the recent data breach. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has signed on to a letter with several of her peers from across the country to tell Equifax that it shouldn’t offer a fee-based credit monitoring service to people who are already the victims of the data breach. Collins and King have called for an investigation related to the breach.
  • The U.S. Army is canceling enlistment contracts for foreign-born recruits. Since last week, the military has traditionally provided a fast track to citizenship for highly skilled immigrants, but the Washington Post reports that recruiters have stopped the process.
  • 500 Trump supporters rallied in Washington all day Saturday. It was a counter-protest to a smaller rally calling on Trump to take actions against Russian President Vladimir Putin. The theme of the pro-Trump rally was “we stand united,” according to a report by the Associated Press.

The Aussies lose their best-sounding political party

The Australian Sex Party is deregistering itself and becoming the Reason Party, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Sex Party started in 2009 — er, that’s when it was founded, anyway — but renamed itself last month. The founder of the Sex Party says the Reason Party will continue to advocate for key Sex Party policies, including legalization of drugs and euthanasia.

That doesn’t sound very sexy at all. Here’s their soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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.