Spotlight remains on Collins amid new twists in Kavanaugh confirmation saga

Good morning from Augusta. President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is in flux on Wednesday morning as Republicans look poised to move forward with the nomination if the woman who says he sexually assaulted her doesn’t testify.

Perhaps the most pivotal figure on the nomination is the undecided U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday saying that lawyers for Kavanaugh and his alleged victim, Christine Blasey Ford, should be able to cross-examine Kavanaugh and Ford.

However, it’s unclear if her recommendation will be able to gain traction amid Ford’s call on Tuesday for an FBI investigation that Republican leaders look to be rebuffing.

Collins took some heat for her suggestion, but it may be moot. Ford alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when both of them were high school students in Maryland. He has denied the allegation in full, but both agreed to testify before the Senate panel handling the nomination earlier this week.

After that, Collins made her recommendation to the committee that lawyers for Kavanaugh and Ford be granted equal time to cross-examine each other’s clients. She said that approach “would provide more continuity, elicit the most information, and allow for an in-depth examination of the allegations.”

One progressive group, CREDO, issued a statement saying Republicans “must not attempt to put Christine Blasey Ford on trial or otherwise use Monday’s hearing to attack her character.”

But by Tuesday, Ford was less committal on testifying absent an FBI investigation into her allegations and The New York Times reported that Republicans look poised to move forward with the nomination if she doesn’t show up. A Collins spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment on next steps on Wednesday morning.

Poliquin targeted on health care in new ads

The incumbent congressman is being hit largely for his 2018 vote for a failed plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. You’ll be seeing even more ads in Maine’s 2nd District, and two new ones target U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a second-term Republican, for backing his party’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year.

One is from Poliquin’s chief opponent in the targeted race, Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston. The other is part of a $10 million digital campaign first reported by Politico on Tuesday from two Democratic super PACs — the leadership-connected House Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action, which has spent heavily in Maine’s gubernatorial race.

Republicans’ attempts to repeal the health care law championed by former President Barack Obama failed last year in part because of opposition from Collins, one of three Republicans who voted against an initial repeal bid.

The liberal Center for American Progress said the House plan would have increased average 2018 premiums by $1,130, but an earlier Congressional Budget Office estimate said while 24 million Americans would lose insurance by 2026, premiums would decrease overall after 2020, though insurers could charge more for older patients.

Agriculture secretary making Maine swing today

President Donald Trump’s USDA chief will talk rural broadband in Farmington, tour a Cape Elizabeth farm and meet with agricultural leaders. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will swing through Maine on Wednesday. He’ll be with Poliquin at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington for a noontime event focused on rural broadband, Maine’s opioid epidemic and telehealth alongside health and law enforcement officials and business leaders.

Perdue will then head south to tour the William H. Jordan Farm, a fruit and vegetable farm in Cape Elizabeth, alongside Pingree and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King at 4:30 p.m. They will meet with agricultural leaders and hold a media availability after the visit.

Reading list

  • An economic plan put forth by Maine’s Democratic candidate for governor updates past Democratic initiatives while serving as a tool to fault Republican strategies that drastically reduced the unemployment rate without creating lots of new jobs. Attorney General Janet Mills unveiled her plan Tuesday. Maine Public reports that her proposal includes overhauling and consolidating the state’s economic development bureaucracy, providing no-interest loans to businesses that hire more employees, rural workplace grants that convert abandoned downtown buildings into shared workspaces for companies and workers looking for high-speed internet access, and tax incentives designed to repatriate Maine workers who have left the state seeking better jobs and higher wages. A spokesman for Republican candidate Shawn Moody dismissed it, saying, “Nothing Mills can put on paper can help her escape her record of job-killing taxes and red tape.”
  • A Lewiston student’s death on a field trip last spring spurred Bangor school officials to rethink their field trip policy. New guidelines, which are slated for final approval by the School Committee on Sept. 26, were inspired by recommendations from a two-part report published this summer by Lewiston law enforcement and independent water safety experts.The proposal would require students or faculty expected to swim recreationally at a lake or waterpark “to demonstrate water competency” before they’re told they can swim by a certified lifeguard. Students are required to be paired with a buddy while swimming, and will have to respond audibly as buddies when the lifeguard periodically calls upon them.
  • Mean Canadian crabs are increasingly coming to Maine waters, where they’re a threat to the coastal ecosystem. A variation of green crab that came from Nova Scotia, which a University of New England researcher says is marked by “this insane level of aggressiveness,” will be showing up more and more in Maine waters, according to The Associated Press. They could accelerate harm to Maine’s coastal ecosystem by eating soft-shell clams and destroying eel grass. This new variety only comprises between 2 percent and 3 percent of green crabs found in Maine waters, but the researcher said it’s “just a question of when more of the crabs come and out-compete the Maine green crabs.”
  • Football fans might not be able to watch the state’s high school championship games on television this year. WABI-TV CBS Channel 5 and the CW of Bangor announced Tuesday that they have pulled the plug on the telecasts. The stations have carried the games for the past 13 years, but Steve Hiltz, WABI’s director of promotions, production and programming, said it has become too labor-intensive.

Say Arrgh

It’s National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Here is your soundtrack.

You probably expected us to make jokes about corn costing a buccaneer or barbers using straight razors to trim the corsairs.

Avast, me hearties. We at the Daily Brief need far more sophisticated diversions to shiver our timbers. It’s Meow Like a Pirate Day that stirs our booty. Batten down your hatches and affix this bonus soundtrack to your Jolly Roger. — Robert Long

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

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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.