Maine senators put state before partisan politics

Posted Feb. 23, 2009, at 5:34 p.m.

We were in Washington, D.C., most of last week attending an annual conference that happened to coincide with the Senate’s consideration of the economic stimulus bill. During our visit we also saw Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins who, while busy negotiating one of the most important pieces of legislation in decades, took time to meet with us and to hear our concerns about the stimulus bill and other matters.

We relayed to them statistics and stories that they were already far too familiar with: The ever-increasing numbers of Mainers losing their jobs, of more businesses in our state closing, of the escalating costs of health care, of the double-digit rates of unemployment in Washington County and the incredible lack of jobs on the state’s Indian reservations. We thanked them for their leadership in supporting the stimulus bill and putting aside partisan politics to do what was so clearly best for Maine.

Every year we attend this conference and we get to observe firsthand how the ridiculously partisan nature of the Congress has handcuffed our elected officials from being able to act on issues important to the middle- and working-class people. We were so glad to see our senators rise above that pettiness and do what was best for the people, not what might score the most points in the next election.

Maine will get millions of dollars in critically needed relief from this legislation. Those funds for road and bridge construction, for water systems, for new electric transmission lines in Maine, for broadband, and for education, all of which will generate employment for Mainers, could have come from no source other than the fed-eral government. No less a normal Republican ally than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for the Congress to enact this stimulus bill as “a defibrillator to our economy and shock it back to life.” The Chamber said that doing nothing was not an option, but without Snowe and Collins that is precisely what would have happened.

We were proud to see our senators join Maine’s two representatives — Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree — and vote for passage. While the partisans will continue to whine, it takes guts to do what is right.

Maine has had some of the country’s great senators in recent decades, all of whom knew what was best for Maine and the country regardless of partisan politics. Sens. Collins and Snowe have been moving that way for years and have now jumped in with both feet. This is true leadership and Maine will be the better for it.

Kirk Francis is chief of the Penobscot Indian Nation. Rick Phillips-Doyle is chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Pleasant Point Reservation.

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