PORTLAND, Maine — Rep. Chellie Pingree said a group of religious and civic leaders arrested in the Capital while protesting proposed budget cuts were speaking for working families and others who’d be “hurt the hardest.”
Pingree, D-Maine, met with the 11 religious leaders protesting budget cuts before they were arrested Thursday as the House began debate on a bill to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling.
“They were praying for the millions of Americans who don’t have high-priced lobbyists to protect them,” Pingree said. “They were praying for the families who find it harder and harder to afford basics like groceries and heat and gas for their cars.”
Before making the arrests, police cleared the Capitol Rotunda where the protesters, organized by the group Common Cause, were kneeling, praying and singing. Pingree is a past president of Common Cause.
One of those detained, Rev. Michael Livingston, past president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, said: “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad.”
The arrest came hours before an anticipated House vote on a Republican proposal that links steep budget cuts to a plan to raise the debt ceiling and avert a U.S. government default. Democrats opposed the proposal.
Back in Maine, Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett said this week that preliminary contingencies are in place should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling to prevent potential defaults.
With a cutoff of federal funds to Maine programs, the state could first dip into the treasurer’s cash pool to make up for losses, but that contingency could last only two to four weeks. After that, the governor would have the power to curtail funding, Millett said.