Sen. Angus King has been an effective advocate for Maine in Washington. He has brokered deals, with both Republicans and Democrats, to lower student loan payments, fund the National Park Service maintenance backlog, and to help drug-affected babies, among many other diverse issues.
Just this week, for example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released proposed rules that would require drug companies to disclose the prices of their medications in advertising. King cosponsored legislation to require such disclosure, and he worked with Democrats and Republicans to try to get the measure included in a must-pass spending bill. While that effort failed, it influenced the CMS proposal.
Last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $6 billion on direct-to consumer marketing. Studies show that patients are more likely to ask their doctor for a specific brand-name medication, and doctors are more likely to prescribe one, when they have seen or received drug advertisements. This drives up the cost of prescription medications, which account for about 10 percent of health care spending in the US. Drug costs are also predicted to grow faster than other health care expenses. Most countries have banned direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising.
This is only the most recent example of King’s work with his Senate colleagues from both parties.
It also highlights why King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, should be re-elected to the U.S. Senate.
State Sen. Eric Brakey, a Republican from Auburn, and Democrat Zak Ringelstein, a teacher from Yarmouth, are challenging King, who served two terms as Maine governor.
Brakey, a libertarian, favors fewer regulations and a market-based approach to health care, energy and other issues. He, for example, says he would vote to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “more freedom.” Compared with King’s work to protect the Affordable Care Act against cuts and repeal efforts from Republicans and the Trump administration, which would lead to thousands of American losing health insurance coverage, this is an unserious answer.
We do agree with Brakey that further federal tax cuts should not be considered without corresponding reductions in federal spending, a message he should spread to his fellow Republicans.
Ringelstein checks all the progressive boxes: Expand Medicare to all Americans, provide jobs for everyone, raise teacher salaries to $60,000 (to be paid for by the federal government), increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. All of this would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy and closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy and corporations.
Some of these are good ideas, but in a closely divided Senate they are unlikely to get any traction unless they are championed by moderates from both parties.
Progress in Congress is slow and tedious, as our Founding Fathers intended. King, a self-described “bridge to help people work together,” has found ways to make progress for Maine people. He worked with Republicans and Democrats to stop a scheduled increase in student loan rates. The legislation will save Maine students $250 million by 2023. A recently passed bill that will direct $8.4 billion toward opioid use disorder treatment and prevention includes two provisions authored by King. One will allow Medicaid to cover care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Another permanently authorizes nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders, which will expand access to this effective treatment.
King was also instrumental in establishing the Economic Development Assistance Team, a public-private partnership, that is working to revitalize the state’s forest products industry. This effort is already paying dividends, with the development of new wood-based products and significant new investment in several Maine paper mills.
King voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act and a Republican tax cut package that has ballooned the deficit. He voted against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He voted against the worst Trump cabinet nominees, such as Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education. But, he voted for more reasonable nominees like Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom King continues to work with.
King offers the smart, moderate representation that Maine needs in the Senate. He should be voters’ first choice on the Nov. 6 ballot.
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