Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated,” said inaugural poet Amanda Gorman as she performed her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony. Listen to the whole thing here.
What we’re watching today
A middle-of-the-road group of lawmakers that includes Maine’s senators is set to meet with top Biden advisers soon as the new president works on his agenda. The newest iteration of the “Common Sense Coalition,” a group of relatively moderate senators led by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is planning to meet soon with economic advisers to the newly inaugurated president, the Maine senator told reporters Thursday. U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is also among the coalition, which has the same name as the informal Collins- and Manchin-led group that helped end a 2018 government shutdown.
The first order of business is coronavirus relief and Brian Deese, the National Economic Council director, is expected to lead the meeting, according to a source familiar with the plans. Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion package but indicated he would like to avoid using the budget reconciliation process, meaning he needs at least 10 Republican senators on board for a bill to pass the new Democratic-led Senate. The president has also hinted at a major infrastructure bill aimed at boosting jobs and fighting climate change.
The negotiations start on a floor of policy that Biden instituted within hours of becoming president, including measures that have previously required negotiating in Congress. Issues like extending student loan forgiveness and eviction and foreclosures moratoriums were resolved with the stroke of a pen Wednesday. He also enshrined a mask mandate in federal buildings and moved to roll back several measures instituted by former President Donald Trump, including reassessing commercial fishing in a Gulf of Maine marine monument.
With Democrats in control in both chambers, albeit by just Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the Senate, putting through policies like boosting unemployment benefits, extended paid sick leave and billions in aid to local governments in Biden’s relief plan may go smoother.
But there are still sticking points. Chief among them is a $15 minimum wage that Biden included in his plan. Collins wants to raise the current minimum of $7.25, but she has opposed smaller hikes in the past and told Maine Public recently that this one should be considered separately from a stimulus. King supports the increase.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine nursing home workers are less willing to get COVID-19 vaccine than residents,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “About 27 percent of homes surveyed said less than half of their staff had agreed to be vaccinated. The other three-quarters reported between 50 percent and 99 percent of staff were willing to be vaccinated. At the same time, 97 percent of facilities saw over half of residents agree to be vaccinated, with 17 percent saying every resident agreed to be vaccinated.”
– “How outside CEOs like one dubbed ‘Chainsaw’ drove the Maine paper industry’s collapse,” Josh Keefe, BDN: “[University of Southern Maine economics professor Michael] Hillard argues that while competition from foreign markets played a role in the Maine paper industry’s decline, it was the takeover of Maine’s mills by outside firms seeking to maximize short-term profits that was the driving force behind the collapse of the industry.”
— “Maine Capitol Police chief’s deputy takes charge after uproar over social media posts,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “The Maine Capitol Police is being run by its second in command, prompting speculation that its embattled chief has been put on administrative leave after he promoted far-right falsehoods about masks and President Joe Biden’s election victory.”
Collins, King vote to confirm Biden intelligence chief
The Senate confirmed Biden’s director of national intelligence in the first congressional vote of the new Democratic president’s term. Collins and King, both of whom sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, voted in favor of confirming Avril Haines after questioning her earlier this week. Haines, the first of Biden’s Cabinet nominees to receive Senate confirmation, was a relatively uncontroversial choice, while candidates that come up in the Senate in the coming weeks are likely to receive more pushback.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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