In this Aug. 20, 2020, file photo, Rep. Jared Golden talks with fellow hikers on the top of Black Mountain in Rumford. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. The federal government will shut down at midnight if Congress does not pass a spending bill today. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Coronavirus, this delta variant, does not care what your age is. It does not care who your mom is. It does not care how much money you have, where you’re from, who you are. It doesn’t care,” said Abby Pelletier, a traveling nurse from Madawaska now working in Texas, which has a COVID-19 hospitalization rate more than twice as high as Maine.

What we’re watching today

As the deadline for a default on U.S. loans grows closer, Maine’s swing-seat representative wants Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without Republican help. Congress has two more weeks to make a deal on that, but the parties are at odds with Democratic leaders looking for Republicans to sign onto a bill to avert a shutdown and raise the debt ceiling while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is united with his caucus to force Democrats to raise the ceiling alone. 

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District also wants his party to do that. While he voted to suspend the limit last week, he was one of only two House Democrats to vote against another Democratic-led attempt Thursday all but guaranteed to fail in the Senate, calling it a show vote that will “move us closer to a dangerous deadline that undermines the nation’s fiscal credibility internationally.”

“We have full control of the government, and it remains our responsibility to do what is best for the country,” he said. 

The chance of that is slim for now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said she had ruled out using budget reconciliation to suspend the debt limit, the only mechanism Democrats have to go at it alone short of suspending the Senate filibuster, which is even less likely.

Democrats are wary of the reconciliation process because of fears it would open the bill to amendments on the floor, dragging the process out further. Republicans have blocked measures that would have tied a new budget to suspending the debt limits. At least a stopgap spending deal must materialize by tonight to avoid a government shutdown.

If a debt ceiling deal is not reached, the U.S. would hit its debt limit by mid-October, a situation that would put a recovering economy into a tailspin, as interest rates would rise, investors could lose confidence and a number of government programs, including Social Security, could temporarily lapse. It is a scenario lawmakers say they want to avoid — but someone will have to make concessions to do so.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Thousands of Mainers to shift to new congressional districts,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “But deals reached last week on both Maine House of Representatives and congressional district maps, along with a Monday accord on redrawn state Senate districts, ensured Wednesday would be relatively smooth. Maine is poised to become the second state to finalize its new districts, after Oregon approved its maps earlier this week. [Gov. Janet] Mills signed the bills finalizing the maps Wednesday afternoon.”

— “More young kids have tested positive for COVID-19 this month than in any other,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20, the most recent data available from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,374 Mainers younger than 12 tested positive for the virus — about one out of every 120 kids in that age group. With 10 days left in the month, the figure already surpassed the previous record of 1,197 kids younger than 12 who tested positive in April 2021.”

The number of people experiencing breakthrough cases of the virus is increasing, but that may mostly reflect Maine’s high vaccination rate. In the last month, 30 percent of new coronavirus hospitalizations were vaccinated people, according to the Maine CDC, while 0.1 percent of vaccinated people tested positive for the virus compared to 2.3 percent of unvaccinated people.

— “Maine AG’s office: Nordic can’t lay pipes until the court gives approval,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “A lawsuit over the contested ownership of the intertidal land where Nordic wants to place its intake and outfall pipes has yet to be decided by Waldo County Superior Court Justice Robert Murray. A separate lawsuit was filed against the city of Belfast in August … after city councilors voted to use eminent domain to get an easement across the mudflat.”

Ethics commission to probe voter software

A Maine regulator voted Wednesday to investigate whether software the advocacy group shares with legislators amounts to an illegal contribution. The left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint with the Maine Ethics Commission over the summer alleging the influential American Legislative Exchange Council illegally provided two Republican legislators with software valued at $3,000 that linked to a voter database as part of a membership benefit.

The ethics commission concluded that neither of the lawmakers, Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, and Rep. Matthew Harrington, R-Sanford, did anything wrong, as they did not ultimately use the software. But the commission voted 3-2 to investigate whether the software was valuable enough to amount to an illegal campaign contribution after staff cited questions about it but warned that investigating the large nonprofit would be difficult.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper and edited by 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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