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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Maine"

Impeachment Trial Puts Susan Collins, Stung by Kavanaugh Backlash, Under Scrutiny

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-collins2-facebookJumbo Impeachment Trial Puts Susan Collins, Stung by Kavanaugh Backlash, Under Scrutiny United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Republican Party Maine Collins, Susan M Campaign Finance

WASHINGTON — A few days after Senator Susan Collins cast her votes to acquit President Bill Clinton, as she was greeted with icy stares at a Lincoln Day dinner in rural Maine, a fellow Republican approached her, irate.

“I can’t believe you let him off the hook,” he told Ms. Collins. “I am never, ever voting for you again.”

Twenty-one years later, she faces another presidential impeachment vote with heavy consequences for the nation and her own political survival. Ms. Collins, one of a handful of moderate Republicans whose votes could alter the trajectory of the trial, said she does not regret her votes to acquit then.

She said she would use the same logic behind that decision when she weighs the impeachment charges against President Trump in a Senate trial that begins in earnest next week.

“I, too, was furious at President Clinton and felt that he had lied under oath, but it didn’t reach the constitutional test of high crimes and misdemeanors, and was not sufficient to overturn an election and throw him out of office,” she said in an interview on Thursday in her Capitol Hill office.

In the case of Mr. Trump, she said, she would be “applying that same standard.”

Ms. Collins’s position as a centrist gives her outsize influence over the shape of Mr. Trump’s trial, including whether new witnesses and evidence will be heard, just as it has in some of the most important and impassioned debates during her four terms in the Senate. But that middle ground is shrinking in the Trump era, leaving her open to bitter attack from both political parties.

She was among three Republicans who sank Mr. Trump’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and she helped lead an unsuccessful effort to prevent him from taking unallocated money for his border wall. But she also voted for a tax bill that was the centerpiece of the Republican agenda. And the move that overshadowed all that was her deciding vote to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault.

Ms. Collins’s health care vote in 2017 fueled hopes on the left and anger on the right over whether she might stray from party orthodoxy. But the Kavanaugh vote and the tax vote reinforced her lifelong party affiliation despite her aversion to parts of Mr. Trump’s agenda.

That confirmation vote — and her impassioned speech defending it on the Senate floor — generated millions of dollars in donations to be used against her, and a lengthy period of harassment and intimidation by critics, including numerous death threats. There were so many hostile calls targeting her that a 25-year-old employee in one of her Maine offices quit. One day, her husband texted Ms. Collins a photo of himself in a hazmat suit; someone had sent a threatening letter to their Maine home — where protesters gathered eight Sundays in a row — that claimed to contain ricin.

In Washington, a man waited for Ms. Collins in the dark as she parked her car one evening in the pouring rain, then followed her several blocks to her townhouse. A neighbor lamented to her that he hated living next to “a rape apologist.”

“It just made the whole time very unpleasant,” said Ms. Collins, who faces a steep re-election challenge in November, when she will seek a fifth term. “But anyone who thinks that they can intimidate me doesn’t know me.”

Ms. Collins’s history, and her competitive race to keep her seat, puts her at the top of the list of senators under scrutiny in the impeachment debate. Reporters on Capitol Hill toil to divine her intentions; as the articles of impeachment were read Thursday on the Senate floor, Ms. Collins, who was suffering a bad cold, coughed and dabbed at her eyes, causing several reporters to call her office to ask why she was crying.

Her vote at the conclusion of Mr. Trump’s trial almost certainly will not determine whether he becomes the first president to be removed from office by the Senate — the 67 votes required, at this point, are not there. But Ms. Collins will be pivotal to resolving procedural questions, including a battle between Republicans and Democrats over calling witnesses and admitting new documents as part of the Senate trial. And Ms. Collins has signaled that she will buck her party and support both moves.

“I would anticipate that it is likely that I would vote to have more information brought forward, whether witnesses or documents or both,” she said Thursday.

Ms. Collins convened several meetings in her office with the Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to cobble together a provision ensuring a vote on the matter after opening arguments by both sides and questions from senators. If the four hang together on the issue, their votes would be enough — along with the 47 that Democrats control — to demand more information come out in the trial.

And her eventual vote on whether to remove the president will be politically significant as well, both to Mr. Trump and to Ms. Collins. Since he was impeached last month, the president has leaned on his party’s unified opposition to dismiss the whole effort as a partisan “hoax,” and he has made it clear he looks forward to an exoneration by the Republican-led chamber. Even a single Republican vote in favor of removing him would undermine that.

In Maine, Ms. Collins’s choice could prove even more consequential to voters, and perhaps play a critical role in her legacy.

“There is no doubt that there are going to be Mainers unhappy with me no matter what conclusion I reach,” said Ms. Collins, who said she has been powering through an enormous white binder detailing the trial’s substance.

The Kavanaugh confirmation, among the most bitter Senate fights of the Trump administration, may have shored up support among a Republican base smarting from some of Ms. Collins’s other votes, but it enraged many of the independent and Democratic voters who have helped keep Ms. Collins comfortably in office for years. It also set the stage and tone for the impeachment fight.

What appears to rankle Ms. Collins is the suggestion that her votes are mere political calculations. She often says she consults a bevy of experts, reams of transcripts and scores of interviews with people who have a personal stake in a policy outcome.

To prepare for Mr. Trump’s trial, she met with specialists from the legal division at the Congressional Research Service and had her staff put together a huge notebook about the 1999 trial procedures. She has read myriad transcripts of the House hearings and reports on the Ukraine matter and Mr. Trump, she said.

“I felt that the process that we followed in 1999 worked really well and produced a fair outcome,” she said, including the decision to call witnesses and examine additional evidence, which most Republicans are resisting this time around.

In voting for witnesses but rejecting one or both charges against Mr. Trump, Ms. Collins might anticipate she can satisfy both Maine Republicans, many of whom are very loyal to the president, and the many Democrats and independents she has always relied on for her victories.

But that is far from clear in such a hyperpartisan environment. And she will be running for re-election against several opponents in November, including Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of Maine’s House.

“I am definitely expecting this to be an all-out brawl from both left and right groups, along with the candidate and party spending,” said Michael M. Franz, a co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising spending.

Maine’s race already surpassed all other Senate races in terms of campaign spending for 2019, Mr. Franz said. “All told, I don’t expect either side to be dramatically outspent, since pro-Democrat groups see this election as one of their likeliest prospects,” he said.

Compromise legislation of the sort that used to help lawmakers in Maine, where voters love independence, is increasingly rare in Congress these days. (A notable exception is the recent North American trade agreement.)

Polls show approval ratings for Ms. Collins, long one of the nation’s most popular senators, dipping.

“Maine has a kind of model of what they want a political figure to look like, which has elements of being respected nationally, civility and a certain degree of bipartisanship and independence,” said Amy Fried, the chairwoman of the department of political science at the University of Maine. “However in today’s politics she has been pushed out of that.”

For example, Ms. Fried said, although Ms. Collins is seen as supportive of abortion rights and pro-environment, political advocacy groups that press for those issues are not likely to support her this year.

“Senator Collins is now the most unpopular Senator in the country because she’s shown over and over again that she will put the needs of corporate special interests and Mitch McConnell ahead of Mainers,” said Kathleen Marra, the chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party, who says there has been a tremendous surge in enthusiasm and volunteer engagement in her state.

Yet incumbency can be a powerful force. Ms. Collins is known as a shrewd politician who has built ties to every part of the state and labors to scrape together benefits for its shipyards, lobstermen and large elderly population and to promote them when at home.

Impeachment could be a wild card.

“I feel confident she is beatable, but don’t feel confident she will definitely lose yet,” said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, one of the many groups spending millions of dollars to highlight Ms. Collins’s Kavanaugh vote. “It is still going to take a lot of work.”

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Maine approves assisted suicide

Westlake Legal Group funeral Maine approves assisted suicide The Blog Maine end of life doctors assisted suicide

We now have one more state where terminally ill patients can choose to end their own lives rather than continuing further medical care to stave off their demise. Maine has passed an assisted suicide law by the narrowest of margins in the legislature and the Governor has signed the bill. They now join California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. (Associated Press)

Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

“It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly,” said Mills.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Realizing that I’m still in the minority on this among conservatives, I can’t oppose this decision by Maine’s elected officials, particularly since they’ve addressed most of the objections normally raised in this debate. The new law will not allow for such an option for people who are depressed or otherwise healthy and able to continue living for a reasonable period of time. It will only be allowed for those suffering from a terminal illness and who have been judged by their doctor to have less than six months to live. A second doctor will have to provide a similar opinion. The patient must be screened for evidence of depression or anything else that might impair their judgment. They will also have to request the procedure three times, once in writing and twice verbally.

Laws regarding end-of-life choices remain complicated and controversial, but at least we’re having the discussion. It’s been nearly a decade since Dr. Ken Murray penned a shocking essay titled How Doctors Die, opening up a new phase of the conversation. And the reality is that this public debate isn’t shining a light on something new. It’s just removing part of the veil that surrounds such medical decisions. There are any number of people whose death certificates indicate that they died as a result of complications from some untreatable and debilitating disease. But in reality, many of them had some “help” at the end from an understanding and sympathetic doctor.

If you truly believe that free people have a right to control their own destiny, that should include not only how they walk through this world, but how they exit it. When all reasonable hope is lost, the choice of months of excruciating pain or reclining in a nearly comatose condition while running up massive medical bills isn’t for everyone. Sometimes palliative care (at home if possible) and a dignified farewell before the pain becomes unbearable is the better option for some.

This is a painful and difficult subject for many people. It is depressing to hear the young and healthy scolding such patients, calling them cowards or demanding that only God be allowed the final say. Perhaps they will feel differently with six or seven decades under their belts. And if not, nobody is trying to force you to make such a choice. They only want you to have the option.

The post Maine approves assisted suicide appeared first on Hot Air.

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Another state has rejected the popular vote initiative

Westlake Legal Group JanetMills Another state has rejected the popular vote initiative The Blog popular vote Maine electoral college

Well, so much for that.

The people trying to engineer a way to neuter the electoral college suffered a setback last week. Last month we talked about the state of Maine possibly joining the national popular vote movement after the state senate narrowly passed a measure approving the plan. But those hopes have now been quashed after the House rejected the measure. (WMTW News)

The Maine House of Representatives on Thursday rejected plan to allocate the state’s four electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote, instead of the candidate who wins the Electoral College.

The House vote against the popular vote proposal comes roughly two weeks after the Maine Senate narrowly approved the plan.

In the 2016 election, Maine split its electoral votes. Three went to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and one went to now-President Donald Trump. Maine is just one of two states to split its electoral votes, and 2016 marked the first time the split happened.

This will come as depressing news to supporters of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Without Maine’s three electoral votes, this leaves them stuck at 189 electoral votes. They’ve had their eyes set on nine additional states that have passed the measure in one legislative chamber. Getting all of them would have provided 82 more electoral votes, putting them over the victory line by a single vote. Sadly for them, Maine was one of those states, and at least for now it’s slipped from their grasp.

Of course, the rest of them aren’t slam dunks either. They’re looking at a few like Minnesota and Oregon where you could probably see the measure passing. But they also have Arkansas, Arizona and Oklahoma (!) on their list. Do you really see the voters in those states going for a plan that would effectively erase their presidential votes on a regulat basis? Color me skeptical.

Then, of course, there’s the question of whether or not this is even constitutional. The courts won’t be weighing in on this unless and until the measure actually goes into effect. At that time we may find out that all of this fuss and bother has been for nothing.

The post Another state has rejected the popular vote initiative appeared first on Hot Air.

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Has Maine solved the Red Flag law problem?

Westlake Legal Group guns Has Maine solved the Red Flag law problem? The Blog second amendment red flag Maine Guns gun rights gun confiscation

We’ve discussed the various “red flag” laws being passed by several states here before, though none of these proposals have wound up being very satisfying in my opinion. The biggest problem with some of the ones we’ve looked at is the potential for abuse and the lack of due process for gun owners. That doesn’t mean that these proposals are completely lacking in merit, but they’re all problematic in their own way.

Now, however, we may be seeing one bill shaping up that, while still not ideal, might be at least somewhat less bad than the others. The state of Maine has drafted a proposal that addresses some of the concerns I raised above. Our colleague Tom Knighton at Bearing Arms breaks down the pending legislation as described in the Bangor Daily News.

The rough language of a compromise measure that is expected to supplant a so-called “red flag” proposal by linking gun seizures to assessments of mental health conditions under existing Maine protective custody laws was released on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans office released a rough draft of a proposed compromise deal. It would beef up the state’s protective custody laws by adding a provision to existing protective custody laws to allow medical professionals to determine whether a person with a mental health condition has a weapon that increases the risk of harm to themselves or others.

If that determination is made, the person would surrender weapons to police until a hearing that would be held within 14 days. At that hearing, a judge could extend those terms for a year. The person would get weapons back when a court deems them to no longer present a major threat.

As Tom points out, this is still hardly an ideal situation, but it has some safeguards built in that might make is somewhat more palatable for advocates of gun rights.

In other words, it would provide short term disarmament–which is still less than ideal, but it’s also only two weeks–until a formal hearing is held in which case the individual either gets his guns back or the judge rules they can’t for a specific period of time. Either way, at least due process has been observed.

I can’t say that I’m thrilled with this by any stretch, but it’s one of the better proposals being discussed. No one is going to be happy with it, which is often considered a sign that it’s a good and proper compromise. That’s fair.

One of the biggest concerns I’ve had with laws being passed in other states is the possibility that a ticked off ex-wife or sibling can pick up a phone, make up a story and cause somebody to lose their firearms for months or years while they fight an expensive court battle to get them back. In this draft of Maine’s legislation, that possibility is at least greatly reduced. Both a judge and a mental health professional are brought into the loop before any action is taken. And even if a seizure is deemed warranted, the state only has two weeks to prove their case and the gun owner has the ability to immediately fight the decision.

Again, nobody wants to see gun confiscation from law abiding owners. But the reality is that some people can and do grow more unstable over time. If they’ve reached the point where they’ve already engaged in violent behavior and threatened to do more, a time out for professional evaluation is a responsible course of action. It certainly won’t be able to prevent all shootings, but identifying people who have mentally lost the narrative and become erratic shouldn’t be seen as a huge encroachment on Second Amendment rights.

The post Has Maine solved the Red Flag law problem? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Maine’s new governor vetoes bill limiting ethanol blending

Westlake Legal Group maines-new-governor-vetoes-bill-limiting-ethanol-blending Maine’s new governor vetoes bill limiting ethanol blending veto The Blog Maine Janet Mills governor ethanol blending

Westlake Legal Group JanetMills Maine’s new governor vetoes bill limiting ethanol blending veto The Blog Maine Janet Mills governor ethanol blending

Maine was one of the states the Democrats managed to flip in terms of the Governor’s Mansion and they also control the state legislature. Paul LePage was replaced by Janet Mills in January, and now she’s broken out the veto pen for the first time. She shot down (for now) a bill that would have restricted ethanol blending in gasoline to the current 10% level, forbidding the sale of E-15 or higher. This has been a goal of some Republicans in the state for several years now and with good reason. But for the moment, it’s hanging on the brink of defeat. (Bangor Daily News)

Gov. Janet Mills issued her first veto on Thursday, rejecting a bill that passed the Maine Legislature without roll-call votes and would ban the sale of gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol that likely isn’t being sold in the state right now.

The Democratic governor has largely gotten along with a Legislature controlled by her party during a tenure that began in January. Her first veto aims to thwart a bill sponsored by Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick. It comes after Mills has signed 102 other bills into law.

O’Connor’s bill was an uncontroversial one. A mixture known by the nickname E10 — 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, a grain-based alcohol — accounts for 95 percent of gasoline sold in the U.S., according to the federal government. A mixture with 15 percent ethanol is allowed to be used in vehicles with model years of 2001 and newer.

The legislature is expected to take up the issue of the veto this week. It’s tough to say whether there’s enough support to override Mills on this matter because the bill passed on a voice vote. But if there was that much opposition to it, you’d think someone would have called for a roll call. We’ll know soon enough.

Maine is another one of those states with a lot of fishing, hunting, and outdoor sports. As such, they have a lot of boats. And as we discussed here previously, boat owners (as well as people with other small engine equipment) have a negative view of high ethanol blends because of the damage it does to engines. In fact, Maine has the fourth highest per capita boat ownership in the country, with more than 8% of households owning at least one boat. Also, a fair amount of Maine’s tourism traffic comes from hunting and fishing.

Will the residents of the state be happy if their legislators and their new governor open the door to E-15? There’s none currently being sold in Maine, but Cumberland Farms is reportedly planning to introduce it at multiple locations soon. Ethanol free gas is available (if you know where to look) but it always costs more. This is certainly not going to be the number one driving issue for the next elections, but it is a pocketbook issue that affects a significant percentage of the population.

It doesn’t help that Donald Trump’s EPA is still pushing for increased levels of ethanol blending all through the year, but that’s a battle to be fought in Washington. In the meantime, it would be nice to see some of the states fighting back a bit against King Corn. Or perhaps, in this case, Queen Corn.

The post Maine’s new governor vetoes bill limiting ethanol blending appeared first on Hot Air.

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