Category Archives: Dumb stuff Trump does

Maine congressional delegation unites in opposing potential tripling of Acadia entry fee | Portland Press Herald

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have come out in opposition to a proposal by the Department of the Interior that would raise the entrance fee at 17 popular national parks, including Acadia.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, sent a joint letter Thursday asking the Department of the Interior to reconsider the idea because of its potential economic impact.

They wrote that “365 days a year, Acadia National Park – one of the crown jewels of the National Park System – serves as a tremendous resource for the people of Maine and the visitors who come here.

“From May through October, it sustains a vibrant economy in the region, bringing millions of visitors across the country and the world to the coast of Maine.”

The fee increase proposal, announced this week, is meant to help address a maintenance backlogin the park system. As drafted, it would nearly triple the cost of vehicle passes at Acadia, from $25 to $70. In addition to per-vehicle costs, entrance fees for individuals would rise from $12 to $30, while the fee for motorcyclists would jump from $20 to $50 during the peak season.

Read the rest of this story.

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Susan Collins says Trump’s move to end Obamacare subsidies hurts ‘vulnerable people’ | Bangor Daily News

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday that she is “very concerned” about President Donald Trump’s decision to stop payments to health insurers used to hold down insurance costs for low- and middle-income Americans.

“What the president is doing is affecting the ability of vulnerable people to receive health care right now,” Collins, the senior senator from Maine, said during a Sunday morning appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump announced Friday that he would “immediately” halt payments to insurers, known as “ cost sharing reductions,” under the Affordable Care Act, a move hailed by many conservative groups but criticized by health care and consumer groups.

Before his Friday announcement, Trump took to Twitter to blast the paymentsas “subsidies” to insurers: “The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

Collins challenged the president’s characterization of the payments as a “windfall” to insurers.

Read the rest of this story.

Our View: Collins’ presence needed to contain Trump’s chaos | Portland Press Herald

Sen. Susan Collins could not have picked a better moment to announce her decision to forgo a race for governor and continue serving in the United States Senate.

Just as she was walking the members of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport through her analysis of the problems in our health care system, President Trump was in Washington trying to make that system fail.

The contrast was stark. Collins was talking about ways to make the system better while Trump was looking for leverage, no matter who gets hurt along the way. It should be obvious to everyone why Maine and the nation need an independent-minded Republican like Collins in Washington to block the administration’s dangerous excesses and, when possible, forge pragmatic deals that keep the country moving forward.

Trump’s moves on health care last week expose his approach to policy-making and a shocking disregard for the millions of people who stand to lose health coverage because of his desire to put pressure on his opponents.

In an executive order signed Thursday, Trump opened the door to insurance companies to sell low-cost plans across state lines. While that might sound good, it’s not. The premiums are less expensive because the plans don’t cover much. A young, healthy person who doesn’t expect to get sick or injured might be willing to take the risk, but these are exactly the people needed in the insurance pool to spread costs. If the only people who buy state-regulated health insurance are the ones who are most likely to make a claim, the premiums will go sky high, and many people will be forced to drop coverage. And to make sure that happens sooner, rather than later, Trump announced with a tweet that he would unilaterally end subsidies that help insurance companies cover out-of-pocket costs for lower-income plan members. That will also drive premiums up, and force people to drop coverage.

Creating chaos in the health insurance markets might deliver some short-term political advantage for Trump, but it won’t get more people covered by decent comprehensive health insurance.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Collins says Trump is keeping vulnerable Americans from getting health care | Portland Press Herald

Fresh from her announcement Friday that she intends to stay in the Senate and forgo a run for governor, Sen. Collins went on national television Sunday morning to continue to push her moderate stance on health care reform and advise President Trump to mind his words.

Collins made apperances on CNN’s “State of the Nation” news show  with host Jake Tapper and ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.

Seeming to take new relish in her role as the voice of the Republican moderate, Collins used her appearances to advise President Trump to be careful with his language and lend support for Trump’s decision not to re-certify the Iran nuclear agreement while tip toeing around other questions.

The CNN show focused on Trump’s attempts last week to undo two cornerstone policies of the Obama years, the Affordable Care Act and the Iran nuclear deal. She followed an appearance by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who defended Trump’s decision not to certify the Iran agreement over nuclear arms development and throw the issue to Congress.

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The U.S. was formed around ideals, not a race or religion | Bangor Daily News

By George Mitchell

The statements by President Donald Trump regarding the events in Charlottesville were unwise and unfortunate, and represented a failure of leadership.

Most of the world’s nations were formed around homogeneous groups of people, in race or religion. The United States was formed around ideals. Set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they’re not easy to summarize. But surely they include:

The sovereignty of the people; the primacy of individual liberty; an independent judicial system under the rule of law; opportunity for every member of society; and equal rights and equal justice for all.

It is our commitment to these ideals that make us Americans, not our race, our religion, or our heritage.

When the United States was established, it had a small population clinging to the Atlantic coast. For most of our history we have received people from around the world to fill a vast continent where we created a new and free system of governance. Obviously we cannot now return to the days of open immigration. But we should and must respect all of our people, whatever their race, their religion, their background.

The angry, violent and supremacist views of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists must be categorically and unequivocally rejected by all Americans.

Read the rest of this commentary.

LePage: Removing Confederate statues is like taking down 9/11 memorial | The Hill

[Note: LePage has been nearly as big an embarrassment as Trump. This proves it … again.]

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Thursday defended President Trump’s claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, comparing Confederate memorials to those put up to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

In an interview on WGAN radio in Portland, LePage accused counterdemonstrators of “trying to erase history” by calling for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“I think what they are standing for is equally as bad. They are trying to erase history,” said LePage, a Republican and staunch Trump ally who has garnered a reputation for making controversial and inflammatory statements. “How can future generations learn if we’re going to erase history? That’s disgusting.

“Listen, whether we like it or not, this is what our history is,” he added. “And to me, it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that.”

Read the rest of this story.

Our View: LePage’s remarks on Charlottesville are too little, too late | Portland Press Herald

Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, isn’t known for holding his tongue. It’s deeply troubling, then, that while other elected officials made a point of speaking up, it took LePage nearly three days to make a mealy-mouthed comment on the racist violence that killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

The violence erupted Saturday afternoon when alt-righter James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of people gathered as a counterprotest to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured in the attack; Fields has been charged with homicide and is being held without bail.

The condemnation from most of the nation’s governors was timely and bipartisan. By Monday afternoon, 39 governors – including every governor in New England – had commented on the tragedy, according to Maine Public Radio.

But Maine’s chief executive didn’t say anything until Tuesday morning, when he told Bangor-based WVOM: “My heart goes out to the families of the injured. I feel it’s a horrific act. It’s an issue that happened in Virginia and I think Virginia authorities should be dealing with it. I just hope it never happens in Maine again because it happened here in 1922.”

We appreciate the nod to Maine’s shameful history (the Ku Klux Klan was a political and cultural force here in the 1920s and helped elected a governor in 1924), but for LePage to say that Saturday’s attack is of limited concern outside Virginia is highly shortsighted. While Maine hasn’t seen deadly violence of the kind that unfolded in Charlottesville, vile, racially charged remarks of the kind that embolden violent people are a regular occurrence here. One of the chief offenders: Gov. LePage.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Our View: Trump’s stance on violent extremists is a disgrace | Portland Press Herald

If this feels different, it’s because it is.

Never in modern American history has a president so elevated the forces of hate, or so bastardized and mangled the country’s past. Never has a president looked at a display as malevolent and disgusting as the torch-fueled march Friday night in Charlottesville and refused to condemn it, saying “there are two sides to a story.”

In a week in which the leader of the free world gave comfort to people shouting “Jews won’t replace us,” we have to ask, what kind of country are we?

At a news conference Tuesday, one day after reading off a teleprompter a canned and insincere refutation of white nationalism, President Trump showed us what he really thinks.

Speaking extemporaneously, Trump more strongly repeated his initial claim that blame for the violence in Charlottesville was “on both sides,” as if who is in the right – the Nazis calling for a racially pure country, or those who oppose them in the name of true American values – is up for discussion.

Trump didn’t come out and say that white nationalists have a friend in the White House, but he didn’t have to. After decades in which any association with Nazis was a ticket out of public life, having the president mimic their talking points was more than they could have ever hoped for.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Portland rally in support of Charlottesville victims: ‘This affects everybody’ | Portland Press Herald

By Megan Doyle
Staff Writer

About 50 people gathered spontaneously Saturday in Portland to support the people killed and injured while peacefully protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Marie Follayttar Smith, one of the leaders of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, created a Facebook event for the rally Saturday evening, and within an hour, a small crowd began to gather on the Eastern Promenade. Jennifer Jones of Falmouth, another one of the organizers, said they felt the need to take action after seeing the news of the day’s violence.

“I got home and didn’t want to just sit there,” Jones said. “If we’re silent, we’re allowing this.”

The group slowly grew as the sun set. Young people led chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Two men held a large canvas painted with the words “Say No To Racism,” and passing cars honked. The participants shared a moment of silence and read a poem. They talked about the need to create a broad network for protests like this one.

“This affects everybody,” said Dylan Smith-Monahan, a 25-year-old from Portland who came to the rally with members of the International Socialist Organization. “We need a unified response to what’s happening.”

Read the rest of this story.

How Maine people moved Sen. Collins and stopped Trumpcare | Bangor Daily News

By Amy Fried

The stories we tell about politics have consequences, shaping how people and groups act in the future. Tales of courageous politicians, however uplifting, can overlook how citizens influenced them.

After the dramatic failure of the health care vote in the Senate, attention flowed to the three Republicans who broke with their party — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona — each a protagonist in this drama.

What actually happened shows how much citizens mattered in the health care fight and provides lessons for democracy in the Trump era.

On health care, Collins did not start where she ended and she shifted after considerable grassroots action.

Moreover, confronting Collins meant challenging the most popular elected official in the state, who was used to highly laudatory press.

Using guidelines from the Indivisibles Guide, a document developed by former congressional staff that sparked people to form local chapters, Maine people repeatedly asked Collins to hold a town hall. She never did.

Constituents found her anyway, and spoke to her and her staff in Maine and Washington, D.C. All sides benefited from a Maine political culture that prizes civility. While confrontations could be intense, they were also courteous.

And so, coming out of a Bangor radio station one snowy February day, Collins faced something virtually unprecedented for her — public pressure. After one womanpolitely told her, “I would like to request a public access town hall, please,” the senator walked to her car.

Read the rest of this commentary.

Listening to real people trumps threats in ACA repeal battle | Bangor Daily News

There are many reasons that Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and to replace it with inferior plans that would have also gutted Medicaid, failed in Congress. One of the biggest reasons is that Republican leadership, especially in the Senate, tried to pass proposals that were hastily written, had no clear policy goals, and had no objective expert analysis. As a result, those proposals would have harmed millions of American people.

So, it is disheartening, but not surprising, that President Donald Trump is now trying to undermine the ACA through backdoor executive actions, which could have dire consequences for millions of Americans, rather than a bipartisan effort to fix what is really wrong with the health insurance law.

After the last attempt to repeal portions of the ACA, known as “skinny repeal,” failed last Friday morning, done in by “no” votes from Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain, Trump said he’d let the insurance program fail, to make lawmakers more eager to reach a deal. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch,” he posted on Twitter.

Trump has suggested that his administration will end payments to insurance companies that encourage them to take on lower-income subscribers by lowering their out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays and deductibles. Without the cost-sharing reduction payments, many insurers would likely increase premium costs and some would drop out of the ACA market.

The administration may also stop enforcing the individual mandate, a much maligned portion of the law, but one that is necessary to bring younger, healthier people into the market.

Congress must quickly step in to stop such disastrous moves. The Senate Health Care Committee announced Tuesday that it will begin holding hearings early next month on how best to stabilize the individual health insurance market. Congress must also appropriate the funds to continue the cost-sharing reduction payments, which are necessary to keep health insurance affordable for many lower-income Americans.

Read the rest of this editorial.

George Mitchell blasts LePage for attacks on Susan Collins, Angus King | Bangor Daily News

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. George Mitchell defended Maine’s current U.S. senators Thursday for their votes regarding the Affordable Care Act in response to Gov. Paul LePage’s prolonged criticism of their positions.

LePage has used his public speaking engagements in recent days to lambaste Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King for their votes against repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Since Saturday, LePage has rallied supporters at a Somerset County GOP eventagainst Collins, ripped her and King in two radio interviews, penned a scathing commentary against them in the Wall Street Journal and targeted them in this week’s radio address.

“U.S. senators like Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are enjoying Cadillac health insurance plans while they are mandating Americans ride a moped,” said LePage in the latter. “They are so busy seeking the national limelight, they are ignoring the people in their own state.”

Members of Congress and their staffs can purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, with the bulk of their premiums covered by the government. King’s and Collins’ staffs did not immediately respond to Bangor Daily News questions about their specific health care plans and whether they had contacted LePage or his staff to ask him to correct his assertion that they have “Cadillac plans.”

In a statement to reporters on Thursday, Mitchell took umbrage with LePage’s assertions.

“I respectfully but strongly disagree,” he said. “Sens. Collins and King did in fact represent the best interests of the vast majority of Maine people.”

Read the rest of this story.

Collins, King offer alternative to executive-level lunacy | Bangor Daily News blog

By Lance Dutson

The contrast couldn’t be more striking.

On one hand, there is the imagery of Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s short time communications director, hair slicked back, reaching into a female reporter’s personal space over and over as he desperately attempted to bully a series of lies into reality.

On the other, there is Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, unassumingly returning home to the Bangor airport Friday morning where a small crowd of Mainers erupted into spontaneous applause, earnestly thankful for the battle she had just waged on their behalf.

This contrast — between pettiness and earnestness, between the honorable and the base — has been a cornerstone of Maine’s sense of political self for decades.

Our federal government just had one of its most embarrassing weeks ever. Republican leadership tried and failed to ram a deeply flawed and unvetted healthcare overhaul bill through the U.S. Senate in the dead of night. Trump abruptly proclaimed a ban on transgendered people serving in the military through his Twitter account. The White House communications director went on an on-the-record, profanity-laced tirade to a reporter, calling Trump’s chief of staff a “f*** paranoid schizophrenic” and claiming Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was fellating himself. Threats were made via Twitter about staff members having the FBI investigate other staff members. And the president fired his own chief of staff, Reince Priebus, leaving Priebus alone in a black Suburban on the tarmac next to Air Force One, as the rest of the motorcade pulled away.

Read the rest of this commentary.

Our View: Collins’ health bill vote prevented a calamity | Portland Press Herald

The U.S. Senate – which calls itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body” – came within a single senator’s vote on Friday of violently disrupting the health and well-being of millions of people just so some members could partially satisfy their half-baked campaign promises.

It was a very close call.

The nation is extraordinarily lucky that Maine sent two people to Washington, in Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, whose commitment to public service would not let them to take part in such a mean-spirited and reckless political gambit.

Credit is especially due to Collins, who stood up against her party’s leadership as one of only three Republican senators (along with Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona) to defeat what was not just a bad bill but also a horrendous legislative process.

King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, had been consistently on the right side of this issue, but he acknowledged that what Collins did Friday took special courage.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Maine’s secretary of state says he will reject second request for voter registration data | Portland Press Herald

BY STAFF WRITER

AUGUSTA –– Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Monday that he is unlikely to release any state voter registration data to the federal voter fraud commission to which he was appointed by President Trump.

Dunlap said he will reject a second request for the data from the commission’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who promised last week that the data would be held in confidence at the federal level.

But Dunlap said he is uncertain that the federal Freedom of Information Act would allow the data to be protected from disclosure once it is in the federal government’s hands. He said he wants the commission, to which he was appointed in May, to first set goals for what it hopes to achieve as it investigates Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The secretary of state also said he wants the commission to figure out how it intends to protect voters’ privacy rights before he hands over any statewide voter data.

Read the rest of this story by Scott Thistle.

I’m a scientist and a Mainer. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration | The Washington Post via Bangor Daily News

By Joel Clement

I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to work for the Interior Department, where, among other things, I’ve helped endangered communities in Alaska prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. But on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.

I am not an accountant — but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up. A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers. Some of my colleagues are being relocated across the country, at taxpayer expense, to serve in equally ill-fitting jobs.

Read more of this powerful commentary by Joel Clement.

Lipstick on a Health Bill | The New York Times

Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, got straight to the point in describing the new Senate health care bill: “Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill. Will vote no,” she tweeted yesterday. “Ready to work w/ GOP & Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA.”

Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican and another potential swing vote, was less straightforward. “I opposed the last draft of the Senate health proposal because I had concerns about the measure’s Medicaid policies,” Portman said in a statement. Later, he followed up saying that he was undecided about whether he would support this bill.

Here’s the problem for Portman: Collins is right. The Medicaid policies are virtually identical between the revised Senate bill and the previous bill. If Portman opposed the last bill because of how it would harm Medicaid recipients — and he did — he would logically need to oppose this one, too.

Read the rest of this commentary.

Both Maine Senators Say They Will Vote ‘No’ on Latest GOP Health Care Bill | Maine Public

The latest attempt by the US Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has failed to garner support from Maine’s senators. Though the bill does eliminate some unpopular provisions from earlier versions, the changes aren’t enough to gain traction with Senators Collins and King, and Maine health providers.

Previous proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have included tax breaks for high income earners. Those tax breaks have been scaled back in the latest version of the Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. There’s also more funding included to fight the opioid epidemic: $45 billion over the next decade. But one big problem remains: cuts to Medicaid. Senator Susan Collins tweeted that’s the reason she can’t support this latest proposal. Neither can Vanessa Santarelli, CEO of the Maine Primary Care Association.

“The deep cuts to the Medicaid program could be really damaging, particularly to a state like Maine and to our community health centers,” Santarelli says.

Read and listen to the story.

Trump travel ban expected to start tonight, will ‘hurt innocent people,’ Maine Arab leader says | Bangor Daily News

[Note: We are a nation of immigrants, so this ban is un-American. It will hurt the wrong people and there is absolutely no guarantee it will reduce the threat of terrorism. It will only cause more global mistrust of the United States.]

President Donald Trump’s travel ban from six mostly Muslim countries, after clearing a key hurdle in the U.S. Supreme Court, could take effect Thursday night, according to multiple reports.

An Arab community leader in Maine decried the president’s travel ban as a punishment for people who have done nothing wrong, and said the move disrespects America’s history as a nation built by immigrants and refugees.

Zoe Sahloul was born in Lebanon and came to Maine nearly two decades ago. She now serves as the executive director of the New England Arab American Organization, with offices in Westbrook and Portland.

“I believe in the goodness of people,” she said. “Unfortunately with these regulations, a lot of people are being hurt, a lot of people who are innocent and who have had nothing to do with terrorists. People are desperate to leave [war-torn countries], and they’re desperate to have any help they can get to save their kids and save their families.

“I’ve been in Maine for 20 years, and even with that, I’ve been so stressed out and so afraid,” Sahloul continued. “When we talk about immigrants, who is not a product of immigrants in the United States, whether you’re third or fourth generation?”

Trump’s travel ban will block travel to the U.S. from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — four of which are Arab nations, and all of which are predominantly Muslim — for at least 90 days. The president’s measure will also prevent refugees from any country from entering the U.S. for at least 120 days.

Read the rest of the story by Seth Koenig in the Bangor Daily News.