The Universal Notebook: Maine’s fair, balanced congressional delegation

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Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins thinks she might like to be Maine’s governor and Gov. Paul LePage thinks he might like to be a U.S. senator.

In a strange way, Maine might actually be better off with that arrangement, but I’m pretty sure the United States would not.

LePage has been making noises about running against independent U.S.Sen. Angus King, but I can’t see the surly governor defeating King, who is the country’s fifth most popular U.S. senator according to the Morning Consult. Collins is sixth. LePage is one of 11 governors nationally who have disapproval ratings higher than their approval ratings.

When you come right down to it, the four men and women who represent us in Washington, D.C., do a pretty darn good job of reflecting the diversity of points of view held by Maine people. In a day and age when the approval ratings of Congress dribble along somewhere in the twenties, I know this will be an unpopular thing to say, but I believe we are blessed with a congressional delegation that is generally pretty fair, balance and reasonable.

I do get tired of hearing liberals bellyache that Collins is not really a moderate and conservatives grouse that King is not really an independent. Well, to the degree that those labels mean anything, yes, folks, they are.

Sure, sure, Collins votes with her fellow Republicans most of the time, but she breaks with her party as often as any Republican. As far as I’m concerned the fact that she refused to endorse Donald Trump for president is all the credential she needs to be a moderate.

And, yes, King caucuses with the Democrats and votes with them more often than not, but so what? What would he have to do to be an independent, vote more Republican?

I give Collins and King credit for being thoughtful and reasonable people. Do they both take positions I disagree with? Yes. But I do not see either as blind partisan ideologues.

I do not blame Collins, for example, for voting for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. I would have voted against him based on the GOP dirty trick of refusing to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, thus setting a precedent that a sitting president can no longer appoint members of the Supreme Court unless his or her party controls the Senate. But Gorsuch was a sitting federal judge deemed well qualified by the American Bar Association. Will he favor corporations over citizens? You bet. But so will every Republican nominee. That’s the nature of the beast.

I was actually surprised that King decided he could not vote for Gorsuch. In talking to him a few weeks before the vote, I got the impression he was leaning toward supporting Gorsuch, but the fact that Gorsuch was such a weasel during his confirmation hearings, refusing to answer any questions about his judicial philosophy, seems to have tipped the scale for King. I respect that.

I also respect the fact that both Collins and King opposed some of Trump’s worst appointees, including Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education and Scott Pruitt to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. On the downside, Collins voted for a budget that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, voted to start the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and voted for the “nuclear option” of no longer requiring 60 votes to confirm a justice.

Collins was also on the wrong side of the internet privacy vote, voting to allow internet providers to sell our browsing histories. King voted no. On the other hand, King joined Republicans in voting to abolish rules against trapping, baiting and shooting bears from planes in Alaska. I assume King saw it as a vote on whether to allow states to make wildlife management rules or have them dictated by the feds. I respectfully disagreed with that vote.

When I say Maine’s congressional delegation is pretty fair and balanced, what I mean is simply that U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is a liberal Democrat with whom I agree most of the time, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is a conservative Republican with whom I disagree most of the time, Collins is a moderate Republican who is not an embarrassment and King is a moderate independent who gets things right most of the time. Something for everyone.

Now if Collins decides to run for governor, LePage would get to appoint her replacement, just as Gov. Joe Brennan appointed George Mitchell to complete U.S. Sen. Ed Muskie’s term when he became secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. Probably Brennan’s best all-time decision.

Would LePage be brazen enough to appoint himself to Collins’ seat? I sure hope not. That would be a national embarrassment.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.