Analysis: Why Gov. Paul LePage went to Washington

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President Donald Trump, joined by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, and Vice President Mike Pence right speaks at the Interior Department in Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2017, before signing an Antiquities Executive Order. The president is asking for a review of the designation of tens of millions of acres of land as “national monuments.” To the far left is Maine Gov. Paul LePage. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Gov. Paul LePage took a quick jaunt Wednesday to Washington, D.C., to stand beside President Donald Trump at two news conferences and bend administration ears on infrastructure and trade policy.

It was a surprise trip that we only learned about when the Republican governor showed up on Fox News as Trump signed an executive order to review national monument designations.

That’s a key issue for LePage, who has already asked Trump to undo former President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument near Millinocket.

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It’s unclear whether Trump alone could undo a monument, but Congress could. Maine’s monument wasn’t included on a list of monuments that will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

However, Trump’s order also allows for monuments created “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders” to be reviewed, and LePage is arguing that Maine is covered because of local opposition and a symbolic vote against it in the Legislature.

But the real legislative battle in Washington will be over the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows unilateral presidential designations. Many Republicans — particularly in western states such as Utah — want to rein in by adding provisions for state and local control over monuments.

“Congress can do anything. It’s up to Congress,” LePage said Thursday on WGAN. “They passed the Antiquities Act; they can change it.”

It’s safe to say that Maine isn’t the biggest target. Utah Republicans want two national monuments designated by Obama there rescinded. On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said she hasn’t heard any talk of legislative efforts to repeal Maine’s monument.

But LePage was busy on other issues on Wednesday as well. He was by Trump’s side when he signed another executive order to ensure federal compliance with laws allowing local control of education standards.

He also had two private meetings. One was with Trump’s advisor on infrastructure, where LePage’s office said he raised the need for expanded rural broadband service and improved port and rail transport. The other was with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the impact of a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union on Maine’s lobster industry.

On one hand, the governor is using his federal connections to try to get Washington out of Maine. On the other, there’s a lot the feds can do to boost infrastructure and other industries here. That’s a constant tension in Maine politics.

Gov. Paul LePage

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