Maine’s U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins supported what they called a “flawed” $2.6 trillion budget resolution, citing provisions favorable to Bath Iron Works.

Maine’s congressional delegation split along party lines in voting on the nonbinding measure. U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, both Democrats, voted against it.

In a joint written statement, Republicans Snowe and Collins said they opposed many of the budget components. But on the whole, the good outweighed the bad.

The measure narrowly passed the House, 214-211, and the Senate, 52-47.

Included in the budget are two “critical” provisions involving BIW, the statement said, aimed at improving the chances that the Maine shipyard would win contracts to build half of the Navy’s new fleet of destroyers.

The budget states that the Senate rejects a Navy proposal to switch to a sole provider for the DD(X) destroyers from its tradition of dividing the work between yards in Maine and Mississippi. Language in the document says money earmarked for the destroyers assumes the Department of Defense will not use a “winner-take-all” strategy.

Another provision found in the budget resolution would allow Congress to spread out the costs of building major ships over several years rather than in a lump sum. This is expected to boost the number of ships the Navy would contract to be built in any given year, especially during lean budget years.

Allen slammed the budget resolution, noting it failed to add more money for shipbuilding to President Bush’s scaled-back plan. And, Allen argued that while the language repudiating a winner-take-all approach was a positive statement, it has “no force of law.”

Michaud, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, panned the spending plan, saying it “puts the country on a dangerous fiscal track” by driving up deficits while shortchanging Maine’s working people. He called domestic spending cuts “damaging.”

Republicans sought to “pull the wool over the eyes of the American people” by rushing the measure through Congress before recess, he said.

The budget also glosses over the actual cost of the war in Iraq and Bush’s proposed privatization of Social Security, Michaud said in a written release.

Maine’s two moderate senators’ swing votes were believed pivotal in passing the budget.

Despite voting for it, Snowe had expressed concerns about several areas of the proposed budget, including a revenue line anticipating income from leasing rights for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has always opposed drilling in the pristine wilderness area. Snowe also had doubts about $106 billion worth of tax cuts over the next five years during deficit spending.

She had voted against an earlier version of the measure before it went to a House-Senate conference committee.

Collins had initially balked at $10 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts as well as the reference to ANWR, but supported the budget before it went to the House after receiving assurances the Medicaid cuts would be restored. They were not.

In joint remarks, Snowe and Collins said they “recognize the flaws” in the budget “and had hoped that a better balance could have been struck” in addressing other national needs, such as proposed cuts to agricultural aid and student loans.

“With the fate of Maine’s shipbuilding industry hanging in the balance, we decided to support the budget,” they said, noting it was “essential” in guarding the future of BIW’s 6,200 workers.

They pledged in the coming months to focus efforts on areas of concern before Congress puts the budget to a final vote.


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