As federal lawmakers wrestle with the latest specter of a government shutdown, Maine’s Congressional delegation appears to be mostly unified in their stance against closing the government’s doors — again.

A 17-day federal government shutdown in 2013 resulted in millions of dollars lost to Maine’s economy and billions being lost to the national economy. The shutdown also resulted in the temporary closing of federally funded Head Start programs and national parks around the country, among other impacts.

Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to reach a deal.

Maine’s U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, along with 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, have been unequivocal in their stance that Congress pass a continuing budget resolution that is not pegged to cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood.

2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, likewise issued a statement Wednesday urging his colleagues to find a solution to keep government open.

“Allowing the government to shut down would be a failure in leadership,” Poliquin said in a prepared statement. “As Maine’s 2nd District Congressman, I will continue to urge my colleagues to fund the federal government so we can continue to promote legislation that will rein in wasteful government spending and lower our national debt.”


Earlier this month, Poliquin voted for a measure that would have redirected, for one year, the funding going to Planned Parenthood, sending the funds instead to other clinics that provide health care services, except abortions, to women. In Maine, the only Planned Parenthood clinic that performs abortions is in Pingree’s district. There are no Planned Parenthood-supported clinics in Poliquin’s district.

Michael Byerly, a spokesman for Poliquin, also said Wednesday that Poliquin’s goal was to keep government open. But he and Poliquin stopped short of saying whether Poliquin would support a budget resolution if it includes funding for Planned Parenthood, as is expected to be the case when the resolution arrives from the U.S. Senate.

“Congressman Bruce Poliquin has taken a leadership role in urging his colleagues to move forward with measures to keep the government open and to oppose a shutdown,” Byerley wrote in an email to the Sun Journal. The answer was in response to a question asking if Poliquin would support a budget resolution that includes funding for Planned Parenthood.

“Congressman Poliquin is also on the record voting to freeze Planned Parenthood government funding, which has no facilities in the 2nd Congressional District, for one year and to move those funds to facilities which actually do exist in the 2nd Congressional District providing women’s health care.”

But Rachel Irwin, a spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party, said Wednesday that the majority of facilities Poliquin hopes to fund do not provide health services for women. 

“It is disingenuous for Bruce Poliquin to take credit for increasing women’s health care funding when he’s really telling Maine women to go to dental clinics and nursing homes for care,” Irwin said.


The embattled, nonprofit women’s health care organization has been targeted by anti-abortion conservatives who are claiming some Planned Parenthood clinics may be profiting from selling fetal tissue collected during abortions.

Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations and others, including leading lawmakers, have questioned the integrity and credibility of an undercover video investigation that conservatives say proves their claims.

Abortions are only a small sliver of the services provided to largely low-income women by Planned Parenthood around the nation. In all, the organization receives about $528 million in federal funding but under federal law none of that money is used to cover the costs of providing abortions, which account for 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides. The federal funding for the organization makes up about 40 percent of its total $1.3 billion in revenue.

The bulk of Planned Parenthood’s services is related to the treatment of sexually-transmitted disease, contraception, cancer screenings and other women’s health services.

Pingree said Tuesday that if Congress fails to pass a spending bill by the end of the month and instead forces a shutdown, some 45 million people, including 230,000 in Maine, could lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, benefits on Oct. 1.

“A politically motivated government shutdown would be a real hardship for thousands of Maine families, veterans and seniors who depend on food stamps to help make ends meet each month,” Pingree said in a prepared statement. “It’s shameful that some Congressional Republicans are trying to use their opposition to Planned Parenthood to force a government shutdown at the expense of families struggling to put food on the table.”


King said avoiding a government shutdown should be the top priority for Congress.

“Failing to do so would be completely inexcusable, and only hurt the American people, damage our economy, jeopardize our national security, and further erode the little faith left in Congress,” King said Wednesday. “I will continue to work to fund the government and urge my colleagues to learn the lessons of the last shutdown, because the American people deserve a responsible Congress that works for them, not one that drives our country to the brink every time a fiscal deadline approaches.”

On Tuesday, Collins said efforts to defund Planned Parenthood did not have enough support in the Senate and trying to bounce the bill between the bodies with competing amendments would simply run down the already short clock that’s ticking on the federal budget.

“It would be cutting it too close,” Collins told reporters Tuesday, according to the Roll Call blog. She also took a shot at Democrats, saying they were blocking a defense appropriations bill that should be passed as well.

Collins told reporters her “top priority is to prevent another disastrous government shutdown” and that she supports a proposal by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that would allow separate votes on the budget and funding for Planned Parenthood.

Collins has previously proposed an amendment that would temporarily cut off funding for the Planned Parenthood clinics in question while Congress investigates whether there was any wrongdoing.

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