Lewiston’s Bates Mill No. 5, with its black saw-toothed roof, is pictured in August 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

As Congress wrangles over two whopping new spending measures — infrastructure and a supplement to the federal budget — the fate of a few of major projects for the region hangs in the balance.

The U.S. House has approved a budget measure as part of its normal appropriations cycle that includes $1 million to assist in renovating the roof on Lewiston’s Bates Mill No. 5, property the city aims to redevelop.

“If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, the funding would help the city of Lewiston clear one of the final hurdles to completing its responsibilities for the important city landmark,” U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat, said in a prepared statement.

But the $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget measure’s fate in the Senate is uncertain as politicians on both sides of the aisle maneuver to push, or block, its passage along with a companion bill that seeks to pump another trillion dollars into infrastructure across the country. Caught in the crossfire at times is the normal, annual budget bill that funds most federal programs.

The infrastructure bill has bipartisan support in the Senate, where Maine’s two senators played key roles in the tricky politics of putting together a package that could muster enough support to bypass a filibuster threat.

But the reconciliation measure is purely a Democratic bill that could be passed by a simple majority in the Senate, if every Democratic senator is willing to vote for it, which is uncertain.


Progressives in the House, meanwhile, are threatening to hold up the bipartisan infrastructure proposal unless the Senate approves the supplemental reconciliation budget.

In short, it’s a complicated and utterly politicized mess on Capitol Hill that most observers say will likely get worked out so both extra bills are approved in the end. But there are no guarantees for either measure.

The regular budget bill covers a whole lot, from Navy vessels to agricultural subsidies. But some of the details matter after renewal of the old practice of allowing politicians to earmark cash for pet projects.

In addition to the money for the old Lewiston factory’s roof, Golden is seeking $1 million to help replace Rumford’s fire station, $1 million to assist in building a new firefighter training facility in Auburn and $1 million toward the replacement of the aging sewage treatment plant serving Jay and Livermore Falls. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is also pushing for the Rumford fire station money.

Those allocations would wind up in the normal budget bill if they are ultimately approved.

The infrastructure bill also includes plenty of money that will ultimately flow to Maine to help with broadband extensions, road and bridge repairs, utility upgrades and railroad improvements that could potentially include passenger route extensions.


The bipartisan bill appears likely to win Senate approval in time for senators to depart on a long-planned August recess next week. Senators were working through a long series of proposed amendments Thursday.

Collins, Maine’s senior senator, said on CNN Sunday that the bill is “good for America” and should pass the Senate this week.

“Every senator can look at bridges and roads and need for more broadband, waterways in their state, seaports, airports,” Collins said, “and see the benefits, the very concrete benefits, no pun intended, of this legislation. It’s going to make us more competitive, more productive. It’s going to create good jobs.”

Maine’s other senator, independent Angus King, called the infrastructure deal “an important investment in our nation’s economy, communities, and health – and with $65 billion for affordable broadband, it is a historic step to close the digital divide. Let’s keep pushing and get this over the finish line.”

What it will take for that to happen is less than clear.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in June that she did not plan to bring the Senate’s infrastructure plan to a House vote until the Senate backed the budget reconciliation bill.


That declaration caused Republican foes of both bills to say they’re intrinsically linked.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, for instance, told colleagues Wednesday that Pelosi won’t deliver a penny for roads, bridges, airports or ports “until she gets the reckless tax-and-spending bill that she is demanding.” He called it a hijacking.

Golden never supported Pelosi’s move. When he heard it, Golden immediately joined nine of his colleagues to plead for a different approach.

“We strongly urge — and pledge to work with you to bring about — a House vote on this legislation before the August recess and without any unnecessary or artificial delay upon arrival from the Senate,” Golden and the nine others said in a letter to Pelosi.

But their more liberal counterparts had a different take, with some explicitly calling for the House to hold the infrastructure bill hostage as a means of leverage to force the Senate to approve the budget reconciliation measure that contains more items on progressives’ wish list.

Because Democrats hold only a narrow majority in the House, even a relatively small group could block passage of an infrastructure package they see as inadequate.

This month, the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group that includes Golden, called for their colleagues to pass what it called “the once-in-a-generation bipartisan infrastructure agreement” because it’s needed and “to demonstrate that members from both parties and both chambers can come together to deliver real results for the American people.”

Where things stand is the House passed the reconciliation bill last month and the Senate is likely to endorse the infrastructure one soon. The political trick is to get each house to pass the other bill — and also endorse the regular budget measures that happen every year.

Maybe they will. Timing and details are everything. The only sure thing is plenty of heated rhetoric.

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