Infrastructure deal nonetheless faces a partisan minefield in Congress

Good morning from Augusta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The death of a child who was innocent and who died at the hands of the person in the world who should protect them the most is just devastating,” Becky Stephens, an extended family member of Jessica Williams, who is accused of killing her 3-year-old son Maddox, told CBS 13. The death is roiling Stockton Springs, where 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was killed by her mother and stepfather in 2018.

What we’re watching today

Congress and the White House reached an infrastructure deal yesterday with a group including Maine’s senators, but there are still key steps before a bill passes. The proposal announced by President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group that includes U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King on Thursday calls for just shy of $1 trillion in spending over five years, including investment in roads and bridges, the electric grid, rail and broadband.

Notably, the group also announced they had a funding mechanism for the proposal, drawing from a smattering of sources, including leftover COVID-19 relief money, increased funds from IRS enforcement, various fees and presumed economic growth.

Collins, who was in an original group of 10 senators that negotiated over the plan, said negotiations over the price tag, scope of the bill and how it would be paid for were “not easy” but said agreement on them was “essential.” In a statement late Thursday, a wider group of 21 senators, including Collins and King, said they were proud of the proposal.

“This agreement shows that the two parties can still come together, find common ground, and get things done that matter to everyday Americans,” the senators said. “We are happy to have President Biden’s support, and will now get to work enlisting the support of colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

The deal may have a harder time holding up as Democrats advance their own proposal on a parallel track. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has not yet committed to supporting the agreement and accused Biden of undermining the deal Thursday after the president told reporters that he will not sign off on the proposal unless fellow Democrats send him a bill under the party-line reconciliation process that includes other domestic priorities likely to include money for child care and family tax credits.

With Democrats wary of advancing the bipartisan bill only and Republicans reluctant to pass it only to be bypassed on a second bill, negotiations on infrastructure could turn into a game of chicken. A group of moderates that includes Collins, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, will be crucial to keeping any deal on track.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Janet Mills and Jared Golden’s safe-storage push shows middle ground approach on guns,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The idea would be to provide grants to organizations who would distribute kits with firearm-locking mechanisms and educational material around gun and prescription drug safety. [Gov. Janet Mills’] office did not answer questions on the issue, but advocates said she would introduce the state-level bill next year. [U.S. Rep. Jared Golden] … introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would provide $50 million in grants at the national level.”

— “Maine will bring in national group to investigate recent deaths of 4 children,” Matthew Stone, BDN: “The investigation from Casey Family Programs, a national foundation focused on reducing the need for foster care, comes three years after the killings of two girls at the hands of their caregivers focused intense scrutiny on the state’s child welfare program.”

— “In fight over right whales and lobster fishery, all sides want to know more about the whales’ activities off Maine,” Fred Bever, Maine Public: “The recent detections nearest to Maine’s coast are much fewer. But detectors at work farther out are finding more. And Zack Klyver, a member of a local advocacy group called the Maine Coalition for North Atlantic Right Whales, said direct evidence is mounting that the whales are ranging widely, east of Maine’s shoreline.”

No more masks required in the State House

The policy change comes just in time for veto day. The Legislative Council voted unanimously to lift its mask requirement for all legislative spaces yesterday. It will mean lobbying over the budget — which still needs to be voted out of committee — and items Mills has vetoed will be more personal when lawmakers return to Augusta next Wednesday.

Democrats’ May decision to keep requiring masks in the building caused a stir. Seven conservative House members flouted the rule, causing them to be stripped of their committee assignments. Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, fundraised on the controversy but only one, Rep. John Andrews, L-Paris, was prevented from voting after he took his protest to the House chamber in mid-June. He was back the next day with a face covering.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]

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