The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Listen Live
Classical 24
Visible By Administrators Only
Federal Stalemate Creates Anxiety in Maine
10/15/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

A day's worth of negotiations in Washington have yet to produce a proposal to end the ongoing government shutdown or avert the looming Thursday deadline for increasing the federal debt ceiling. The partisan stalemate in Cogress is raising the anxiety level in Maine for thousands of residents who depend on federal funding for their jobs, health care benefits and pensions. As A.J. Higgins reports, the uncertainty is prompting numerous phone calls to state agencies and advocacy groups.

Related Media
Federal Stalemate Creates Anxiety in Maine Listen

The prompt payment of Social Security payments, military pay checks and Supplemental Security Income benefits could be jeopardized if Congress fails to raise the country's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by Thursday. And the hope of a breakthrough is fading fast for independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.

"I'm not as optimistic as I was yesterday," King says.

King is one of a dozen senators trying to forge a way out of the protracted partisan stalemate that has forced a federal government shutdown and now threatens the government's borrowing capacity. He says it will ultimately be up to the U.S. House of Representatives to move any bill that could end the dispute. And he doesn't like what he believes is coming from the House.

"They've got things in it that they know won't be acceptable," King says. "And I don't know what - maybe their strategy is to wait to the last minute and dare us to object to what they're doing. But I think I'm being optimistic that there even is a strategy. There's not one, that I can tell."

During a break from the closed-door discussions between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree told listeners of MPBN's Maine Calling program that the failure of Congress to resolve the ongoing impasse is taking its toll on Maine and the nation.

"Defense contractors wondering about things, Headstart, Meals on Wheels," Pingree said. "I mean, there's so many things that people need to see funded again and put people back to work. And we're all worried about Thursday and the impact on reaching the debt ceiling. Already there's so much nervousness around it."

"Are they within spitting distance of an agreement, or is it clear that it's just going to go on forever?" says Charlie Colgan, an economist with the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School, who has been gauging its impact on Maine. Colgan says the failure of Congress to act before Thursday could trigger repercussions on Wall Street.

'It does not necessarily exacrtly run out of money on the 17th - it would be sometime between the 17th and 31st," Colgan says. "So there's going to be a period of huge uncertainty on the 17th, beginning on the 17th. And the question is then do the marketsm the bond markets and the stock markets, endure that uncertainty. or do they throw up their hands and say this is going no where and you see a big drop in the stock market. You're already seeing a big run up in in short-term federal interest rates.""

Peter Ogden, director of the state Bureau of Veterans Services, says about 16 percent of all Mainers over the age of 18 are veterans, one of the highest per capita rates in the country. With a solution still beyond the reach of Congress, Ogden says there could be profound implications for future veterans' services in Maine.

""What the debt ceiling may have is an impact on the future of eliminating how much money the VA gets or they may take a reduction in money in the future for those non-mandatory funded things like medical care, research and development and those kind of things," Ogden said. "It may have a big impact on the future of those kinds of the veterans more so.""

In other shutdown-related developments, Gov. Paul LePage briefed legislative leaders on the potential for more layoffS of federally-funded state employees and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it's temporarily closing its New England regulatory officE.


Become a Fan of the NEW MPBNNews Facebook page. Get news, updates and unique content to share and discuss:

Recommended by our audience on Facebook:
Copyright © 2015 Maine Public Broadcasting Network. All rights reserved.