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Political Brew: Tackling impeachment, Governor Mills at the U.N., and dealing with lobbyists

NEWS CENTER Maine's Pat Callaghan talks politics with Former Speaker of the House John Richardson and former Senate President Rick Bennett

PORTLAND, Maine — The opening of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump will put many lawmakers on the spot. For example, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden represents the second district, which awarded one electoral vote to Donald Trump in 2016.

Former Speaker of the House John Richardson, also a Democrat, thinks Golden is in a tough position, but has been finding his footing in the district. So Richardson says "If he decides ultimately to support impeachment, I think the people of the district will support him."

Republican Rick Bennett, a former Senate President, sitting in for Phil Harriman this week on Political Brew, says Golden has been helped by the process House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used to open the impeachment inquiry. In previous impeachments, there has been a vote on the House floor to start the process. This time Pelosi simply announced the inquiry.

Bennett says "It was kind of a clever move on her part because she was able to simultaneously appease the radical wing of her party who have been clamoring for impeachment for a long time, and also protect people like Congressman Golden, who really doesn't want to have to vote, at least now, on the impeachment question."

Sen. Susan Collins has said she won't comment on the House proceedings because she may have to serve as a juror in an impeachment trial.
Richardson says "the problem for Susan Collins is she dodges too many questions, and ultimately she's going to have to start answering."

Bennett sees it differently. "Some people call it dodging, other people would call it deliberation," he says. "There's something about Senator Collins who has an old-school approach to governing, which is bringing the facts… and make carefully constructed decisions."

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Last Monday, Gov. Janet Mills made history as the first Maine governor to address the United Nations General Assembly.

She went there to take part in a climate summit, and announce her executive order that Maine should become 'carbon neutral' by 2045.

Richardson says Maine has produced some national leaders in recent decades, and he thinks "Mills is now taking that step to become a national figure as we speak about climate change."

Bennett congratulated the governor on the U.N. appearance, but adds the question now becomes "what are the remaining steps and what is she going to demand of Maine people?"

The former Senate President and Speaker of the House also talked about managing the impact and influence of lobbyists in Augusta. The Associated Press reported that $4.2 million was spent by lobbying groups in this year's legislative session.

John Richardson says it's a balancing act for leaders "to have all of these lobbyists going after every one of your rank-and-file members, and try to influence the outcome, at the same time you're trying to rein them back in... It's like herding cats."

Rick Bennett says he thinks Maine lawmakers have a level of accountability that Washington may not. He says "If Washington is a swamp that needs to be drained, maybe here in Maine we've just got a vernal pool. We've got a pretty transparent process."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report

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