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Posted: Mar 18, 2015

Poliquin still reviewing House GOP budget proposal

Up Country

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin appeared at a press conference yesterday with House Republican leaders on the same day his party unveiled a budget they say would cut $5.5 trillion in a decade.

But the freshman congressman from Maine’s 2nd District hasn’t yet taken a position on the budget. He was there to speak in favor of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The House GOP budget proposal is symbolic, since the Republican-led Senate will craft their own proposal and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, spoke against it on Tuesday. Poliquin spokesman Michael Byerly said the congressman is “reviewing the budget proposal at this time.”

The budget is bold, if vague: Republicans say it balances within a decade, but it uses some fuzzy accounting along the way: For example, an estimated $1 trillion in savings comes from benefit programs that the House Budget Committee didn’t detail.

And the largest piece of that savings — $2 trillion — comes from repealing cutting spending provisions in the Affordable Care Act. It won’t be simple, since the health care law championed by Obama also finds savings and raises revenue, as the New York Times explained on Tuesday. But it doesn’t outline a specific replacement, calling only for “a patient-centered approach to health care reform.”

That may create a bit of a problem for Poliquin, who bucked his party in February by not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act in February, even though he opposes the law.

It was his most notable vote in Washington so far, and it upset conservative activists in Maine and across the country. Poliquin defended the vote afterward by saying that his party needs one thing before it repeals the law — a specific replacement that won’t leave families covered under the law without insurance.

This budget proposal doesn’t go quite that far, but Byerly said on Tuesday that while Poliquin is still reviewing it, “this budget would promote more choices, more affordable and patient-centered health care solutions.”

This is important: If the law’s tax credits were repealed, 62,000 Mainers would lose subsidies and 50,000 would lose coverage, according to estimates from The Urban Institute. A Boston Globe article this week highlighted the law’s outsized impact on lobstermen in Poliquin’s district.

So, the congressman has to thread a political needle as budget talk continues. We’ll see where he finally lands.

 

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