Political Brew Appearance – Dec 3, 2023

It was another busy week of politics in Maine and across the country. From the release of Israeli hostages by Hamas to President Joe Biden mistaking Taylor Swift for Britney Spears, our political analysts weighed in on the top political stories of the week.


Sen. Angus King on Gun Bill

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, announced new gun legislation alongside Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, five weeks after the horrific Lewiston shootings. The so-called “GOSAFE Act” stops short of a ban on assault weapons, but it seeks to limit magazine capacity and establish a voluntary buyback program for high-capacity weapons. King spoke with NEWS CENTER Maine about the proposal, saying, “My goal, straight up is saving lives.”

GARRETT: “My initial reaction is, I think, this bill is dead on arrival in the House, definitely. But maybe also in the Senate. I’m not sure how far it will get, but I’ll commend Sen. King for one thing. Previous versions of assault weapon bans just go after what a gun looks like. It’s a big, scary, black gun, usually an AR-15 that a senator will call out. And a lot of those items are actually safety features for the users and people who might be on the other end of that. Being honest about going after a gun for its use, not what it looks like, I think is an actual, real and honest step. So I’ll give him that. But, I mean, conservatives and people who are against gun control are never going to be for this bill.”

BJ: “I think it’s going to take comprehensive gun reform to prevent tragedies like Lewiston. What Sen. King has here is an elegant solution. As Garret mentioned, it’s talking about the way the gun operates. And I think that that makes it a lot more effective is likely dead on arrival. Although I think the role that Sen. [Susan] Collins plays in this discussion will be pivotal, and I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.”

Santos expelled from Congress

In a historic move, Congress voted Friday to expel Rep. George Santos, R-New York. The house voted 311-114, despite opposition from republican leadership, including House Speaker Mike Johnson. Santos faces criminal campaign finance charges and has admitted to fabricating parts of his life. He refused to resign.

ZACH: “Santos continues to deny any wrongdoing. What does this really mean for the Republican Party?”

GARRETT: “Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if it reflects necessarily on the Republican Party as a whole. I think anybody who looks at the findings that the House Ethics Commission found on George Santos would say that they’re scrupulous. I guess former Rep. Santos at this point, he committed some wrongdoing. I mean, spending money on things like Only Fans and things? Really wild stuff. That was going to come out in the wash anyways, but to expel somebody from the House floor — that’s an extraordinary step.”
BJ: “Look, at the end of the day, Mr. Santos was a scar on the institution. And what we see here is that, again, this MAGA-controlled Congress can’t always get their act together. And it’s because of this failed leadership wanting to give forgiveness for Mr. Santos. But at the end of the day, enough Republicans came along to say it was time for him to go.”

OPEGA report details more DHHS failures

A government watchdog group investigating the state’s handling of Child and Family Services said there were “errors on top of errors” leading to an infant’s death in 2021. The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, OPEGA, found the baby’s father was the subject of a Child Protective Services complaint before his son’s death, but DHHS never investigated it. Former state Sen. Bill Diamond, a long-time advocate on the issue, said the death should have been prevented.

GARRETT: “I agree with a lot of what Bill Diamond said. I mean, he’s been on the case for this for a really long time. And I think his voice is very important in this debate. But, you know, I think when it comes to a pager, they have a really long history of putting out solid reporting. It’s nonpartisan. It’s one of the only committees in the legislature that has an equal amount of Republicans and Democrats, no matter who is in control. And they’re going to come out with recommendations. You read through all of these reports. I think there’s four on the child deaths that have been asked to be investigated over the past year. And there’s recommendations in there. And I actually have spoken with a few of the members of the OPEGA committee, and there are themes that run throughout all of these things. Sen. Dimond is right. It’s a culture problem. It’s a funding problem. And there’s a massive communication problem over there.”

BJ: “Yeah, I agree. Sen. Diamond is right. He’s been a leader on this. You’re absolutely right, Garrett. But I think something that’s important to focus on is the fact that the frontline workers who are trying to navigate this crisis right now are reporting themselves that they are overworked. They don’t get breaks. They have forced overtime. And report after report says that they need more workers on the front lines. It’s going to be on the legislature to find ways to expand that workforce and recruit the best people to be in these positions. And just one other thing that I would add is these caseworkers have been surveyed by the State Employees Association. Over 50% say they either have a workload that puts kids in danger or that they have a workload that is just not humanly possible to navigate. We have a huge crisis here.”