1. Prioritizing U.S. Manufacturing in Expanding Trade Agreement
Congressman Mike Michaud, Chairman of the House Trade Working Group, issued the following statement in response to announcements by the United States Trade Representative that both Mexico and Canada have been invited to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
"I am extremely concerned that the number of countries included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to increase, yet the direction of trade negotiations remains the same. I have repeatedly asked the Administration to ensure that this agreement does not undermine the domestic production of U.S. manufacturers. Now that more countries are being invited to join the negotiations, it is even more imperative that TPP's rules of origin and tariff provisions prioritize U.S. manufacturers. It is also critical that the agreement comprehensively address state-owned enterprises and explicitly prohibit currency manipulation among TPP countries. The expanding nature of the agreement also increases the need for enhanced consultation and transparency with Members of Congress and their staff. I urge the Obama Administration to slow down negotiations to engage in meaningful, substantive meetings with all interested Members of Congress, and to make TPP a new model for U.S. trade policy."
2. Bill to Help Mainers Improve Energy Efficiency
Congressman Mike Michaud has joined several of his colleagues in introducing legislation to renew key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) energy and efficiency programs in the 2012 Farm Bill.
The Rural Energy for America Act would reauthorize several USDA energy initiatives, including three that have had a direct benefit to Maine. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has helped Maine agricultural producers and rural small businesses to make energy improvements and gain access to renewable energy systems; the Forest Biomass for Energy Program helped install wood-to-energy systems at several Maine public facilities; and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program has helped over 380 contractors to develop biomass conversion facilities.
"USDA energy programs provide critical support for Mainers' efforts to improve energy efficiency and save money," said Michaud. "This legislation will renew programs that create jobs, save money, and make important investments in new energy technology."
USDA energy programs have provided Maine with over $49 million in federal funding since 2009. The REAP program has supported 29 projects in Maine and provided $1.2 million in grants and approximately $1.7 million in loans. The Forest Biomass for Energy Program has provided $11.4 million to the Maine Forest Service for the installation of wood-to-energy systems at 22 public facilities. In addition, Maine has received about $35 million in federal payments under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
3. $1.9 Million in USDA Rural Development Investments
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Rural Development division has awarded the Dexter Utility District $1.9 million to update its water infrastructure, including century old water mains.
"Reinvesting in old infrastructure is critical to supporting and maintaining our rural communities," said Michaud. "These USDA funds will ensure quality drinking water and public safety while creating employment opportunities through engineering and construction jobs."
The $1.1 million in Water & Waste Disposal loans and $800,000 in Water & Waste disposal Grant funds will allow the Dexter Utility District to complete construction necessary before the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) can proceed with plans for major road work on Route 7.
4. Maine Nominee Kayatta Threatened by Partisan Politics
Congressman Mike Michaud has called upon the U.S. Senate to take swift action to confirm First Circuit Court of Appeals nominee William Kayatta, Jr. of Cape Elizabeth. Although Kayatta received a bipartisan 16-2 recommendation by the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, Senate Republican leadership has vowed to block all circuit court nominees until after the November elections.
"It is time for the Senate to give Bill an up-or-down vote," said Michaud. "This type of political gamesmanship is one of the many reasons that I recently became a plaintiff on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster. I commend Senators Snowe and Collins for their willingness to break with their party leadership to confirm this qualified nominee."
In May, Michaud joined several of his colleagues as a plaintiff on a lawsuit filed by Common Cause, challenging that the Senate's use of the filibuster and hold are unconstitutional. The filibuster requires 60 votes to allow the Senate to proceed to a vote on legislation or judicial nominees.
William Kayatta, Jr. has been a partner at Pierce, Atwood LLP in Portland for more than 25 years. Michaud and Rep. Chellie Pingree forwarded Kayatta's name to the President Obama in May 2011. Kayatta was nominated by the President to the First Circuit bench in January.