AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A spat over a snubbed state senator in Maine has escalated into a tit-for-tat standoff after the Republican-controlled Senate said Monday it will refuse to hold roll call votes until the Republican governor swears in the new Democrat.
A spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau, a Republican, said he has agreed to postpone votes for contentious bills until Sen.-elect Susan Deschambault of Biddeford is seated.
Deschambault, who won Tuesday's special election, arrived at Gov. Paul LePage's Statehouse office on Friday morning for a scheduled swearing-in ceremony. But LePage canceled the ceremony because he was angry at Democrats for rejecting one of his nominees for a state post.
The Republican governor told WCSH-TV on Sunday that he will swear in Deschambault when he has time.
"Yeah, she's going to be sworn in," LePage said. "But it's not on her schedule. My schedule is a little busier than hers."
Maine law gives the governor five business days to certify the results of an election, and LePage has said doesn't want to cut off the unsuccessful candidate's statutory right to request a recount. Deschambault's Republican opponent Stephen Martin has until the close of business on Tuesday to make that request. He lost by 16 percentage points.
The conflict between LePage and the Senate is the latest example LePage's combative relationship with the Legislature.
Last year, he attacked lawmakers from both parties for making a budget deal laden with "piggy projects." He hung photographs of their faces on a Christmas tree and squeezed a rubber pig to make his point. He then embarked on a historic veto spree — vetoing a record 178 bills. The Legislature overrode more than 70 percent of them.
In January, 52 House Democrats voted to impeach LePage, charging him with abuse of power. LePage subsequently canceled his annual State of the State address. In recent months, LePage has been traveling around the state and holding weekly town meetings during which he portrays the Legislature as an obstacle.
Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond said the entire Legislature on occasion will push back against LePage to protect its status as an equal branch of government. The Portland Democrat said has a "great working relationship" with Thibodeau and asked him to hold off on taking roll call votes until Deschambault is seated.
The Senate has a full schedule as it nears the end of the session. Lawmakers had planned to adjourn by April 20, and it's unclear how the Senate delay of roll call votes will affect those plans.
Deschambault will fill the seat of David Dutremble, who resigned on Jan. 28.