WASHINGTON — Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud charge that the House GOP “Cut Cap and Balance” plan approved Tuesday night is symbolic partisan posturing, not a serious attempt to solve the debt ceiling impasse.

The Maine Democrats said they remain hopeful of a bipartisan compromise, speaking in interviews prior to the final vote on the House GOP bill making large cuts to federal programs, capping future spending at a percentage of the gross domestic product and raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit in exchange for a balanced budget amendment that would make it very difficult to pass any tax increases.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was still reviewing the House GOP bill, but said that she is “encouraged” by a bipartisan plan that emerged Tuesday in the Senate that aims to cut the deficit by some $4 trillion over 10 years and includes a mix of spending cuts and increased revenues. The plan, which could bridge the impasse over raising the debt ceiling, is the work of the so-called “Gang of Six” group of senators, spearheaded by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Collins has credited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with coming up with a backup plan to avert a debt default crisis — a plan Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also is working on — but said that the “the Gang of Six’s bipartisan, comprehensive plan is much more developed and workable.”

The bipartisan group of senators deserves enormous credit for coming up with a serious and carefully considered deficit reduction plan that can garner strong bipartisan support,” Collins said Tuesday in a statement. “Our $14.3 trillion debt is unsustainable and threatens our future prosperity. While this plan would not solve all of our nation’s problems, and I continue to review the specific details, I am very encouraged by the work that has been done.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, lauded the group of senators for coming up with a plan, but said she still needs to study what they are proposing.

“So far, we’ve been provided a broad outline, and I look forward to closely reviewing the specific details and legislative language as it is made available,” Snowe said vial email. “I commend the group for their diligence in developing and advancing a multifaceted approach to address our burgeoning deficits.”

In the House, Pingree, D-1st, and Michaud, D-2nd, said the House GOP bill isn’t going to end the debt-ceiling debate because it won’t go anywhere in the Senate and President Obama would cast a veto even if it did.

“It’s just partisan politics,” said Michaud in an interview, who charged that the House GOP bill’s mechanism capping future spending at about 18 percent of the GDP would result in draconian cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare. “The Republicans know it is not going to go anywhere here and we really have to focus on solving the problem, something that definitely can get done.”

Pingree said she is not yet familiar enough with the new “Gang of Six” plan emerging in the Senate — which is apart from the plan Reid and McConnell have been developing as a fall back to allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling in increments in exchange for about $1.5 trillion in cuts — to take a stance on it.

“I am very much in favor of coming together over a compromise,” Pingree said in an interview outside the House chamber. “I am very concerned if it only has cuts, particularly deep ones that would get close to Social Security and Medicare or would take on some of our most vulnerable citizens. But I am keeping an open mind.”

Pingree said that, “I truly believe that we will raise the debt ceiling by (the default deadline of) Aug. 2 and honestly I wish we would do it sooner rather than later because it causes so much upheaval in the economy, but really to the average citizen,” adding that constituents have begun asking her whether they will have to go without Social Security or other government benefits if the federal government defaults on its obligations.


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