WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree says allowing school districts to opt out of serving ammonia-treated ground beef filler known as “pink slime” isn’t good enough.

Pingree, D-1st District, wants the Obama administration to ban the product from being served in schools. She is a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

“This really shouldn’t be complicated,” Pingree said last week in a statement. “What we really need is an outright ban on serving pink slime in school lunches and I doubt you’d find too many families in America who think their kids need to have the option to keep eating the stuff.”

In a letter last week to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack calling for the ban, Pingree said that “It’s wrong to feed children a slurry that was formerly only used for dog food.”

Pingree’s stand has drawn national attention, including from MSNBC. MSNBC host Chris Jansing read the above passage from Pingree’s letter to Vilsack and concluded: “How do you argue with that?”

Collins pans pay plan

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is no fan of the No Budget No Pay proposal. Collins is the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which held a hearing last week on congressional reform proposals.

Included was the No Budget No Pay measure, which seeks to withhold lawmakers’ paychecks if budget and spending bills aren’t finished by Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year.

Collins said at the hearing that she understands the public’s frustration with Congress. Collins said she favors some reform ideas, including passing two-year budgets that would allow more congressional oversight of how taxpayers’ money is spent.

However, Collins said the power to craft and pass a budget is “not equally shared by all members, no matter how forcefully those of us who are not in leadership may advocate for a budget.”

Two Maine members of Congress are among the 34 in the House and seven in the Senate sponsoring the No Budget No Pay bill: GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe

and Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud of the 2nd District. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, isn’t a co-sponsor, but her spokesman said Pingree would vote for the bill if it reaches the floor.

In Clooney’s company

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews got arrested last week in Washington, but it was in the name of a good cause, and all eyes likely were on actor George Clooney, not the Maine Democrat.

Andrews and Clooney and a host of other public figures staged a protest at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington on Friday demanding the Sudanese government allow food to reach starving people in the country’s Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions.

Andrews is president of the group staging the protest, United to End Genocide.

United to End Genocide says a half million people are at risk of starvation because Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is blockading food and humanitarian aid in an attack on civilians as part of the government’s campaign against rebel groups.

The protestors refused to get off the steps of the embassy after police officers asked them to leave. Andrews, Clooney and the others weren’t in custody long before paying bail and being released.

Some pre-nuptial bliss

Sen. Susan Collins’ fellow lawmakers threw her an engagement party last week, with the event putting a temporary halt to work on a $109 billion transportation bill.

The Maine Republican announced her engagement last month to Thomas Daffron, the chief operating officer of a D.C.-based consulting and lobbying firm.

Lawmakers were probably relieved to escape the Senate on Tuesday evening for the party. They had been slogging through some 20 amendments to the transportation bill that day. The transportation bill didn’t get held up long – it passed overwhelmingly on Wednesday.

King staff unveiled

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King last week named Kay Rand to be his campaign manager. Rand was King’s chief of staff during his two terms as independent Maine governor.

Also last week, King named public relations executive and former journalist Crystal Canney as his campaign communications director.

Canney also was communications director for former Gov. John Baldacci during part of the Maine Democrat’s tenure.

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

Twitter: MaineTodayDC


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