Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has been appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where spending is set for nearly all government programs. Pingree will be only the second House Member from Maine since 1899 and only the fifth Mainer in history to serve on the Committee.
"It's a great opportunity to have a significant impact on how money is spent on programs that affect Maine, like shipbuilding or agriculture," Pingree said. "I know it will be a lot of work but will be well worth it to be able to influence spending priorities in Maine and nationally."
In Congress, the Appropriations Committee is said to control the "power of the purse" and must pass virtually any bill that allows the federal government to spend money. Appropriations is divided up into various Subcommittees, and because both shipbuilding and farming are important to Maine, Pingree plans to ask to placed on the Defense and Agriculture Subcommittees.
Don Bilodeau, a member of the union representing most of the workers at Bath Iron Works, said the move is good news for workers at the yard.
"Congresswoman Pingree has always fought for BIW and this is going to put her in a position to be even more effective in making sure we have the contracts we need to keep workers on the job," Bilodeau said.
Senator Susan Collins sits on Senate Appropriations so Maine will now have representation on the Committee in both Houses of Congress, and Pingree said she looks forward to working with her to make sure programs that are important to Maine are adequately funded.
Before Pingree, only four Maine House Members have been placed on Appropriations, starting with James G. Blaine who served one term just after the Civil War. Eugene Hale served for six years in the 1870s and Nelson Dingley served on Appropriations for fouryears in the late 1890s. The last Maine House Member to serve was about 40 years ago, when Congressman Bill Hathaway was appointed to the Committee.
Pingree plans to ask Congressional leaders for a waiver to allow her to continue to serve on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the House Agriculture Committee.