U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said it would be a mistake to wait until after the Nov. 3 election to reach an agreement on a stimulus bill to address the coronavirus-induced economic crisis after President Donald Trump said in a series of tweets that he asked his team to stop negotiations.
Democratic and Republican leaders have been at odds over a renewed stimulus bill for more than two months. The White House had dangled the possibility of a $1.6 trillion stimulus bill last week, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, had asked for $2.2 trillion.
Collins, a Republican, said in a statement Tuesday evening that waiting until after the election to reach an agreement on stimulus was a “huge mistake” and that she had been in touch with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Trump administration’s lead negotiator, and several of her colleagues in the Senate.
The Maine senator is facing the most competitive reelection campaign of her career, narrowly trailing House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, in polling, including a Bangor Daily News/Digital Research survey published Tuesday.
In a statement, Collins contrasted recent congressional inaction with March, when leaders of both parties came together to allocate nearly $3 trillion to address the virus, including passing the Paycheck Protection Program, which she co-authored.
“That’s the same approach we need to take now to continue to provide support for the health and safety of all Americans and the safe, responsible opening of our communities,” Collins said.
Another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, expanded unemployment benefits and funding for state and local governments and the U.S. Postal Service were among issues debated as part of the next stimulus package. Both Maine and the U.S. continue to face economic challenges, with nearly 54,000 Mainers receiving unemployment benefits as of the last week of September.
She has advocated with the rest of Maine’s congressional delegation for state and local aid in a future virus bill. In a Tuesday statement, Gideon said Collins “often talks about the importance of her seniority, but it’s been months since the last round of federal relief was passed” and the fourth-term senator has “failed to stand up” to her party leaders.
Trump said Tuesday that he had asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court, prior to the election. Collins has also opposed Barrett’s nomination, saying she would not consider any nominee prior to the election since Republicans blocked a Democratic nominee in a similar situation in 2016.
Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District who had been advocating for additional stimulus, was critical of both parties’ leaders in a Tuesday statement, saying the $1.6 trillion Republicans’ proposed should have been a starting point for negotiations.
“If our leaders can’t get the job done, then all three of them — President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McConnell — should step aside in favor of people who will commit to forging a workable compromise for the present,” Golden said.