Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that she plans to keep working on a compromise coronavirus stimulus relief bill, after saying earlier that President Trump made a “huge mistake” by abruptly breaking off negotiations.

Trump’s decision Tuesday to walk away from discussions with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer may have killed any opportunity of passing another economic stimulus bill soon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to agree that nothing is likely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate before Election Day.

But, as he often does, Trump reversed course slightly Wednesday, sending out a series of tweets calling for passage of targeted relief in a series of stand-alone bills. Pelosi has rejected a piecemeal approach.

Collins, who is in a close reelection fight with Democratic challenger Sara Gideon and is playing up her ability as a dealmaker, said she’s not giving up. Whether she’ll have success persuading colleagues is unknown.

In an interview Wednesday morning with the Portland Press Herald editorial board, the four-term Republican senator again criticized Trump for ending talks and directing McConnell to focus his efforts on confirming U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“I called it a huge mistake, not just a mistake,” Collins said. “I think there is nothing that is more important for us to be working on right now than another coronavirus package.”


To that end, Collins said she spoke with Trump’s top adviser, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, late Tuesday and also has been talking to Senate colleagues. On Wednesday, she participated in a Zoom call with the group No Labels, a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress from both parties.

“I’m working very hard to put together a package that I hope can be in between the $2.3 trillion that the House has passed last week,” and the $1 trillion Senate bill that passed last month, she said. Asked if she had a target in mind, Collins said, “I want to hear what both sides have to say. I think we need to add more funding for both bus lines, which have been forgotten, and the airlines, (which) tell us they need $25 billion to make it through next March.”

Collins also said a relief package should include direct aid to municipalities rather than states.

“I’m trying to look for a compromise here,” she said. “A compromise would be to give less to the states this time and concentrate on the municipalities and counties. That’s a possible compromise. I’m not saying the states … some states needs more money, some states say that they don’t.”

Congress already has passed four relief packages totaling more than $3 trillion, including the $2 trillion CARES Act shortly after the pandemic shut everything down in March. It included the Paycheck Protection Program that Collins co-authored. Since then, however, there have been a lot of negotiations but no movement on another round of relief that almost everyone agrees is critical.

Gideon said Collins has had months to get something done and hasn’t.


“Maine people, businesses, and communities need more relief from the federal government to make it through the coronavirus pandemic, but Washington is letting them down once again,” Gideon said in a statement. “Senator Collins often talks about the importance of her seniority, but it’s been months since the last round of federal relief was passed and once again, she’s failed to stand up to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell when Mainers need her most.”

Collins’ spokeswoman, Annie Clark, called Gideon’s claim “hypocrisy at its worst.” The Collins campaign has repeatedly criticized Gideon, Maine’s speaker of the House, for not doing enough to address the pandemic in the Maine Legislature, which has been adjourned since March.

Any success Collins has on a compromise bill likely will rest with McConnell, who controls whether legislation goes to the Senate floor. On Tuesday, he tacitly supported Trump’s decision.

“Well I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we need to concentrate on what’s achievable,” McConnell said.

Other members of the Maine delegation also criticized the president’s decision to end negotiations while most of the country is still struggling economically from the pandemic.

“The economy is foundering; states and localities are facing massive shortfalls; across the country, sick, jobless, and anxious Americans need help. But President Trump just said, clear as day, that he’s putting politics before aid for those who are suffering. Unbelievable,” Sen. Angus King, an independent, tweeted Tuesday.


Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, wrote: “We want to send Americans direct relief & to prevent our small businesses from going bankrupt. Pres. Trump wants Republicans to “focus full time on” on rubberstamping an extremist SCOTUS justice. Which approach better understands the urgency of this moment?”

And Rep. Jared Golden, who has broken from Democratic House colleagues on spending priorities, said the country can’t wait until after the election for more relief.

“Negotiations on a COVID-19 package were progressing – far too slowly but still progressing – before the president announced today that he was pulling out of talks,” Golden said in a statement. “Just last week the president’s team proposed $250 billion in new state and local aid, as part of a $1.6 trillion package.

“The president’s withdrawal from COVID-19 negotiations is a monumental failure in leadership, and it’s a failure shared by the rest of our nation’s political leaders in both parties and in both houses of Congress.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.