Susan Collins: Punting coronavirus relief until after election a ‘huge mistake’

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) broke with President Trump on Tuesday over his decision to pull the plug on coronavirus relief negotiations until after the election, calling it a “huge mistake.” 

“Waiting until after the election to reach an agreement on the next Covid-19 relief package is a huge mistake. I have already been in touch with the Secretary of the Treasury, one of the chief negotiators, and with several of my Senate colleagues,” Collins said in a statement, referring to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

Collins, who is facing a tough reelection fight in Maine, pointed to bipartisan cooperation early this year when Congress passed a nearly $3 trillion bill in March, arguing that was the “same approach” negotiators “should take now.” 

Collins’s statement comes after Trump abruptly ended negotiations between Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who have been talking daily and met in person last week as part of a revived effort to try to get an agreement on a fifth coronavirus package. 

Top lawmakers and the White House have struggled for months to get a deal, and both sides were still far apart on the topline, as well as specifics like state and local money, unemployment and protection against coronavirus lawsuits. 

Democrats had come down to $2.2 trillion, a decrease compared to the $3.4 trillion bill the House passed along party lines in May. 

Mnuchin made an offer to Democrats last week of $1.6 trillion, a number viewed as too low by Democrats and too high for many Senate Republicans. The Senate GOP caucus unveiled a $1.1 trillion bill in late July that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned could lose the support of up to 20 GOP senators. 

They then unveiled a significantly scaled-back bill of $500 billion in September that got support of 52 of the 53 GOP senators. 

Trump, in his tweet thread, claimed the mantle for calling off the talks, saying he “instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.” 

Trump’s claim that a stimulus deal could be reached in the lame-duck session was met with near immediate skepticism. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that he supported Trump’s decision to end the negotiations. 

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

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Maine Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steven Mnuchin Stimulus Susan Collins

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