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Maine's U.S. Senators Criticize Trump's Weekend Executive Orders

Susan Walsh
AP Images
President Donald Trump holds up one of the four executive orders that he signed that addresses the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.

Maine’s two U.S. senators say President Donald Trump’s weekend executive orders and memoranda will not help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King say some of the president’s actions, such as the suspension of the collection of payroll taxes to fund social security and medicare, are bad policy.

Collins says she believes that Trump knows his actions cannot change law, but hopes they will spur some kind of compromise.

“The President knows he can’t do anything about most of those,” says Collins. “I think that his payroll tax provisions are a mistake.”

King says some of Trump’s actions may be unconstitutional and others illegal, and that what he has proposed does not do what is needed. King says the $400 a week bonus unemployment payment, which requires the states to pick up $100 a week of that cost, is not enough to keep families and the economy afloat while the pandemic runs its course.

“He made a stab at it, but what he did doesn’t cover business help, it doesn’t help the schools, it doesn’t help the state testing, hospitals, stimulus checks,” says King.

Collins says there is a rough framework of a compromise in two bills that have bipartisan support in Congress. One measure would set the bonus unemployment payment at 80 percent of a state set maximum payment, or $400, whichever is less. The other would split the difference on funding for aid to states. The House Democrats’ bill sets it at a trillion dollars, and the Republican senate proposes no funding.

Collins says a compromise bill she is cosponsoring would provide $500 billion to the states.

“It is gaining some traction, but, for one thing, the bill in the Senate is bipartisan,” she says. “There are six of us who introduced it, three democrats, three republicans.”

King says there have been almost non-stop conference calls and discussions trying to reach a compromise, so he remains hopeful that something can be worked out in the next few days.

Gov. Janet Mills says governors of both parties stressed to Vice President Mike Pence in a conference call that Congress needs to act on a broad array of programs to help the economy get through the pandemic.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.