Collins makes it clear: She is sticking with Trump and McConnell
There's some brow-furrowing going on in Maine right now, where Sen. Susan Collins might just be having some regrets about her decision to fully embrace Donald Trump, the impeached president who she has been so certain must have learned some lesson from the experience. She's concerned about his performance on the COVID-19 crisis and, get this, "hasn’t decided whether to endorse or oppose President Donald Trump's reelection bid." She also still hasn't said if she voted for him in Maine's primary last month. She says she voted, and his was the only Republican name on the ballot for the office, but she's playing coy there. Like there's any real question of that.
But today's concern is his public performance on coronavirus. "It's been very uneven. There are times when I think his message has been spot-on and he has really deferred to the public health officials who have been with him at these press conferences," Collins said. "And then there are times when I think he's been off-message and has brought up extraneous issues. So I think it's been mixed." That's got to be a really uncomfortable fence to be straddling right about now, and "uneven" is doing an awful lot of work for Collins. She added, again, "It's been uneven. I don't think that that is helpful. I think when he stays on message it's helpful. But when he gets off-message or brings up issues that have nothing to do with the coronavirus, it is not reassuring to the American people." Nevertheless, Politico reports, she's "sticking with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)" on the response.
That specifically includes the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program that provides loans to small businesses, that she and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wrote and got into the CARES Act. That's the program that has been so plagued with confusion and mismanagement from the Trump administration. McConnell wants to add another $250 billion—has been pushing it for over a week now, despite the fact that the original funds haven't been entirely paid out. Democrats are resisting, rightly demanding that there are needs in hospitals and in state and local governments that are just as pressing for right now. "All these programs are important," she said, "but if you look at where the urgency is, it seems to me it's in replenishing," her pet project. The one she can take credit for in running for reelection.
However, she's back on the fence in saying that the Democrats should be accommodated in making sure some of the additional loan money is carved out specifically for underbanked employers and for a disaster loan fund. She also doesn't very much like that McConnell keeps insisting that it's his way or nothing by forcing Democrats to object on the floor to moving the bill forward. Decisive as ever, she says of that tactic "I'm not sure that that advances the ball." But she's still with Mitch, because he must have some secret compromising going on. "I suspect," she says, "that there are more talks going on than may be evident."
Now that the filing deadline for the Maine primaries is over, expect to see a lot more of this "moderating" from Collins as she tries to both-sides her way back into Maine voters' good graces. She's got less than seven months to do that in, and considering she's as far underwater as Trump with them, well, good luck with that.