BATH — President Donald Trump signed a COVID-19 relief package Sunday, which funds everything from unemployment benefits to defense provisions potentially benefitting Bath Iron Works.

The over 5,000-page bipartisan package, approved by Congress last week, holds funds for unemployment benefits, eviction protections and other emergency aid, including $600 direct payment checks.

The $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill is tied to another bill that funds two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which BIW can compete to build, and $78.2 million for the completion of Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers, a kind of ship built exclusively at BIW. The shipyard has completed two Zumwalt destroyers while the third and final Zumwalt is under construction at the Bath shipyard.

The $1.4 trillion government funding bill will keep the federal government operating through September. If Trump hadn’t signed the package by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the government would’ve run out of money, launching a government shutdown.

“I don’t think Trump understood the magnitude of what he was dealing with,” said Janet Martin, a government professor at Bowdoin College. “I don’t think Donald Trump understands Congress. At this point, I think he’s too consumed with overturning the election.”

Though they agreed the bill isn’t perfect, Maine lawmakers breathed a sigh of relief Monday after pushing the president to sign the package millions of Americans were relying on under the strain of the pandemic.

“The President’s decision to sign the bipartisan COVID emergency relief bill into law is welcome news for the American people,” Sen. Susan Collins wrote in a statement Monday. “The agreement that our bipartisan, bicameral group negotiated was the foundation for this much-needed assistance. The package also fully funds our government through September 2021 and provides significant investments including strengthening our defense and assisting our veterans to provide funding for biomedical research and public health to supporting transportation and economic development programs that will help our country as we make progress to defeat the pandemic.”

“I’m relieved the President signed the COVID relief bill yesterday,” Rep. Chellie Pingree wrote Monday. “Though the bill is far from perfect, it includes much-needed support for struggling Mainers, like increased SNAP benefits, stimulus checks, and extended unemployment, which lapsed on Saturday.”

Trump previously rejected the bill before leaving to spend the holiday at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, leaving millions of Americans in limbo as they watched their unemployment benefits lapse.

According to The Associated Press, about 9.5 million people had been relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that expired Saturday.

Trump outlined his reason for rejecting the bill in a tweet Saturday: “I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.’”

In a statement Sunday, Trump walked back that tweet by acknowledging his “responsibility to protect the people of our country from the economic devastation and hardship that was caused by the [virus].”

BIW Spokesman David Hench declined to comment on the bill Monday.

One bill down, one to go

While the COVID-19 relief bill has been signed into law, a separate defense policy bill still hangs in the balance.

Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual policy bill that designated how funding should be used by the Pentagon, last Wednesday.

The $740 billion bill authorizes a 3% pay raise for US troops and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one of which would be built at BIW, among other defense infrastructure.

Trump’s veto came at the 11th hour Wednesday and drew criticism and promises to override from Maine lawmakers.

“By vetoing the overwhelmingly-bipartisan NDAA, President Trump is denying a pay raise for our nation’s servicemembers, undermining our national security, and threatening Maine jobs at facilities like Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,” Sen. Angus King said last Wednesday. “The President has cited a variety of different reasons to explain why he opposes this bill, but each excuse is either patently false, wholly unrelated to the military, or antithetical to America’s values.”

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District where BIW and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard reside, said she will vote to override the president’s veto.

“In one of his last acts, President Trump is holding up important national security policy, including a pay raise for our troops and more ships for Bath Iron Works,” Pingree wrote Wednesday. “It’s a shameful move, especially two days before Christmas and in the wake of devastating cyberattacks on the United States. I will vote to override this veto.”

In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote the House would reconvene on Monday to vote to override Trump’s veto. If it receives a two-thirds vote, the Senate will vote the following day.

Both the House and Senate passed the bill with veto-proof margins earlier this month. The House passed the bill 335-78, and the Senate approved the bill, 84-13. If the same margins hold, Trump’s veto will be overridden.

Trump vetoed the bill after lawmakers refused to include language repealing a law that legally shields online companies including social media platforms from being liable for what users post on the online platform and gives companies the right to “restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

Trump, an avid user of Twitter, began criticizing the platform after the election when his tweets claiming election fraud were, and continue to be, marked as “disputed” by the company.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.