BATH — President Trump capsized two bills — a $74 billion defense policy bill and a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill — last week that include provisions for Bath Iron Works.

Trump surprised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle when he released a video on Twitter Tuesday calling the $900 billion COVID-19 spending bill “a disgrace.”

The over 5,000-page bill, approved by Congress, funds unemployment benefits, eviction protections and other emergency aid, including $600 direct payment checks.

The COVID-19 relief bill also appropriates $3.2 billion for two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which BIW can compete to build, as well as $78.2 million for the completion of Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers. The shipyard has completed two Zumwalt destroyers, while the third and final Zumwalt is under construction.

The bill was sent to the president for his signature before the holiday weekend, but he refused to sign it, letting the clock run out on Saturday night for unemployment benefits millions of Americans need amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the problem with Donald Trump is he’s fixated on the election, causing havoc and figuring out who should get a pardon,” said Janet Martin, a government professor at Bowdoin College.

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 that read: “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.’”

The relief bill is attached to a $1.4 trillion government funding bill to keep the federal government operating through September, which would mean that failing to sign it by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday would launch a government shutdown, the Associated Press reported.

“I honestly don’t think Donald Trump knows the COVID-19 appropriations bills are linked together,” said Martin. “These two things are being lumped together because it’s the end of the year and they both need to be passed, but the president seems confused about that.”

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, alongside 11 other bipartisan lawmakers, released a joint statement Saturday urging Trump to sign the COVID-19 relief bill.

“The legislation would bring desperately needed help to struggling families, unemployed workers, hard-hit small businesses, an overburdened health care system, stressed schools, and so many others,” the lawmakers wrote. “It would provide robust funding for testing and vaccine distribution at a critical time.”

“This legislation will provide much-needed aid to small businesses and hospitals, the unemployed, and families struggling to put food on the table,” Rep. Jared Golden wrote in a Dec. 21 statement. “It will also provide funds to speed the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Maine lawmakers vow to override Trump’s defense bill veto

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

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

Trump’s veto came at the eleventh 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,” King wrote in a statement 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 will reconvene 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, but Martin said she isn’t confident that will happen.

“There have been some Republicans breaking ranks, but I don’t know if enough of them will join the Democrats in overriding the veto,” said Martin. “Both parties need to be responsible in this case, but Kevin McCarthy hasn’t been leading the Republicans and I don’t think he’s willing to go against the president.”

Craig Hooper, CEO of Themistocles Advisory Group, a Maryland-based national security advisory firm, said previous presidents have vetoed a NDAA during their tenure, but usually because they wanted to remove some language rather than add.

“This veto is not enormously disruptive as long as it turns into something,” said Hooper. “If it’s not overridden, who knows what happens. We’ve never been in that situation.”

Hooper said he believes Trump’s last-second veto “is an effort to remain in the headlines and stay relevant.”

“I think the point is to continue to attract attention,” he said. “He seems to be bent on creating chaos as he leaves.”

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.

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