U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is joined by colleagues including Sen. Angus King, I-Maine (right) at a Washington news conference in 2018. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are still nearly 28,000 Mainers without power after the season’s first major snowstorm this weekend with some Central Maine Power customers likely waiting until Wednesday for restoration. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m awful glad I got it,” said Mal Osborn, a 92-year-old Lincoln native who lost his decades-old University of Maine jacket, only to have it recently returned to him. “I hope you give credit to all the kind people, especially my daughter, who set this whole thing in motion. I know there’s good people in the world, but this made me more aware of it.”

What we’re watching today

A coronavirus relief package backed by both of Maine’s senators is getting some pushback as Congress may kick the can another week down the road. Democratic leaders last week backed a $908 billion stimulus framework developed by a bipartisan group of senators including Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine, but progress remains slow.

The senators have yet to release the full text of their bill. They called for additional funding for small business loans, unemployment programs and aid to state and local governments, as well as liability protections for businesses to prevent coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Collins and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, published a joint Op-Ed in the Washington Post this week, saying they acknowledged that parts of the agreement would be “difficult pills for some senators in both parties to swallow,” but arguing that the cost of inaction would be greater. More than 30,000 unemployed Maine workers are set to lose benefits after Christmas, while small businesses facing challenges as the virus surges are hoping for additional aid.

The bipartisan bill has already gotten some criticism from both sides of the aisle. Progressives have characterized the liability protections as a “poison pill” while some Republicans have argued the bill is too expensive. Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, have argued the bill should include $1,200 stimulus checks, as a spring relief bill did.

After talk of passing a relief package this week along with a general spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, Congress appears more likely to pass a resolution funding the federal government for just one more week while lawmakers continue negotiations.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine scaling back contact tracing again as coronavirus surge overwhelms health workers,” Charles Eichacker, Bangor Daily News: “Maine has again been forced to scale back its efforts to trace the contacts of every person infected with the coronavirus, shifting more of that responsibility onto some lower-risk individuals as the illness keeps surging to record levels and overwhelming the state’s ability to do all that work on its own.”

— “Watchdog: Trump’s ‘lobster king’ broke law with Biden criticism,” The Associated Press: “Navarro was the main White House figure in Trump’s 2020 outreach to Maine. During a June visit to the state, the Republican president said he would be the “lobster king” and his point person on the industry. The Trump administration later authorized tariff offset aid to commercial fishermen and inked an agreement with the European Union to end lobster tariffs.”

A federal watchdog agency says Navarro’s work in his official capacity may have violated the Hatch Act. Navarro did interviews with media outlets and wrote op-eds, including in the Bangor Daily News, about the Trump administration’s job-creation efforts while acting as a campaign adviser to the president. The Hatch Act prevents federal employees from participating in political work while performing their official duties. The watchdog did not ding Navarro for his campaign role, but rather for criticism of President-elect Joe Biden in his official role.

— “Marijuana has grown to become Maine’s most valuable crop,” Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald: “Cannabis was immune to a lot of the pandemic’s biggest business killers, according to research analyst Noah Tamares of New Frontier Data. As a federally illegal drug, most cannabis production and consumption is local, shielding it from supply chain blips. It is also lockdown friendly — even before the pandemic, 65 percent of consumers reported using cannabis alone.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...