In the showdown over the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, Rep. Jared Golden stood alone from the rest of his party.
The two-term lawmaker who represents Maine‘s 2nd Congressional District was the only House Democrat last week to vote against the massive spending bill, as it passed its last legislative hurdle along party lines before being signed into law by President Biden.
Golden was an early opponent to the move by his party’s congressional leadership to advance the bill through budget reconciliation, which allowed the legislation to pass with Democratic votes only and avoided the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate. And Golden was one of only two Democrats – along with Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon – who voted against the relief package in late February when it cleared its first House hurdle.
Explaining his opposition, the congressman wrote, “I know there are people who will continue to need assistance getting through the final stages of this pandemic, which is why I have argued that Congress should have addressed their needs with a targeted bill that extends unemployment benefits, funds vaccine distribution, and increases investments in our public health infrastructure.”
The congressman emphasized that “when combined with the over $4 trillion we have already spent battling the coronavirus, borrowing and spending hundreds of billions more in excess of meeting the most urgent needs poses a risk to both our economic recovery and the priorities I would like to work with the Biden Administration to achieve, like rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and fixing our broken and unaffordable healthcare system.”
Golden last week was also the lone House Democrat to vote against a bill that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales. And he was one of just two Democrats – along with Ron Kind of Wisconsin – to vote against another measure that would close what’s known as the “Charleston loophole,” which allows some licensed gun sales to go through before a required background check is completed. Taking advantage of that loophole, Dylann Roof was able to legally purchase a weapon that he used to gun down nine people in 2015 at a historically Black church in Charleston, S.C.
Noting that “many of my constituents have a proud tradition of responsible gun ownership,” Golden highlighted that “to keep firearms out of the hands of criminal offenders, we need to strictly enforce the laws we already have in place and provide the existing background check system with the resources, technology, and staffing necessary to work efficiently and without error.”
Earlier this year he also voted against the Democrats’ police reform bill.
Golden’s congressional district – the largest east of the Mississippi River – contains a number of small cities, including Auburn, Bangor and Lewiston, but is mostly rural. Former President Trump won the district in 2016 – and captured it again by seven points in his 2020 reelection defeat.
Golden, a Marine veteran who deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, narrowly won the district in 2018 as the Democrats recaptured the House majority for the first time in eight years. He became the first member of Congress elected by ranked-choice voting. The congressman won reelection last November by seven points, outperforming then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the district by nearly 30,000 votes.
While grabbing national attention for breaking with his party, Golden has also supported other major Democratic initiatives that passed the House mostly along party lines.
Last week Golden voted for the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize), a sweeping bill that would beef up the rights of unions and union workers.
And the week prior, he supported H.R. 1, a wide-ranging election reform and campaign finance reform measure.
With House Republicans needing a net gain of just five seats to win back the majority in the 2022 midterms, Golden is already coming under attack by the National Republican Congressional Committee as well as pro-GOP outside groups.
The conservative advocacy group the American Action Network went up with digital ads over the lawmaker’s support for what it called “the corrupt liberal campaign finance bill.”
The same group ran digital ads last week in Golden’s district – ahead of the final house vote on the COVID relief package.
“Tell Golden, hit the brakes on Pelosi’s plan,” the narrator in the spot said.
Golden’s votes at odds with his party’s leadership have also spurred talk on social media of the possibility of a Democratic primary challenge next year.
The first possible longshot challenge materialized last week when Michael Sutton, a Bangor Democrat who unsuccessfully ran in the past for city council and state representative, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission signaling his intention to take on Golden.
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