U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District said he opposes Democratic leaders’ move toward a party-line coronavirus relief bill unless Congress first passes funding to assist with vaccine distribution.
Golden’s stance comes as most members of his party favor using the legislative procedure allowing lawmakers to circumvent the 60-vote filibuster in the Senate. The Senate voted along party lines to begin the process Tuesday and the House followed with a narrow 218-210 vote on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Maine representative argued the budget reconciliation process would likely take weeks or months, saying Congress should vote on the Biden administration’s requested $20 billion in coronavirus-related funding immediately. Golden and U.S. Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii were the only two Democrats to vote against their party on Wednesday.
“Any delay in ramping up vaccinations should be unacceptable to a president who seeks to prove that his administration can effectively govern the nation through this crisis,” Golden said, “and it should be morally unacceptable to members of Congress whose constituents remain at risk each day.”
Republicans who used reconciliation to pass their 2017 tax-cut bill have painted the move as overtly partisan, while Democratic leaders have maintained that moving forward with budget reconciliation is just one avenue for passing the relief bill and say they are still open to a bipartisan solution.
Biden met with 10 Republican senators earlier this week, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to discuss potential areas of compromise. A $618 billion proposal from those senators had little in common with Biden’s plan, though both agreed on $160 billion to assist states with coronavirus response, including vaccine distribution and personal protective equipment.
Collins said Tuesday she thought a standalone bill for $160 billion in virus aid would easily get 60 votes in the Senate and criticized top Democrats for moving forward with reconciliation, though she did not rule out voting for a package larger than the one she proposed.