In this April 27, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine's 2nd District, speaks in Bath. Credit: David Sharp / AP

Good morning from Augusta. The U.S. Senate voted in favor of increasing the debt ceiling late Thursday, averting a potential default, but the extension is only expected to last until December. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That is the dilemma for schools. They have to respond,” Amy Klinger, an associate professor of educational administration at Ashland University, said of the spate of threats that have forced several Maine schools to close recently. “They want to respond and err on the side of caution, but now you’re going to lose this whole day.”

What we’re watching today

The representative gave a clearer picture of what would be needed to get his vote on Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget proposal. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden is one of a handful of members of his party in the House who has not thrown his support so far behind a plan put forward by President Joe Biden that addresses a range of Democratic priorities, including funding for home care for seniors and people with disabilities, expanding Medicare benefits, an extension of the child tax credit and investments to tackle climate change. 

Golden has indicated for months that he was skeptical of Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion plan and said over the summer that he did not think Democrats had the votes to pass it. But he made his objections clearer in a Portland Press Herald opinion piece Thursday, arguing lawmakers should fund key programs, such as the child tax credit, for a full 10 years.

He also indicated support for means-testing provisions, including the child tax credit and another for electric vehicle purchases, and was skeptical of Biden’s claims that the plan would be fully paid for, saying that — coming off more than $6 trillion in COVID-19 relief — it would be “irresponsible” for Congress not to fully cover costs.

Golden has been at odds with party leaders in the past few weeks, slamming Democratic leadership for not bringing up a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill last week after progressives threatened to block it until a bigger budget deal was reached. 

Negotiations have largely been focused in the Senate, as Democrats hold an even narrower majority in the upper chamber. But Golden’s objections provide insight into changes that could get moderates on board. He did not indicate a topline figure for the bill, but it seems likely that it will be less than the proposed $3.5 trillion due to concerns from key Senate Democrats.

The budget bill is continuing to be a talking point for Republicans looking to take Golden down next year. Club for Growth is the latest conservative group to begin running ads in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District targeting the Democrat over the bill, arguing it would amount to a middle tax class hike and cause “IRS snooping,” a reference to proposals aiming to bolster the agency to crack down on tax evasion.

The group is one of several conservative organizations that has targeted Golden over the bill even as the Democrat has remained publicly skeptical of it. But Golden is a top 2022 target for national Republicans in a district that former President Donald Trump won twice, with former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin cutting deeply into the incumbent’s financial head start as of September’s end, according to figures released by the Poliquin campaign on Thursday.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by more than 25 percent in a week,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The decrease seemed to be happening across the state, said Jeffrey Austin, a lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association. But while having fewer COVID-19 patients takes away immediate stress, hospitals are still struggling to find workers ahead of Gov. Janet Mills’ vaccine requirement for health care workers taking effect near the end of the month.”

The largest K-8 school in the state has seen the most COVID-19 cases in a month. Those students, who are ineligible to be vaccinated, and the staff who teach them at Brewer Community School have seen 45 new cases of the virus in the last 30 days, according to Maine Department of Education data. The school had been in remote learning for more than a week prior to this Monday. About 15 percent of schools recorded an outbreak in the same time period.

— “Public utility backers seek to thwart debt approval hurdle,” The Associated Press: “Rep. Seth Berry, sponsor of the proposal in the Legislature to transform Maine’s privately held utilities into a consumer-owned entity, said the new language requires long-term borrowing to be exempted from a statewide vote unless it also applies equally to CMP’s borrowing.”

— “Maine commission may reject rezoning petition for Pickett Mountain mineral mine,” Alexander MacDougall, BDN: “The planning commission’s staff tasked with reviewing the petition cited dozens of errors, inconsistencies and Wolfden’s failure to provide information in a recommendation to the nine-member panel Thursday to reject the proposal. The staff requested the additional information in February 2021 and Wolfden submitted it in September. Staff also said Wolfden was lacking sufficient evidence to prove it met regulatory criteria for a zoning change.”

Editor’s note

The Daily Brief will be off Monday in observance of Indigenous Peoples Day. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and edited by Michael Shepherd. 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.

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