U.S. Rep. Jared Golden said Thursday night that he would vote against Democrats’ $1.7 trillion social spending bill in the House, citing a tax change that would mostly benefit the wealthy, though he did not rule out voting for the bill later on after it makes its way through the Senate.
It is another instance of the Lewiston Democrat bucking his party on a major initiative. The bill encompasses a range of long standing progressive priorities, including investments to combat climate change, improve affordability of child care and expand Medicaid and Medicare. But the sophomore congressman said late Thursday that he thought Democrats can “do better.”
Golden had been one of the few members of his party who had not committed to voting for the bill, saying earlier this month that he wanted to see a score from the Congressional Budget Office first. He previously cited concerns about the targeting of certain programs, some of which were addressed in later versions of the bill.
He had been most critical of a provision raising the cap on the state and local tax deduction. The tax cut, estimated to cost about $280 billion over 10 years, would primarily help high earners. An estimate from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank, found three-quarters of the benefits of the change would go to the wealthiest 5 percent.
“Many of my colleagues argue this major line item is worth accepting to pass the rest of the bill,” Golden said in a statement Thursday night. “I disagree: the SALT giveaway in the Build Back Better Act is larger than the child care, pre-K, healthcare or senior care provisions of the bill.”
The 2nd District congressman, who faces a challenge from former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin next year, has been known to split from his party on major spending bills. He was one of two House Democrats to vote against a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill earlier this year, saying it was poorly targeted and the money could be better allocated for other purposes.
But Golden has also expressed support in the past for many of the provisions included in the budget bill, including funding for child care, an expanded child tax credit and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. He has faced pressure to support the bill in the past few weeks from progressives and labor unions. A group of state lawmakers, local officials and union officers released a letter Thursday encouraging him to vote in favor of the bill.
“Build Back Better will have tangible, positive, lasting impacts on the lives of the Mainers that we jointly represent,” they wrote.
Democrats, who maintain a very narrow majority in the House, can only afford to lose the votes of three members of their party to pass the bill. But several other Democrats who had previously indicated skepticism said Thursday night they would vote for it after the Congressional Budget Office found the bill would add $160 billion to the deficit over 10 years, less than past high-profile spending initiatives, including the recent bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The legislation still faces uncertainty in the Senate and further changes are likely. Democrats cannot afford to lose any votes in the upper chamber, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, has been critical of the bill’s paid leave provisions. If the Senate makes any changes to the bill, it will have to come up in the House again.
Golden said he would continue to push for changes to the state and local tax deduction provision, as well as additional investment in programs that could benefit Maine, including aid for lobstermen affected by new right whale regulations. He suggested he could vote for the bill in the future, saying Thursday’s for was not the “final word.”
“I will continue to stay at the table and negotiate for the best deal possible until the very last opportunity,” he said.