After vote against aid package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) issued a plea for more bipartisanship in Congress hours after he voted against President Biden’s coronavirus relief package Saturday morning, becoming one of just two House Democrats to buck his party on the bill.

In a nearly 30-minute phone interview with The Hill, Golden said he disagreed with Democratic leaders’ efforts to muscle the $1.9 trillion package through Congress without Republican support and that he believes a more bipartisan approach would have produced a better bill.

“I like to often remind myself that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. It doesn’t mean that it’s in the best interest of the country,” Golden said of the decision to push the bill without Republican support in the House. 

Democrats also plan to push the bill through budget reconciliation in the Senate, a process that allows them to avoid the 60-vote filibuster.

“I guess I would say that I don’t think it was in the best interest of the country. I think that we have ended up with worse public policy as a result, rather than a more targeted bill that would come out of a bipartisan process,” he added. “And as I look into the future, I think we don’t yet know what the negative consequences of this decision may be. I hope that there are none.” 

Golden had been an early opponent of passing the bill through budget reconciliation. Earlier this month he voted against going down that path, saying the process would take too much time and hinder faster relief.

When asked to explain his opposition to the specifics of the legislation, Golden pointed to the overall price tag of the package, which he called excessive.

The package includes measures that would provide a third round of direct stimulus checks (up to $1,400 for individuals), as well as an increase of $400 for weekly unemployment insurance through Aug. 29, $8.5 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccination efforts as well as funding for housing assistance among other things.

And while advocates for the bill said the funding levels are appropriate, Golden argued that past coronavirus relief efforts had already funneled money to those efforts that have yet to be spent.

“[I]t adds up to billions and billions and billions of dollars in programs that are already funded and have yet to hit the economy,” he said.

Golden maintained he is not a “budget hawk” but expressed concern over spending in the coronavirus relief package could curtail funding for efforts to tackle climate change, improve the health care system and more.

“We need to get more and more targeted as we move forward here so that we have…the resources we need for other critical reforms that the American people also need us to step up and get done,” he said.

Yet beyond the fears that the federal government is doling out too much money, Golden sounded the alarm that the lack of Republican support for the new administration’s first major bill could have turned Republicans off from the prospect of compromise down the road.

“It poisoned the well a little bit so to speak,” he said.

A spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding Golden’s remarks, but Republicans have already indicated they were disappointed with the direction Democrats went with the vote.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told Politico earlier this month that the process made Republicans feel “a little bit betrayed by the representations that they were getting about the Democrats’ intentions,” referencing President Biden’s calls for unity during his inauguration.

Golden’s calls for bipartisanship are hardly surprising given the seat he holds. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District voted Golden into office in the 2018 “blue wave,” but also voted for former President Trump in 2016 and 2020. Golden won reelection in November by outrunning President Biden by about 30,000 votes.

It was precisely the results of the 2020 cycle that Golden said demand bipartisanship.

While Biden won over Trump, Republicans also flipped several Democratic seats in a cycle when the GOP was expected to lose as many as 15 members. And with the narrowest House majority in modern history and a 50-50 Senate, Democrats will need Republican buy-in to pass some – if not most – of their legislative priorities.

“It’s more than don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, it’s accepting that the party didn’t get some kind of clear mandate here,” Golden said. “So I think that we also have to accept the fact that we are going to have to work with the Republican Party and that is the mandate that was delivered by voters across 50 states. And there’s only so many times you can do budget reconciliation.”

Tags Biden coronavirus relief plan budget reconciliation coronavirus stimulus checks COVID-19 Donald Trump Jared Golden Joe Biden John Thune Nancy Pelosi Unemployment

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