Moderate Democrat says he can’t back House spending plan ‘in its current form’
Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) warned his colleagues on Thursday that the multitrillion-dollar social spending plan his party is working on “needs more work” to get his support.
In an opinion piece published by The Portland Press Herald, Golden said that while he’s in favor of the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure that the House has yet to vote on, he “cannot support” the larger spending package “in its current form.”
Both bills are major components of President Biden’s economic agenda that party leadership has set sights on passing through Congress by the end of the month. Democrats can afford just a handful of defections in the House on the broader spending package given the unified GOP opposition.
The party aims to pass the social spending plan using a procedure called reconciliation that will allow it to bypass a GOP filibuster in the 50-50 Senate. But Democrats have had trouble staying unified throughout the process as members continue to disagree on the size and scope of the legislation.
Golden is not the first moderate Democrat to raise concerns about aspects of the spending package. Several Democrats voted against portions of the legislation at the committee level.
Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Scott Peters (Calif.) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) voted against a proposal aimed at lowering drug prices, citing worries that the measure would hurt innovation in the pharmaceutical industry.
In his opinion piece, Golden said the “draft reconciliation bill in its current form opts for the path of least resistance, taking too many shortcuts and skirting difficult decisions.”
“Take, for example, the proposal’s expansion of the Medicare program to cover vision, dental and hearing, a policy that has merit. However, to implement this policy, the draft reconciliation bill relies on budget gimmicks, with dental benefits not taking effect until 2028,” he wrote.
“The decision to delay these benefits was based in significant part on a desire to lower the overall price tag of the bill, but it is disingenuous, allowing lawmakers to try to claim they made a historic expansion that may never take effect while obscuring the true cost of the expansion, at potential risk to the broader Medicare program,” he continued.
“Many of the proposal’s key policies to support workers and families, like extending the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC),” he wrote, “are implemented for only four years to artificially lower the bill’s overall cost.”
“I support this policy, but I also think low-income families shouldn’t become the targets in yet another congressionally-manufactured fiscal cliff. If Congress believes this is good policy, we should pay for it for the full 10-year budget window,” he wrote.
He also said he doesn’t think the “proposal as it stands is not fully paid for.”
“The president himself has repeatedly promised that the cost of this effort will be ‘zero,’ but the draft plan does not yet meet that test. Coming on the heels of $6 trillion in deficit-financed COVID relief and $2 trillion in unfunded 2017 tax cuts, it would be irresponsible and hypocritical for us to do otherwise,” he said.
His comments come as a previously floated $3.5 trillion price tag associated with the spending package, which leadership says will likely be lowered before it’s brought to the floor for a vote, has been a source of contention between moderates and progressives.
Biden and other officials have sought to shift conversation around the proposed price tag for the reconciliation plan, saying the plan will ultimately cost “zero” in spending over time while pointing to proposed tax hikes on wealthy figures and corporations they say will help offset the costs in social spending.
Golden also warned in the opinion piece that while he thinks the bipartisan infrastructure bill should be passed immediately by the House and sent to Biden for signature, he won’t “trade” his vote for the deal in exchange for a “yes” on the reconciliation plan.
“I continue to support getting it to the president’s desk as soon as possible, and I won’t trade my vote for that bill for any reconciliation proposal. But as the president said last week, we have the time and ability to get the reconciliation bill right, and we should. Only time will tell if we choose that path,” he added.
Progressives in the House have threatened to block the bipartisan measure if the reconciliation package isn’t passed first, concerned about how much their colleagues will scale back the latter plan if the infrastructure legislation is already a done deal.