U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine went toe-to-toe Friday on the floor of the House of Representatives with a Republican leader over a Democratic proposal to ease voting and promote public financing of campaigns.

After the minority leader, California’s Kevin McCarthy, blasted the measure as something “the Democrat socialist majority” wants “to take more of your money and give it to the politicians,” Golden fired back.

U.S. Reps. Jared Golden, D-Maine, left, and Kevin McCarthy, R-California.

“I fought in two wars for this country, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I reject this socialist rhetoric. I am an American. Democrats are Americans. Republicans are Americans,” the Lewiston Democrat said.

“We need to put this hateful speech behind us and talk about how we can work together,”Golden said, pointing out that he has voted in recent weeks for a number of proposed amendments by Republicans.

Another Republican congressman, Rodney Davis of Illinois, quickly thanked Golden for his service in the U.S. Marines before calling the Democratic bill “a very bad idea.”

Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District after winning a tight race last year, said he favored the For the People Act as a “comprehensive, good-government bill that goes a long way in wresting power away from elites who abuse our political system for narrow self-interests.”


He said it would “return power where it belongs: in the hands of working people” because “as long as corporations and mega-donors finance campaigns, well-connected insiders will continue to call the shots.”

The legislation approved by the House Friday would create automatic voter registration across the country, bolster campaign finance disclosure rules, limit gerrymandering, create a matching program for candidates willing to rely on small-dollar donations and restore the Voting Rights Act.

Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District, passed the election measure Friday without a single Republican vote, but it is unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate.

Golden’s amendment, which secured a majority vote, would prevent candidates who have violated campaign finance laws from participating in a federal matching program aimed at encouraging political hopefuls to rely on small-dollar donations.

Golden said Mainers “have made it clear they want to take big money out of politics and return our government to the people.”

McCarthy countered that Democrats are “excited by this bill” because it offers a government match of $6 for every $1 participating candidates raise.


“Hard-earned taxpayer money should go toward building roads, bridges or giving a boost to struggling Americans, not just to political campaigns,” McCarthy said.

He also complained the legislation “is going to let people who are convicted felons open the door. Come on and vote, even if you are convicted of election fraud.”

Golden responded that he could return to Maine “feeling comfortable that I understand what my constituents want.”

He pointed out that Mainers have supported a public funding program for campaigns since 1996, when they enacted it in a referendum.

Moreover, Golden added, Maine already allows convicted felons to vote.

“They do it from prison,” he said, “because while we believe in holding people accountable for their crimes, we don’t feel the need, in Maine, to take their voice away from them.”


Golden said funds for the proposed matching program would “come from bad corporate actors” in the form of “fines, penalties and settlements from corporate malfeasance, tax crimes and other breaches of the public trust.”

“That money can be used to ensure that everyday people who don’t have a network of deep money around them, just everyday, working people, will be given the opportunity to compete in a campaign, to go out and represent their people, to go out and spend their time talking to them face-to-face instead of spending their time dialing for dollars and talking to just the very wealthy,” Golden said.

Davis said that funding campaigns with civil penalties and settlements “will result in a reduction of income and payroll taxes, meaning corporations will have less money to spend on their payrolls, which equates to less jobs.”

In short, he said, the Democratic bill would take away American jobs “in order to fund the campaign coffers” of members of Congress.

Golden said the bill — numbered as H.R. 1 to show its priority — is a first step to protect average people from moneyed interests.

“Americans aren’t going to let our democracy be taken out from under us any longer,” Golden said.

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