Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, was the only House Democrat to vote against President Biden’s sweeping $2 trillion social policy and climate change bill, another in a growing list of his high-profile defections from the party.

The legislation, known as Build Back Better, passed Friday on an otherwise party line vote, 220-213, shifting action to the Senate, where a single Democratic defection would kill the bill.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said in a written statement that she voted for the bill “with immense pride … because while I am a member of Congress, I am also a mother and grandmother who wants to leave this country better than I found it for the next generation.”

Golden said he opposed the current version of the bill because of the inclusion of a measure that would largely benefit millionaires. The measure – known as SALT relief – would overturn a $10,000 cap the amount of deductions federal taxpayers can take for state and local taxes they have paid, including property taxes.

In an interview on what was supposed to have been the eve of the vote Thursday evening, Golden told the Press Herald this measure was unacceptable. The vote was delayed until Friday morning by an eight-and-a-half-hour speech given by Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

“There are so many great things we could do with this money instead of doing one of the worst things, which is to give it to millionaires,” Golden said on the phone from his Capitol office. “This is about getting this right in regards to how we prioritize things and how it will speak about what our greatest values are. To me, I want our focus to be on kids living in poverty, on the public education system, on access to pre-K.”

“If we can’t raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires then these programs that are important for working-class people won’t be sustainable in the future,” he added. “Let’s play the long game, not just go for the short-term political benefit.”

Golden said the provision – which he said suddenly appeared out of the House Rules committee shortly after the Nov. 5 passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package he had championed – could easily have been rewritten so as to exclude the wealthy but wasn’t. “If they don’t compromise and change this, it shows that it is just about millionaire donors and I am just not OK with that,” he said.

Golden is one of a group of moderate Democrats who forced a delay Nov. 5 on the vote on the Build Back Better package – which also has been referred to as the reconciliation bill and the social and climate policy bill – until the Congressional Budget Office could report on whether the revenue measures it proposes will pay for the bill’s initiatives to bolster child care supports for families, tax credits for parents, confront climate change, build affordable housing, and provide free, universal pre-K to 3- and 4-year-olds.

The CBO reported Thursday that the legislation would add $367 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years, but Golden did not cite this as a reason for his decision to oppose the bill.

The current, pared back version of the bill still represents one of the largest social investments in generations, featuring free, universal pre-K, $555 billion to fight climate change, childcare subsidies and funding for one million affordable housing units. It would be paid for via a minimum tax on profitable corporations, new taxes on incomes above $10 million, and increased enforcement against wealthy tax dodgers.

PINGREE SEES HUGE IMPACT FOR MAINERS

In an interview Friday afternoon, Pingree, who has supported the legislation throughout, said the legislation would have a huge positive impact in Maine, noting its provisions to provide four weeks of paid medical, parental and maternity leave, to dramatically lower the cost of insulin and other drugs, and to help implement Gov. Janet Mills’ climate change strategies.

Together with the infrastructure package recently signed into law, Pingree said the Democratic-controlled Congress was finally addressing a range of the nation’s long-neglected needs. “It is going to be the largest investment in our country’s future that we have made in decades and it is happening at a really critical time when we have global issues to deal with like climate change and major workforce challenges,” she said, adding that she was confident the bill would pay, or very nearly pay, for itself through increased tax enforcement on the wealthy, the benefit of which some economists believe has been underestimated by the CBO.

Pingree said she expects the Senate will pass a version of the bill before the end of the year that is relatively close to what the House just passed, and that Build Back Better will become law.

Golden said Thursday that he intended to continue working with the White House and key senators to try to have the SALT relief provision removed from the Senate’s version of the bill.

Golden has bucked his caucus in a number of high-profile votes since being elected to Congress in 2018: on Donald Trump’s first impeachment, the George Floyd police reform bill, the closure of gun background check loopholes, the COVID-19 relief bill and Pelosi’s candidacy as House speaker. His positions have frustrated progressives but didn’t hurt him with his constituents, who sent him back to Congress by 9 points last November, even as they supported Trump’s unsuccessful re-election bid by 7 percentage points.

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