Independent 2nd District congressional candidate Tiffany Bond wouldn’t hesitate to break from Capitol Hill colleagues on even the most sure-fire, bipartisan legislation.

Tiffany Bond, left, Jared Golden and Bruce Poliquin Submitted photos

Take, for instance, the Blue Water Navy Act that extended health benefits to more of the military veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War era.

Though its approval costs taxpayers about $100 million annually, the U.S. House approved the bill unanimously in 2018 and 2019 after years of delay. In 2019, the U.S. Senate also added its unanimous support and the measure became law when President Donald Trump signed it.

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican running to regain the 2nd District House seat, and his successor, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, co-sponsored and voted for the proposal. So did U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat from Maine.

The American Legion called its passage in the U.S. House “a victory for other veterans and their families who suffer from conditions related to toxic exposures” and urged members to lobby their senators to make sure the measure became law.

But Bond, who is running against Poliquin and Golden in the Nov. 8 election, said she would have voted against it.


“I would have insisted on a fairly major change,” Bond said.

Bond cited the measure as one of the bills where she would have voted differently than Poliquin or Golden.

The USS England operates off the coast of Vietnam in 1967. U.S. Navy

The act extended a presumption that veterans who served within 12 miles of the Vietnamese coast during the war there or in the Korean Demilitarized Zone had been exposed to herbicides, including Agent Orange, that have been implicated in many serious health conditions.

Bond said that while the proposal was well-intended, a clause in the 12-page bill about how to notify potentially eligible veterans was “poorly worded” and “seems to limit fairly severely the ability” of veterans to receive the benefits.

Bond said Congress should have created a budget and staff “to track down veterans and affirmatively assess and pay these benefits.”

“The stress, humiliation and financial distress of chronic denials over the years is already enough of a penalty to victims,” Bond said. “Our government should be focused on making our veterans as whole as possible for injuries incurred in their service to us.”


Golden said every bill needs to be considered on its merits. Some have provisions that a member of Congress can’t go along with, he said, and others deserve support despite some flaws.

“How do you make those decisions? That’s literally the job,” he said.

In the case of the Blue Water Navy Act, Golden said, he and other lawmakers heard clearly from the veterans community that they wanted the measure adopted.

Golden said that despite Bond’s worries that some veterans will be left out, he has no doubt that the U.S. Veterans Administration and many veterans organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, are getting the word to people who might benefit from its provisions.

Bond’s proposed change would have added more expense to the bill, a potential problem if it was included, given that the price tag for the measure was the primary reason it took years to push the bill across the finish line.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, said on the floor of the House that “there were 330 co-sponsors to this bill, which, frankly, there are not a lot of bills that you can really say that about. Obviously, there were some impediments that we had to sort of work our way through. This was good, hard work, real legislating, that brought this measure to the floor.”


Courtney said the measure was first introduced in 2011 but it didn’t pass. It was also introduced in 2013 and 2015 without success. But in 2018, for the first time, the House agreed “to address this grave injustice” by revising “a very arbitrary, technical rule that defies common sense” in order to ensure that everyone who served receives “equal treatment in terms of getting the care that they need and, frankly, that they have earned.”

Poliquin cited his support for the measure in an electronic newsletter to constituents not long after the House backed it.

His office called it “a long overdue legislative fix that will extend critical benefits to a portion of Vietnam veterans who had been excluded from qualifying for treatment against Agent Orange — the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.”

Poliquin said at the time that “our nation’s veterans, including the thousands of Mainers who served in the Vietnam War, sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms. As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’m extremely pleased to support this important bill and to continue fighting for our Maine veterans every day. I hope the Senate will act quickly in getting this bill to the president’s desk.”

As it turned out, the Senate didn’t approve the bill that year. It was one of many that simply never found its way to the floor for a vote during a period when the Senate didn’t pass much legislation of any sort.

The following year, though, with support from Golden, the bill sailed through both houses with only some minor revisions beforehand.


Golden’s campaign website lists it among a few of measures that show his support for veterans.

Bond cited several other occasions when her vote would have differed from Golden’s or Poliquin’s.

She said she would not have followed Poliquin’s lead in voting for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, for instance.

“This is a deeply misleading bill titled to make you feel like you are protecting babies,” Bond said. “But that’s not what this bill does.”

Instead, she said, it relies on pseudoscience, ignores the difficult reality some women face and “bestows personhood on a fetus without having any concern whatsoever for the actual pain that fetus may feel or the quality of life, if any, of the fetus, denying grieving parents the ability to make end-of-life decisions for terminally ill children.”

Among the times she has differed from Golden is his recent opposition to student loan relief proposed by President Joe Biden, a position shared by Poliquin. Bond said Biden’s plan didn’t go far enough in providing help for Americans struggling to pay back college debts. She also backs what she calls “sensible regulation” of guns, which puts her at odds with both men on most gun-related bills.

Bond, Poliquin and Golden are on the Nov. 8 ballot. Early voting is underway in the ranked-choice election.

Four years ago, when the three were also on the ballot along with independent Will Hoar, Golden squeaked out a narrow win to unseat Poliquin. Bond got 6% of the vote. This year, she hopes to shock the political world by coming in first or second in the initial voting round and then to emerge victorious after collecting more votes in the second round.

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