Maine Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, is drawing fire from his party’s progressive wing for votes he made last week against more gun control and in favor of a proposal to help crack down on undocumented immigrants.

Golden’s opposition to expanded background checks spurred supporters of the measure to run advertising accusing him of siding with the gun lobby, while his backing of a Republican-sponsored amendment to bolster the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raised hackles from at least one of the party’s most high-profile newcomers.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Golden is among a small group of Democratic lawmakers whose votes have upset liberal firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term Democrat from New York, enough for her to speak out against them.

She said she is unhappy with a small “moderate wing,” which includes Golden, because its supporters opposed California Democrat Nancy Pelosi for speaker, supported a compromise on President Trump’s wall proposal and backed ICE.

Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, a group devoted to what it calls “common sense” gun regulation, has taken out at least 135 social media advertisements in the past few days on Facebook alone to go after Golden.

In its ads, the group insists the first-term lawmaker “failed us” and “sided with the gun lobby” in his opposition to background checks on most private gun transfers and for another bill to give the FBI more time to carry out the checks before a sale goes through.

Though neither bill is expected to secure backing in the Senate – and Trump already has vowed to veto them should they reach his desk – their passage marked the first time in more than two decades a piece of major gun control legislation passed either chamber of Congress.

Golden, one of two Democrats to oppose expanded background checks, said in a prepared statement he voted against them because the proposal is nearly the same as a 2016 Maine ballot question opposed by constituents in all of the counties he represents.

“Maine isn’t Chicago, Washington or New York,” he said. “For many of my constituents, access to firearms is a necessary part of daily life and we have a tradition of responsible gun ownership.”

Everytown responded to the win by targeting eight lawmakers who voted against the bill, including both Democrats who opposed expanded checks: Golden and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. It said it planned to spend $200,000 assailing the bill’s opponents in swing districts.

“For those elected leaders who put the gun lobby ahead of the safety of their constituents, we’re sending a clear message: Do so at your own peril,” the president of the group, John Feinblatt, said in a prepared statement.

The pro-gun control group said Golden voted against the proposal “even though background checks reduce gun violence and save lives.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden

In one of the ads against Golden, Everytown called on 2nd District voters to “let him know how disappointed you are that he put the interests of the gun lobby over the safety of his constituents.”
Golden did not hesitate to defend his vote.

“Mainers in every county in my district were very clear: They don’t support expanding background checks to make some transfers between friends and family illegal,” he said Monday. “This one-size-fits-all approach to gun control doesn’t work for our state.

“Special interest groups can ignore the will of Mainers in the 2nd District all they want, but I stand by my vote and I stand with my constituents.”

Mainers rejected virtually the same proposal when it reached the 2016 ballot as a citizens’ initiative, with the 2nd District voting it down by a nearly 2-1 margin.

It is not just Golden’s vote on the gun measure that is drawing criticism.

Before the final vote, Golden also sided in favor of an amendment pushed by Republicans aimed largely at putting swing district representatives like him on the hot seat. The Republican amendment called for ICE to be notified whenever undocumented immigrants barred from possessing firearms try to purchase one.

That amendment passed 220-209, serving to add the proposal to the overall bill that Democrats enacted shortly afterward with only a smattering of Republican support.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins

In seeking the amendment, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, said anyone voting against the notification provision would be “voting to allow someone who should not have a firearm to get away with it and not be prosecuted for it.”

But a senior Democratic legislator, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, called the amendment “a total red herring” that was not needed.

Nadler told colleagues if someone fails a background check “because he is illegally in the country, that means the system knows he is illegally in the country.”

“So what is the point of reporting him?” Nadler asked. “He has to be in the system as illegally in the country in order to fail the background check.”

Nadler said the amendment was merely a bid by Republicans “to try to mix up the immigration issue with the gun violence issue, and they really have nothing to do with each other.”

Necessary or not, the provision was included in the final version of the background checks legislation endorsed by the House.

Some activists were angry Democrats helped hand Republicans a win that bolstered ICE.

On her Twitter feed, the lawmaker said she was “upset that 26 Dems forced the other 200+ to vote for a pro-ICE provision at the last min without warning” because “I think an agency that pins children down + forcibly injects them w/ antipsychotic drugs shouldn’t be given more power.”

According to the The New York Times, Ocasio-Cortez “implored moderates to vote against the Republican-led motions and, in an implicit threat, added that she would make it clear to liberal activists which members supported the Republican measures.”

On her Twitter feed, the lawmaker said she was “upset that 26 Dems forced the other 200+ to vote for a pro-ICE provision at the last min without warning” because “I think an agency that pins children down + forcibly injects them w/antipsychotic drugs shouldn’t be given more power.”

Ocasio-Cortez also mentioned that “the same small splinter group of Dems” that sought to block California Democrat Nancy Pelosi from the speakership and “fund the wall during the shutdown when the public didn’t want it” had voted for the ICE amendment.

“We can have ideological differences and that’s fine,” she said in another statement on Twitter. “But these tactics allow a small group to force the other 200+ members into actions that the majority disagree with. I don’t think that’s right, and said as much in a closed-door meeting.”

Ocasio-Cortez also mentioned “the same small splinter group of Dems” that sought to block Pelosi from the speakership and “fund the wall during the shutdown when the public didn’t want it” had voted for the ICE amendment.

Though Ocasio-Cortez did not cite any names, Golden voted against Pelosi, favored compromise to end the shutdown and backed the controversial amendment.

Golden has repeatedly vowed to do what he thinks is best for his rural, sprawling district regardless of what Democratic leaders and activists want.

He is expected to face a tough re-election challenge in 2020, perhaps from the Republican he defeated last year, Bruce Poliquin, who served two terms before losing in a cliffhanger in the first-ever ranked-choice voting election for a federal office.

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