If you saw 2nd District Rep. Jared Golden wearing a hardhat in Kittery on Thursday, you might have gotten the idea that serving in Congress is dangerous work.

Don’t worry, the costume was just for show. Golden does most of his work in a suit and tie, and aside from one day last January, the office is a pretty safe place.

Golden was dressed up to speak to members of construction trades unions, reiterating his position that Congress should quickly pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan so that federal money can get out the door and put people back to work.

That’s just for show, too. Golden’s real position is that he’s one of nine House members refusing to vote for a budget resolution next week in the House that would allow the Democrats in the Senate to get around their arcane rules and pass a much larger economic policy bill by a majority vote.

Unlike working in the Capitol, Golden’s move is actually dangerous because it could pull apart a complicated deal and sink both bills.

The renegade Democrats are claiming that they only want to speed up approval of the bipartisan bill, but they know that the idea that there are two separate bills is a kind of fiction – something that exists only in the world where members of Congress run around in hardhats.

In the world where they wear suits or high heels to work, both parts of the economic plan are joined and neither will go anywhere without the other. And neither can pass unless virtually every Democrat, from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is on board.

If Golden and the others are just flexing some procedural muscle to make sure they have influence in the process and  maybe show off their independence for the people back home, fine. But they are taking a big risk.

If they go too far, the opportunity to invest in roads, bridges and broadband as well as dental coverage for Medicare recipients, child care assistance for families and a real attempt to deal with climate change would all be lost, for this Congress and probably much longer.

Golden comes at this with a unique political challenge.

More of his voters also voted for Donald Trump than any other Democrat in Congress. In an era where very few voters spilt their tickets, some Trump voters split theirs for Golden.

Golden has made a point of taking votes that distinguish him from his party, like when he opposed Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House and when he cast the lone Democratic vote against the American Rescue Plan, the final COVID relief bill that, among other things, increased the child tax credit, putting money in the pockets of working families that were struggling even before the pandemic.

Those votes didn’t matter. Pelosi is the speaker, the COVID bill passed, families are getting relief.

Now Golden is posturing around a much more important bill: the $3.5 trillion budget resolution that would invest in working families and would be paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthiest individuals. Without it, 31,000 families in the 2nd District will see the $300-per-child tax credit check that they started getting last month disappear.

Golden appears to be learning his political strategy from his one-time boss, Sen. Susan Collins, and it has certainly worked for her.  She easily carried Maine last year because she could distinguish her record from her party’s, especially its de facto leader, then-President Donald Trump.

But before Golden takes too many steps down that road, he should remember that what worked for Collins might not work for him. When she helped scuttle the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, she received spontaneous standing ovations in airports and restaurants because she helped save 22 million people’s health care.

Scuttling the entire Democratic Party’s economic agenda and plunging 4 million children back into poverty is probably not going to have the same effect.

It’s almost time for Golden to put away the hardhat and get to work for real.


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