Congressman Jared Golden said he would vote against the current version of the $1.85 trillion Build Back Better package in the House Thursday night.

In an interview with the Press Herald just before the vote on the core piece of President Biden’s agenda, the 2nd District Democrat said he was doing so primarily in opposition to SALT relief, a provision that primarily benefits wealthy home owners by a lifting a $10,000 cap on the deductions federal taxpayers can take for state and local taxes they have paid.

“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,” said Golden, who has bucked his party on a number of high-profile bills. “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.”

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.

“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,” Golden said before the vote. “Let’s play the long game, not just go for the short-term political benefit.” He 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 have easily 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.

If the bill passes the House Thursday evening attention shifts to the Senate, where all fifty members of the Democratic caucus will have to support it to allow its passage through a procedure called reconciliation, which sidesteps a Republican filibuster. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are expected to make changes and Golden said he would be actively engaging with them, other senators and the White House to ensure the current version of the SALT relief measure did not become law.

The measure has had the support of Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-2nd District, throughout the process. In the Senate, independent Angus King has expressed provisional support for it and Republican Susan Collins has indicated opposition. The bill – paid for by increased taxes and tax enforcement on the very wealthy and corporations – was originally to be a $3 trillion package, but was cut nearly in half at the insistence of Manchin and Sinema.

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.

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.


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