Rep. Jared Golden talks at the top of Black Mountain in Rumford after hiking with the Summit Project on Aug. 20, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

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Maine’s Rep. Jared Golden is on the receiving end of relentless criticism from his erstwhile Democratic political allies.  

His crime?  

Voting against — for the time being — the so-called “Build Back Better” bill.  

Last week saw continually-shifting winds for one of President Joe Biden’s signature legislative efforts. Strong GOP showings in Virginia and New Jersey caused Democrats to sound the alarm about their political fortunes. Some claimed they had not gone far enough to the left; others encouraged a return to the center.

All eyes were focused on Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who each potentially held the critical 50th vote. They expressed numerous concerns with the bill’s possible provisions, infuriating those farther to the left. And they captured the national conversation.

Meanwhile, a small group of Democratic House members stood their own ground. Because a deadline was approaching on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, they advocated moving it along.  Particularly since it had passed the Senate on a 69-30 vote.  In August.

The “progressive” wing of the Democratic party was holding it up. They refused to pass  generally agreed-upon policy until they got the contested “Build Back Better” plan they wanted.  

With the infrastructure deadline looming, the pressure intensified. And, ultimately, several of the moderates acquiesced to progressive demands — coupled with Biden’s cajoling — and voted for a “framework” to ultimately enact the bill through the arcane budget reconciliation process.

Golden was not among them. He had the gall to suggest that Congress should wait for further information. Information that would be forthcoming from the Congressional Budget Office, or, in Washington-speak, the “CBO.”

American taxpayers spend more than $50 million annually to fund the CBO. It is where professional, non-partisan analysis of proposed federal spending takes place.

Golden just wants to see whether professional analysis concurs that the “Build Back Better” bill will actually not increase the deficit, or if those arguments are just smokescreens. And if you’re paying an organization $50 million to give advice, it probably behooves you to listen to it.

Back in 2017, the shoe was on the other foot. Then-Speaker Paul Ryan was pushing a GOP-led health reform package through the House. Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lambasted Ryan because the bill had not yet received its coveted “CBO Score.”

Some Republicans agreed with Pelosi, including Sens. Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton. They staked out the same position where Golden stands today.

Asking Congress to take its time and really consider policy isn’t too much to ask. Wanting to wait for real, substantive analysis before enacting literally trillions in spending is wise. And that holds true regardless of which party is in power.

With the Affordable Care Act, Pelosi infamously said that Congress needed to pass the bill so you could find out what was in it. Which is an awful way to try and make law.  

The “Build Back Better” bill will undoubtedly have some popular aspects in it. However, some of the last minute changes create new questions about the bill’s fiscal prudence. One of the capitulations to Democrats from high tax states is an  800 percent increase in the “SALT” deduction for state and local taxes.

It is one of those peculiar issues where I am on the same side as Bernie Sanders.  Some independent analysis shows the SALT change is one of the most expensive aspects of “Build Back Better.” So how does that change the overall financial picture?

This is really complex stuff. And waiting to get all the information is a prudent course of action.

Giving credit where it is due, Jared Golden made the right choice.    

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Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.