U.S. Rep. Jared Golden further aligned himself with the moderate senator whose opposition has stalled President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion spending bill in a Tuesday interview, saying the White House must seriously engage holdouts to save parts of that agenda.
The president’s social and environmental “Build Back Better” plan is in jeopardy after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said he could not support it on Sunday. Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, is the only other Democrat in Congress to oppose the bill after voting against it last month when it passed the House of Representatives.
While Manchin has been the key figure in talks because of Democrats’ 50-50 control of the Senate, both he and Golden have drawn similar ire from progressives for not supporting the bill. Despite some differences on a key provision, Golden called Manchin “a class act” and said his own productive conversations with White House negotiators have not led to bill changes.
“I think it’s pretty clear that the pendulum is going to have to swing in the direction of people like Sen. Manchin or myself in trying to change the bill,” he said.
Manchin reportedly made the White House a $1.8 trillion offer last week that included universal pre-K, an expansion of the Affordable Care Act and climate provisions, it got rid of an expanded child tax credit that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act, Democrats’ stimulus package passed in March, that would be extended under Build Back Better.
The backlash to Manchin’s statement was fierce, with Biden spokesperson Jen Psaki calling it “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position” and a breach of commitments to Democratic leaders. The president looked to be trying to salvage a deal with Manchin on Tuesday, telling reporters, “Sen. Manchin and I are going to get something done.”
Manchin and Golden share an overall goal of narrowing the package, securing long-term funding for its provisions and paying for it without borrowing. Golden chiefly opposes a part of the plan raising the cap on state and local tax deductions in a way that primarily benefits high earners, a concern that he shares with progressives as well.
The Maine congressman also supports parts of the plan, including child care funding and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Golden also breaks with Manchin on the child tax credit, saying it should be extended and criticizing fellow Democrats for only funding it for one year under the American Rescue Plan Act, which he also opposed.
But Golden said that Manchin’s offer was one made in good faith and would represent major progress on key issues, something he said has been missed in the trillions of dollars in pandemic-related spending packages since December 2020.
“If I told you in October 2020 that Biden would be in the White House and that Joe Manchin was going to help put together a $1.5-trillion bill that created universal [pre-K] in America and shored up the Affordable Care Act in the wake of the Republicans trying to repeal it, would you believe me?” he said.