Congressman Jared Golden takes a tour of Peabody Hall at Husson University to see the renovations that are under way on Tuesday June 28, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden backed the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday, helping fellow House Democrats push it through by a slim majority and giving President Joe Biden a legislative victory before the November midterm elections.

The House’s 220-207 vote on Friday will send the $739 billion package to Biden’s desk aimed at lowering health care costs and promoting new clean energy projects. 

In a Medium post, the 2nd District congressman said the legislation was “fiscally responsible” and targeted to address important concerns, including lowering health care costs, expanding oil, gas and renewable energy projects and clamping down on tax avoidance.

“This isn’t Joe Biden’s crazy Build Back Better proposal,” Golden said in an interview. “This is a bill that’s meant to ensure American energy dominance and independence.”

Golden’s yes vote on the Inflation Reduction Act comes as the two-term congressman faces a competitive House race this November against former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and independent Tiffany Bond. Poliquin opposes the bill.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, has said she would vote for the bill. Sen. Angus King voted for the bill in the Senate, meaning Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who called the act a “reckless spending bill” that would hurt the American economy, is set to be the only member of Maine’s delegation to vote against it.

Golden’s support was an early question, especially because of his tendency to break from the House Democratic majority. He was the only House Democrat to vote against a far bigger version of the bill, the Build Back Better Act, citing a tax change that would primarily benefit the wealthy. But he only had positive things to say about the new bill in Lisbon last week.

He praised provisions allowing for Medicare to negotiate drug prices with companies, a measure he has backed for years in concert with moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who was instrumental in co-authoring the package after a year-and-a-half of political haggling over the spending bill.

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“What I love about this bill is that it’s the first major piece of legislation in decades to come out of Washington that’s going to reduce deficit spending,” Golden said.

Proponents estimate that the bill will reduce the deficit by around $300 billion over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office estimated a net decrease in the deficit of $102 billion, but that does not include around $204 billion in new revenue expected from enhanced enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.

However, experts generally agree that the bill will not do much to actually fight inflation. An analysis last week out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business found that both its own analysis and one from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showed that the reduction in inflation was “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

The Poliquin campaign condemned Golden’s stance, criticizing the bill’s tax provisions and saying that it would worsen inflation and hurt Maine’s economy. The measure does not directly raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 annually, although new taxes on the largest corporations may have effects on some making less.

“A moderate would not do this,” his campaign said. “Jared Golden has demonstrated that he is beholden to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party.”

Bond said she hadn’t reviewed the lengthy bill enough to know if she would vote for it, but said several elements seemed promising, including allowing negotiations on prescription drug prices and halting tax avoidance.

“If the bill as passed by the Senate accomplishes those things, I would be delighted,” Bond said.

Golden was the only Democrat in either chamber to vote against final passage of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill last year. He previously voted for another bill seen as a considerable success for President Biden’s agenda, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, in 2021.

Running in an overwhelmingly rural district that voted for Trump in 2020, Golden has highlighted his willingness to buck his party in his 2022 campaign, including in a campaign ad released earlier this month.

There were elements of the bill that he said he disagreed with, including a provision that shields a tax break for private equity managers. A provision closing that loophole was negotiated out of the package by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who was the last of 50 Democrats in that chamber to sign on.

“Sen. Sinema and I just don’t agree on tax policy,” Golden said. “I generally want to see wealthy people and big, billionaire corporations pay more.”