U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine's 2nd District, speaks with lobstermen at a rally on the Portland waterfront on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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A Washington Post column called him “a lonely voice of sanity.” Politico says he is “begging his party to get real.” Yet his opponents are still hammering him on one issue of the day.

Such is life for U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District who finds himself about squarely in the middle of a divided government. His centrist ways won him a third term in a district he split with former President Donald Trump, but it is also a no man’s land for the moment. The debt-ceiling debate is a key example of that.

State of play: President Joe Biden had been refusing to negotiate with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, over policy concessions in exchange for a deal to raise the cap. Biden and McCarthy will meet next week after the speaker pushed a Republican plan that included billions in spending cuts and returning discretionary spending to 2022 levels through the chamber narrowly last week.

That plan has no shot at passing the Democratic-led Senate, nor does the kind of “clean” debt ceiling increase that Biden favors due to the 60-vote filibuster in the upper chamber. Without a deal on the subject, the nation would default for the first time in history in June. The stakes are exceedingly high.

Golden’s line: The Maine congressman has been pushing the sides to talk for weeks. He has also released his version of a middle-ground plan, which includes capping discretionary spending at 2022 levels adjusted for inflation, plus a mix of spending cuts and tax increases on wealthier Americans and corporations to stabilize the debt.

This is gaining that aforementioned attention, including some from Democrats who say he and the other centrist members pushing for a deal are hurting their party’s negotiating position. Golden sees it differently, telling Politico that his party must nod to political reality and not allow Republicans to claim the mantle of “fiscal responsibility.”

“We should engage in this debate rather than trying to avoid it by demanding a clean debt ceiling raise,” Golden said.

Lonely in the middle: The congressman is as well-positioned as anyone to figure out what a consensus deal would look like. The appetite for one has not reached party leaders yet, though could change as the June deadline moves closer.

Even though Golden wants a deal, he is still dealing with outsized attention from Republicans due to his standing in a swing district. This week, the party’s campaign arm put pressure on him for voting alongside all other Democrats against McCarthy’s bill. An outside group ran online ads against him on it. There is no quarter in the 24/7 election cycle that Golden finds himself in.

“Actions speak louder than words, and Golden is all talk while the clock is running out,” a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson said this week.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...