U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks to a reporter at his home, Sept. 1, 2022, in Lewiston. Golden said Thursday he expected a deal to raise the national debt limit before an unprecedented default next month. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — After a key meeting between President Joe Biden and the top congressional Republican, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine said Thursday he expected a deal to raise the national debt limit before an unprecedented default next month.

Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, has been outspoken on the issue as part of a group of centrists that have been pushing the sides to negotiate. While neither Biden nor House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, have completely abandoned hard lines on the issue, negotiators followed Wednesday’s meeting by talking more about a path forward.

“I think that we’re going to end up having a deal,” Golden said. “So I have tried to contribute to helping people realize that by simply stating what I think is self-evident.”

The Maine congressman is one of the few members who has been caught in the middle of the debate in a divided Congress. Biden had been refusing to negotiate with McCarthy over the debt ceiling until House Republicans narrowly passed a plan last month that includes large spending restrictions.

Golden voted against it, something Republicans have highlighted in early ads against the third-term congressman in a district that he split with President Donald Trump in 2020 but held in a rematch with former Rep. Bruce Poliquin in last year’s election.

The House plan has no chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate. Nor does the kind of “clean” debt ceiling increase that Biden and Democrats favor because of the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the upper chamber. It leaves a deal between Biden and McCarthy as the most obvious way out of a default, which would roil the national and world economies.

Golden has released his version of a consensus plan, which includes capping discretionary spending at 2022 levels but adjusting it for inflation as well as a mix of spending cuts and tax increases both on wealthier Americans and corporations to stabilize the national debt.

The congressman is not directly involved in these talks, but he holds a notable position in the chamber as the Democrat who votes closest to Republicans on economic and fiscal issues, according to VoteView. He leads the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, which is trying to affect bipartisan deals in a chamber with few of them this year.

Key players in the budget negotiations are still talking tough. In a campaign-style speech on Wednesday, Biden blasted Republican-demanded spending cuts as “devastating” even after showing an increased willingness to discuss possible budget restraints.

“America is the strongest economy in the world, but we should be cutting spending and lowering the deficit without a needless crisis,” Biden said Wednesday.

McCarthy told reporters after he met with Biden on Tuesday that sharp spending cuts were required for House Republicans to increase the debt limit and stave off the risk of default.

When the president suggested during the meeting on Tuesday that the House GOP plan could end up cutting benefits to veterans, McCarthy shot back that the assertion was a “lie.” But Biden disputed that it was a lie, saying that the across-the-board cuts would affect veterans’ care and other vital domestic programs.

On Thursday, Golden said he did not know what kind of framework would be likely to emerge and would not rule out a default, saying people have made miscalculations before. But he said a constitutional argument being studied by Biden to effectively invalidate the debt ceiling could lead to short-term economic pain and would not be good for the country.

“I can say this: We’re not going to avoid default without a deal,” Golden said.

Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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...