PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The sole Democratic congressman to vote against the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is a Marine Corps veteran who represents a vast, politically mixed district in Maine.
Rep. Jared Golden, who has represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District since 2019, was the only lawmaker from either party to break ranks on the bill. The package, President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority, includes direct payments to most adults, aid to schools struggling to reopen during the pandemic and local governments grappling with falling revenues. It also provides additional money for unemployment and an expanded tax credit for families with children.
Golden said in February that he believed the bill contained too much unnecessary spending. and he said Wednesday the final version of the proposal didn’t do enough to narrow its size and scope.
“I know there are people who will continue to need assistance getting through the final stages of this pandemic, which is why I have argued that Congress should have addressed their needs with a targeted bill that extends unemployment benefits, funds vaccine distribution, and increases investments in our public health infrastructure,” Golden said in a statement.
The only other Democrat to oppose the relief bill in its first time through the House was Kurt Schrader of Oregon. Schrader, however, switched his vote on final passage Wednesday and said in a Facebook post he would vote yes because the bill provides “lifeline” aid for so many people.
Golden, 38, represents a district that takes up almost four-fifths of Maine’s land area. It’s one of the most rural districts in the United States, and it’s geographically the largest district in the country east of the Mississippi River.
The 2nd Congressional is also a swing district that is home to many members of the state’s traditional industries, such as timber and lobster fishing. It was the sole congressional district in New England to support President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. The district’s House seat has long been politically competitive, as it has been represented by five Democrats and five Republicans since the 1956 election.
Maine unemployment is nearly double what it was a year ago at 5%. The virus has sickened more than 46,000 people in the state, though transmission has slowed in recent weeks, state health authorities have said.
Golden won reelection in 2020 over Republican Dale Crafts. He has broken ranks with the Democrats before, including during the first impeachment of Trump, in which he was the only House member to issue a split decision on the two articles of impeachment.
Golden faced criticism from the Democratic base on Wednesday. Mainers for Accountable Leadership, a liberal group in the state, said in the statement that Golden “voted against helping the people of Maine.”
Golden lives in Lewiston, a city of about 36,000 and the largest in the district. Lewiston is about 35 miles north of Portland, the largest city in the state and the heart of the very liberal 1st Congressional District. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine and later served in the Maine House of Representatives before winning a tough election to Congress over Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin in 2018.