House Democrat Jared Golden Defends Voting Against 'Wasteful' $1.9T Relief Bill

Maine Democratic Congressman Jared Golden defended his vote Saturday against the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, saying the "wasteful" bill fails to focus on unemployment assistance and vaccine testing.

Golden and Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader were the only two members of their party to vote against President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan, joining every single Republican member of the House. The package includes provisions for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 as well as $1,400 direct checks to qualifying Americans—additions Golden labeled "unnecessary or untimely spending."

The Maine representative had previously opposed a procedural move toward a party-line stimulus package earlier this month, but his stance on Biden's bill was unclear until Saturday. The relief package ultimately passed 219-212, but Golden echoed the criticisms of congressional Republicans who said it's too expensive and doesn't directly fund top priorities such as the re-opening of schools.

"This bill addresses urgent needs, and then buries them under a mountain of unnecessary or untimely spending," Golden said in a statement released by his office following the vote.

"In reviewing the bill in its full scope, less than 20 percent of the total spending addresses core COVID challenges that are immediately pressing: funding for vaccine distribution and testing, and emergency federal unemployment programs. I support these portions of the bill wholeheartedly and believe we should do more for the people hardest hit by the pandemic by continuing to extend unemployment programs until economic indicators show they are no longer necessary," the Maine Democratic lawmaker said.

"I won't support trillions more in funding that is poorly targeted or in many cases not necessary at this moment in time," he continued.

Golden represents the swing 2nd Congressional District in Maine, which then-President Trump won over Biden in November by around 8 points. However, many progressive critics have directed their criticism over the "no" vote toward the only other Democrat to do so, Oregon Congressman Schrader. Biden soundly defeated Trump in his 5th Congressional District by nearly 10 points.

As of Saturday morning, Schrader has not explained his dissenting vote against the Democratic-backed relief package. But Golden outlined his opposition to "duplicate" programs "Congress has already funded or are poorly designed and wasteful of public resources."

He went on to criticize the bill's allocation of $25 billion in rental assistance, $150 billion more to state and local governments, a 15 percent increase in food assistance, and an additional $40 billion in child care assistance. He said many of these programs are mismanaged and have failed to deliver funds to at-need districts in his home state of Maine.

"As with other programs, I believe it is irresponsible to quadruple our investment before we more fully release existing funds and determine what will be needed to help us through the final stages of the pandemic," Golden said in his statement.

Newsweek reached out to Schrader and Golden's congressional offices for additional remarks Saturday morning.

jared golden maine relief vote
Maine Democratic Congressman Jared Golden defended his Saturday vote against the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, saying the "wasteful" bill fails to focus on unemployment assistance and vaccine testing. Screenshot: Jared Golden | Facebook