Aug. 13—The $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act, a key piece of the Democrats' domestic agenda, won approval Friday in the U.S. House with the backing of both of Maine's lawmakers.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a two-term Democrat from Maine's Republican-leaning 2nd District, called it a "commonsense win for the American people."
"This legislation represents a dramatic turnaround from misguided efforts in the last 18 months to pass sweeping, ill-designed legislation that tried to accomplish too many things through budget gimmicks, setting up problematic fiscal cliffs in numerous programs and refusing to make the difficult decisions to allow for a fiscally responsible bill," he said in a post on Medium.
"Oh, what a day in America," said U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Delaware Democrat who called the measure "the capstone of our efforts to deliver."
But U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican who serves as his party's whip, said the measure will increase the deficit, inflation and energy costs.
By hiking taxes on some corporations, the bill allocates $370 billion for climate and energy programs, extends premium assistance for the Affordable Care Act, allows the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices and caps out-of-pocket medication costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 annually.
"This is for the exhausted majority of people in America," said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine's 1st District, called the vote "a historic victory for our environment, our farmers and ranchers, working families, and the overall health of Americans."
Golden's Republican challenger, Bruce Poliquin of Orrington, said Golden's vote "demonstrated that he is beholden to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party," though he has bucked the party line on a handful of other major bills and voted against Pelosi for House speaker.
Poliquin said the Democratic bill that Golden endorsed will cause taxes to rise for working Mainers and insisted that "a moderate would not do this."
The measure secured Senate approval last Sunday on a 51-50 vote that didn't attract a single Republican supporter. Friday's House vote was also partisan.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said the bill's timing is wrong because the economy is in "a fragile state" and inflation on the rise. He warned it imposes too great a burden on small businesses.
Poliquin said the measure, which President Joe Biden intends to sign into law soon, "will only make inflation worse."
The Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates the measure will reduce the deficit by $264 billion during the next decade and have no impact on inflation, estimates in line with the preliminary prediction from the Congressional Budget Office.
Independent contender Tiffany Bond of Portland said Friday that she could not say how she would have voted because she hasn't had the chance to review the lengthy bill.
Generally, though, she said, "I do think we need higher taxes on large corporations" and "should negotiate prescription drug pricing."
"Tax cheats mean the rest of us are paying more than our fair share," the Portland attorney said, "and I would like to see financially-prudent investments in our infrastructure, particularly those mindful of our changing climate."
"If the bill as passed by the Senate accomplishes those things, I would be delighted," Bond said.
The Democratic bill, which began its legislative life as the $2.2 trillion Build Back Better proposal that Golden voted against last year, calls for a new tax on stock buybacks by companies and a new 15% minimum tax for large firms that sometimes pay nothing now.
The new taxes cover the cost of new spending, mostly on measures aimed at slowing climate change.
The bill first approved by the House last year nearly died in the Senate but was revived last month after U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin cut a deal on terms he found acceptable, making it possible for the closely divided Senate to pass it with a tiebreaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Golden said the initial version of the bill was "poorly-targeted and fiscally irresponsible" so he voted against it.
But, he said, the final version that emerged from the Senate took "an entirely different approach that is focused on making hard choices, doing a few things well, and investing in the long-term health of our economy and the predictability of the policies that help shape it."
Golden called it "commonsense legislation" that is "fiscally responsible and is targeted on four key priorities: reducing the national debt and putting our country back on a fiscally responsible path, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and making health care more affordable, investing in an all-of-the-above energy strategy to significantly increase oil, gas, and renewable energy production to lower energy costs for Americans, and cracking down on the tax avoidance of billion-dollar multinational corporations."
The executive director of the Maine Republican Party, Jason Savage, said Friday that Golden cast "a partisan vote for a bad partisan bill at a time when Mainers absolutely can't afford it."
"They're spending billions on green special interests while Mainers are worried about heating their homes," he said. "Golden just made it clear why we need a fighter like Bruce Poliquin back in Congress rather than a squishy Biden sycophant."
Golden said, though, that the bill will spur "significant investments in expanding our oil, gas, and renewable energy production capacity," including a requirement that the federal government "auction off millions of acres of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska that were previously stalled or rescinded by the Biden Administration to increase our domestic supply, bring energy prices down in the short term, and ensure that we will never depend on foreign countries like Russia to keep the lights on."
It also makes big investments in renewables such as wind, solar, hydrogen and biomass that Golden said "will help bring home energy prices down for working people, boost our domestic manufacturing and put millions of Americans to work."
Plus, he said, it "puts affordable energy within reach of the American middle class" by offering rebates and tax breaks to help people make energy efficient upgrades to their homes "to lower their monthly energy bills and heat their homes."