As the Democrats' COVID relief package was poised to pass a few weeks ago, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, offered a prediction of sorts on the chamber floor.
"What we are all concerned about on our side," Yarmuth said, referring to Democrats, "is that the Republicans are all going to vote against this, and then they're going to show up at every ribbon cutting, and at every project funded out of this bill, and they're going to pump up their chests and take credit for all of these great benefits that are coming to their citizens."
We were reminded yesterday that Yarmuth was right to be concerned.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) sent out a tweet Tuesday touting some funds that community health centers in his district will be receiving ― even though he voted against the legislation that made the money possible. Cawthorn wrote that he was "happy" to announce that North Carolina's 11th District received a number of grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. "Proud to see tax-payer dollars returned to NC-11," he wrote in a follow-up tweet.
The first-year Republican congressman specifically referenced four multi-million-dollar grants headed to medical facilities in western North Carolina.
Each of those grants, however, came directly as a result of the Democrats' American Rescue Plan. We can say this with certainty because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a list of grants headed to North Carolina as a direct result of the COVID relief package.
That is, of course, legislation that Madison Cawthorn and each of his Republican colleagues voted against. It's a detail the GOP lawmaker neglected to mention: these funds for community health centers in his area wouldn't exist if his position prevailed.
If this sounds at all familiar, it's not your imagination. Three weeks ago, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also celebrated the American Rescue Plan's beneficial "targeted relief" for restaurants. The Mississippi Republican didn't mention at the time that he also voted against the bill that provided the relief.
As we discussed soon after, I'm mindful of the fact that lawmakers, especially when dealing with a massive, multifaceted piece of legislation, can like some provisions while opposing the larger whole (or oppose some elements while endorsing the larger whole). That's quite common.
But the context matters, too. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently condemned the American Rescue Plan as "one of the worst pieces of legislation I've seen pass here in the time I've been in the Senate." The GOP leader added that he and his party intended to spend the next several months telling the American people just what a terrible mistake the Democrats' COVID relief package is.
And that, in turn, leaves GOP lawmakers with a choice. Either this bill is "one of the worst pieces of legislation" in a generation, or it's a bill that's going to do a lot of good for a lot of people. Either Republicans are going to make the case against the bill or they're going to sing the praises of the many parts of it they like.
Alas, it's tough to avoid a sense of déjà vu. As regular readers know, after Democrats passed the Recovery Act around this time 12 years ago, Republicans were hysterical in their condemnations of the law.
At least, they were until the economic stimulus package started financing key projects in their states and districts -- at which point many of these same Republicans seemed awfully eager to celebrate the Recovery Act they claimed to hate. In April 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put together a list of the House Republicans who tried to take credit for economic recovery efforts in their districts, thanks to investments from a law they vehemently opposed. The list included more than 70% of the House GOP conference.
The phenomenon was so common, Democrats came up with a label for Republicans who condemned the Recovery Act, except when it helped their constituents: "Highway Hypocrites."
None of this, of course, escaped Barack Obama's attention. In January 2010, the then-president appeared at a House Republican gathering and mentioned in passing the benefits of his party's economic stimulus package. "Let's face it," the president reminded GOP lawmakers, "some of you have been at the ribbon-cuttings for some of these important projects in your communities."
Twelve years later, we're already starting to see history repeat itself.