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How GOP governors learned to love the Dems' American Rescue Plan

While many congressional Republicans seek credit for the Democrats' American Rescue Plan they rejected, GOP governors are embracing the funds they opposed.

On Capitol Hill, there's a large and growing number of congressional Republicans who rejected the Democrats' American Rescue Plan, but who now want credit for the package's benefits. It's the kind of brazen hypocrisy that really ought to carry some kind of political consequences.

With GOP governors, however, it's a slightly different story — or at least a different kind of story.

In gubernatorial offices nationwide, Republicans obviously weren't in a position to vote against the Democrats' Covid-19 relief package in March, though many of them condemned the ARP from a distance. What's more, as the year unfolded, plenty of GOP governors continued to blame the aid package for helping the economy too much, with some Republicans complaining of a "Biden inflation tax."

But just as some Republicans in Congress want to reap political rewards from the rescue plan they opposed, The New York Times reports that many GOP governors are doing the same thing.

At her annual budget address this month, Gov. Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, blamed President Biden's economic policies for rising prices, derided the "giant handout" of federal stimulus funds and suggested that she had considered refusing the money over ideological objections. But like many Republican officials, Ms. Noem has found it hard to say no to her state's share of the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief aid that Democrats passed along party lines in March.

The South Dakotan, who's up for re-election next year, could refuse the ARP money and send it back to the Treasury Department, but she instead intends to put the federal funds to good use, investing in water projects, affordable housing, and new day care centers.

And she has plenty of company. As the Times' report added Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's also running for a second term next year, will direct the funds toward infrastructure, transportation, and workforce retention. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who's also running for re-election in 2022, is using the money to replenish the state's jobless benefits fund, while investing in water and sewer quality and improving pediatric health facilities. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who's also running again next fall, has spent ARP money on broadband, rural hospitals, and food banks.

There's a degree of irony to the political circumstances: Republican governors, who opposed the American Rescue Plan, are using the Democratic package to improve their re-election prospects by investing funds they don't think should exist.

Just as notable is how difficult this picture would've been to predict in the not-too-distant past. Last year, as the pandemic crisis took root and the economy contracted, there were widespread fears that states would face brutal budget shortfalls, which in turn would lead to massive public-sector layoffs.

Thanks in large part to the American Rescue Plan, that didn't happen. It's not the kind of detail GOP governors are eager to acknowledge, but as they welcome and invest federal funds, it's true whether they want to admit it or not.