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GOP starts to pay a price for opposing, then promoting, relief bill

Republicans keep touting the Democratic relief bill that received literally zero GOP votes. This is more than just a passing curiosity.


President Joe Biden signed the Democrats' COVID relief package on March 11, but it was on March 10 when Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) celebrated the American Rescue Plan's beneficial "targeted relief" for restaurants. The Mississippi Republican neglected to mention the fact that he voted against the bill that provided the relief.

He soon had plenty of company. Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) took similar steps in March, touting funds for community health centers in their respective districts, overlooking the inconvenient detail that those health centers wouldn't have received the money if they'd had their way.

Anecdotes like these -- which congressional Democrats publicly predicted before the bill's passage -- keep coming up. The Associated Press ran this report yesterday alongside a perfect headline: "Republicans promote pandemic relief they voted against."

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., said it pained her to vote against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. But in the weeks that followed, the first-term Republican issued a news release celebrating more than $3.7 million from the package that went to community health centers in her district as one of her "achievements." She said she prided herself on "bringing federal funding to the district and back into the pockets of taxpayers."

To be sure, the New York Republican offers a rather extreme example of the phenomenon. Many of the GOP lawmakers promoting elements of the American Relief Plan have been subtle in trying to take credit for legislation they opposed, but Malliotakis went further than most, counting the bill as an "achievement" despite her vote to kill the relief package. While many Republicans have been misleading in their rhetoric, Malliotakis' pitch is more brazen in its dishonesty.

But the larger point remains the same: Republicans, from high-profile leaders to more obscure rank-and-file members, keep touting the Democratic bill that received literally zero GOP votes.

And the more Republicans play this game, the more embarrassing headlines it generates about the GOP's hypocrisy and willingness to try to deceive the public.

The broader significance shouldn't be lost on Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) 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. His House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested the proposal would move the United States one step closer to becoming Venezuela.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whose predictions about the future have routinely been amusing, boasted with certainty that the COVID relief package would be "bad politics" for Democrats because of the "narratives" it would generate.

And yet, here we are: the American Relief Plan was, and is, quite popular. In fact, it's so popular that a growing band of Republicans want to pretend they played a role in passing it -- reality notwithstanding.

The lesson for Democrats is important. GOP officials spent February making bold declarations: the public wouldn't like the fact that the relief bill was partisan; the public wouldn't like the $2 trillion price tag; the public wouldn't like Democrats' willingness to "throw money at the problem"; etc. Everything Republicans said at the time turned out to be the opposite of the truth.

So when those same GOP lawmakers make the same predictions now -- voters don't want a partisan-but-popular infrastructure bill; voters won't tolerate a $2 trillion bill; and on and on -- Democrats need to realize that Republicans were wrong about this before, so there's no reason to see their cries as credible now.