“Even my Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the Rescue Plan,” the Democrat said. “I’m not going to embarrass any one of them, but I have here a list of how, back in their districts, they’re bragging about the Rescue Plan. ... I mean, some people have no shame. But I’m happy. I’m happy they know that it’s benefited their constituents.”
As we discussed soon after, when Biden referenced the list of GOP officials boasting about relief funds they opposed, he literally held up a written list, though he did not read it aloud. NBC News reported at the time that it had 13 names on it that were visible, including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik.
This came to mind again this afternoon. Politico reported:
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is again touting money for projects that were funded by President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package last year — a bill she voted against. ... In a press release Tuesday, the No. 3 House Republican announced $12.9 million for five hospitals within her district, in the form of Rural Development Grants from the Department of Agriculture.
The Republican congresswoman explained in her written statement, “Today, I am announcing over $12 million in taxpayer dollars will return to our district to support our rural hospitals as they overcome unique challenges.” She added that the funds will bolster the medical facilities in a variety of important ways.
And while Stefanik is probably right about the importance of the funds, the statement skipped over the fact that the $12 million came by way of the American Rescue Plan — which she bragged about opposing.
To be sure, the House GOP leader has quite a bit of company. As regular readers may recall, within weeks of the Democratic legislation becoming law, Republican Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Alex Mooney took similar steps, 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.
Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis was especially brazen, characterizing investments from the American Rescue Plan as one of her “achievements.” The New York congresswoman added last year that she prided herself on “bringing federal funding to the district and back into the pockets of taxpayers,” failing to note that she also voted against the bill.
Even Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, one of Congress’ most far-right members, patted himself on the back for Rescue Plan investments in his district, brushing past the fact that he also voted against the bill that made the investments possible.
As Congress prepared to pass the package early last year, Rep. John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budget Committee, offered a specific prediction on the House 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.”
The Kentucky Democrat knew of what he spoke.
The broader significance matters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell 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 voters just how terrible the relief package was.
His House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, suggested the proposal would move the United States one step closer to becoming Venezuela. Gosar said the relief package was a “Trojan horse for socialism.” Stefanik slammed the legislation as a “Far-Left wish list.”
I remain 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). What’s more, once funds are available, members are going to try and direct resources to their states and districts. That’s quite common.
But Republicans shouldn’t pretend that the broader context is irrelevant: Either the American Rescue Plan is “one of the worst pieces of legislation” in a generation, or it’s doing a lot of good for a lot of people. Either they’re going to make the case against the package, or they’re going to sing the praises of parts of it, while suggesting they somehow deserve credit for funds that wouldn’t exist if they’d had their way.
When Republicans try to push both lines, the party shouldn’t be surprised when their hypocrisy generates headlines.