Over the past year or so, several congressional Republicans have tried to take credit for infrastructure projects they voted against, hoping voters wouldn’t know the difference. CNN ran a report late last week on a related, but not identical, phenomenon: GOP lawmakers who denounced the bipartisan infrastructure package but who now want money from the initiative spent in their states and districts.
Last November, GOP Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota released a statement slamming the passage of the freshly approved infrastructure law he referred to as “President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar socialist wish list.” Then in June, Emmer — the House Republican campaign chairman leading attacks on Democrats for supporting the law — quietly submitted a wish of his own. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Emmer expressed his hearty support for a multimillion dollar grant to improve part of Highway 65 in his district.
Emmer’s hardly alone. Through a public records request, CNN highlighted dozens of similar pleas from Republicans who denounced the infrastructure package, only to quietly reach out to the Biden administration in the hopes that some of the funds from the law would benefit their constituents.
CNN’s report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, added, “Most members have not publicly mentioned the letters they sent petitioning for money from the bill they derided. Many, when contacted by CNN about their requests, either ignored questions or insisted that they were being consistent with their criticisms of the law with the requests they made.”
It’s worth emphasizing that part of the response from Republicans should not be dismissed out of hand. For as long as there’s been a Congress, there have been lawmakers seeking federal funds for their states and districts — even when those resources came from bills they voted against. The thinking behind the appeals is obvious: They opposed the spending, but if the government is going to make the investments anyway, these members figure they might as well make the case for directing some of those funds to their own constituents.
I’m not unsympathetic to this argument. In fact, it’s both sound and deeply rooted in the American tradition.
But the details matter.
Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, for example, is one of Capitol Hill’s most right-wing members, and after the vote on the infrastructure legislation last fall, the Arizonan insisted that the bill “only serves to advance the America Last’s socialist agenda.”
Four months later, Gosar began making multiple appeals to the Biden administration, arguing that funding from the infrastructure package would improve the economy in his district and boost his constituents’ standard of living.
Similarly, Republican Rep. Andy Barr called the bill a “big government socialist agenda,” only to turn around and argue that money from the package would help create jobs in his Kentucky district.
It’d be one thing for GOP lawmakers to make the case that their constituents deserve their fair share of a larger federal pie, but it’s something else when Republicans condemn a bill as “socialism,” only to argue soon afterward that the socialism would work wonders in their communities.
This, too, comes up with unnerving frequency: After Barack Obama signed the Recovery Act in 2009, many of the Republicans who said the resources would be bad for the economy were the same Republicans who pitched the Democratic administration for investments in their areas — arguing that it’d be great for the economy.
It’s no wonder why President Joe Biden had a little fun at Republicans’ expense during remarks at an automobile plant in Maryland on Friday. “I didn’t know there were that many socialist Republicans,” the Democrat said to laughter. He added, “Folks, look, you can’t make this stuff up. I’ve got to say, I was surprised to see so many socialists in the Republican caucus.”