More than a few congressional Republicans have celebrated parts of the Democrats' COVID relief package, despite 100% opposition from GOP lawmakers, and over the weekend, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) joined them.
The Republican leader used his social media accounts to tout the Restaurant Revitalization Fund -- part of the Democrats' American Relief Plan -- and the fact that the Small Business Administration began accepting applications for the program yesterday. It wasn't long before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office called attention to the apparent contradiction:
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the American Rescue Plan 'socialist,' claimed it would turn the U.S. into Venezuela, and convinced every Member of his caucus to vote against it. He even warned the American people 'help is not on the way.' Now he's touting the American Rescue Plan's Restaurant Revitalization Fund to brag about bringing home the bacon.
When I wrote about this last week, I heard from some readers who argued that the criticisms aren't altogether fair. Members of Congress from both parties, these readers suggested, routinely alert their constituents to available public benefits. It'd be one thing if these Republicans explicitly tried to take credit for money in the Democratic bill, but short of that, some readers argued, these GOP lawmakers are simply doing routine congressional work.
I get the argument. Plenty of Democrats, for example, voted against the Bush/Cheney Medicare Part D bill, but those same Democrats might direct constituents to benefits available through the program.
But I nevertheless think this is an overly generous response. As always, context is everything: Republicans condemned the American Relief Plan as a disaster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted the package as "one of the worst pieces of legislation I've seen pass here in the time I've been in the Senate." The Senate 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. In the House, McCarthy's denunciation of the bill was every bit as fierce.
It's awfully difficult to see a congressional leader tell the public that legislation is "socialist," and the first step toward turning the United States into Venezuela, and then see that same congressional leader effectively say, "There are a few good parts, too."
Indeed, Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.) published a tweet last week -- complete with siren emojis -- pointing to a provision of the American Relief Plan alongside text that read, "Help is on the way."
It was Kevin McCarthy who told Americans a couple of months ago, "Help is not on the way."
Republicans continue to have a choice. Either this bill is "one of the worst pieces of legislation" in a generation, or "help is on the way" thanks to 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 parts of it they like.