In 2009 and 2010, Republicans who opposed the Democrats' Recovery Act started showing up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, as if they deserved some credit for the economic package then-President Barack Obama used to help end the Great Recession. In 2021, Republicans who opposed President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan into law, also sought credit for the Covid-relief benefits they tried to kill.
In November, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., was one of 205 House Republicans to vote against the bipartisan, $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, calling it irresponsible and the "Green New Deal in disguise." On Friday, he took to Twitter to tout funding from the bill he voted against — highlighting a $70 million expansion of the Port of Virginia in Norfolk — one of the busiest and deepest ports in the United States.
Wittman, it's worth emphasizing, later deleted the tweet.
Regardless, the Virginia Republican is hardly alone on this front. Shortly before Thanksgiving, for example, Republican Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama touted funding in the infrastructure package that will benefit his constituents, without noting that he voted against the bill.
Last week, Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa also sought credit for investments from the infrastructure package she opposed and condemned, and Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas took similar steps.
Even House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the #2 Republican in the chamber, got in on the game. The Louisianan issued a press release last week touting new infrastructure funding from the law he opposed.
By way of a defense, a Scalise spokesperson told The Los Angeles Times that it was "unfortunate that Democrats decided to play politics with infrastructure." Oddly enough, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was one of several Senate Republicans to vote for the bill, disagreed with the argument.
But the usual defense is more straightforward: These GOP members liked the parts of the bill that will direct funds to their districts.
Wittman told ABC News, for example, the congressman has long supported the Port of Virginia projects that are being financed by the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act that Biden signed into law. I heard from Hinson's office over the weekend, and her spokesperson told me something similar.
"Congresswoman Hinson opposed the infrastructure package because it was tied to trillions of other spending in the House," the spokesperson said. "Since the bill was signed into law, this money was going to be spent regardless. If there's federal money on the table she is, of course, going to do everything she can to make sure it is reinvested in Iowa. That's why she worked with a bipartisan group of her colleagues in asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize NESP construction along the Upper Mississippi River."
This is the standard line under these circumstances. Indeed, circling back to our earlier coverage, it's not uncommon for lawmakers, especially when dealing with a massive, multifaceted piece of legislation, to like some elements of a bill while opposing the larger whole (or conversely, members might oppose some provisions while endorsing the larger whole). That's just part of the process.
But for the members being accused of hypocrisy, the larger context matters. Many Republicans condemned the infrastructure bill in no uncertain terms — throwing around words such as "socialist," "radical," and "Marxist" — and soon after launched an offensive against the modest number of GOP lawmakers who dared to make it bipartisan by voting for it.
Now that the investments are starting to reach the public at the local level, however, some of these same Republicans are nevertheless eager to present themselves as champions of the funding that probably wouldn't exist if they'd been successful in derailing the legislation.
Either the new law is reckless socialism, or it's poised to make worthwhile investments that will help a lot of people. Either Republicans are going to make the case against the package, or they're going to celebrate the parts of it that benefit their constituents.
When the GOP tries to do both at the same time — just as the party did with the Recovery Act and the American Rescue Plan — Republicans shouldn't be surprised when they get called out for their brazenness.