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Republican seeks credit for infrastructure bill he voted against

As Republicans seek credit for the infrastructure package they voted against, it's hard not to feel a sense of deja vu.

As Congress prepared to pass the Democrats' American Rescue Plan earlier this year, Rep. John Yarmuth, the Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, made an important prediction on the chamber 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 congressman knew of what he spoke. Republicans opposed former President Barack Obama's Recovery Act in 2009, shortly before they showed up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies when the stimulus package made investments in communities nationwide. More than a decade later, Yarmuth's prediction proved prophetic: Many of the GOP lawmakers who railed against President Joe Biden's Covid-relief package were the same Republicans who sought credit for the benefits they tried to kill.

As Congress approved the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act two weeks ago, the Democratic majority expected the same dynamic to unfold once more: Republicans would, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, "vote no and take the dough."

The majority party may not, however, have fully appreciated how quickly this would happen. Republican Rep. Gary Palmer issued a press release this week, touting the infrastructure law for including legislation he introduced, which will direct $369 million to the Northern Beltline project in his home state of Alabama.

"Funding the Northern Beltline has consistently been one of my top priorities," Palmer said. "Birmingham is currently one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country without a complete beltline around it. Completing the Northern Beltline will benefit the entire region and enhance economic development and employment opportunities.... This is the opportunity we have been working for as a region and a state. Now is the time for us to take advantage of it and complete the work by finishing the Northern Beltline and building a better future for the Birmingham metro area and central Alabama."

What the GOP congressman neglected to mention is that he voted against the legislation that will fund the project.

Palmer, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, also didn't mention the fact that he condemned the bill after it passed, deriding it as a measure that will waste "hundreds of billions of dollars on a Green New Deal wish list and programs under the guise of human infrastructure that simply expand government control of our lives."

As we've discussed, 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, oppose some provisions while endorsing the larger whole). That's just part of the process.

But Palmer and his colleagues should also be mindful of the context: Republicans condemned the infrastructure bill in no uncertain terms, before launching an offensive against the modest number of GOP lawmakers who dared to make it bipartisan by voting for it.

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.