NEW YORK (AP) – Representative Nicole Malliotakis, RN.Y., said it pains her to vote against the $ 1.9 trillion “American bailout”.
But in the weeks that followed, the first-term Republican issued a press release celebrating more than $ 3.7 million from the package that went to community health centers in her district as one of her “accomplishments.” . She said she was proud to “bring federal money to the district and put it back in the pockets of the taxpayers.”
Malliotakis is far from the only one.
All Republicans in Congress have voted against the pandemic relief bill that President Joe Biden enacted three months ago. But since the votes in early spring, Republicans from New York and Indiana to Texas and Washington state have promoted pieces of the legislation they have fought to defeat.
Republicans’ preferred provisions are a tiny part of the massive law, which sent 1,400 checks to millions of Americans, extended unemployment benefits until September, increased the child tax credit, offered housing assistance to millions of low-income Americans and expanded health care coverage. . Republicans tried to negotiate a smaller package, arguing that Biden’s plan was too expensive and not focused enough on the country’s health and economic crises.
Democrats promise to make pandemic relief voting – and Republican resistance – a central part of their political strategy for next year’s midterm elections as they defend delicate majorities in the House and the Senate. And there are early signs that Republicans may find it difficult to defend their opposition to the popular legislative package, which was designed to protect the country’s fragile economic recovery from the worst public health threat in a century.
GOP lawmakers have been particularly optimistic about promoting the bailout’s “Restaurant Revitalization Fund”, which has spent $ 28.6 billion on the struggling industry. Applications for the program opened this week.
Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy of R-California has dominated a group of at least eight Republicans who have encouraged voters to apply in recent days. The others included Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., And Representatives Elise Stefanik, RN.Y .; Greg Pence, R-Ind .; Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash .; Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas; Troy Balderson, R-Ohio; and Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio.
“The congressman is using her platform to educate her constituents about federal funds and the resources available to them,” Stefanik spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said. “She did not claim to support the bill in the tweet, and her constituents deserve to know what federal programs they can apply to regardless of how she votes.
Wicker’s office noted that he voted against the full package, but led efforts to ensure the restaurant relief was included.
“Sen. Wicker co-wrote the amendment that successfully added the Restaurant provision to the reconciliation bill. Why wouldn’t he want to encourage participation? Wicker’s spokesperson Phillip Waller said.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition acknowledged the Republican’s awkward position, but thanked them anyway.
“Senator Wicker did not vote for the package (we wish all members would!), But his work on the RESTAURANTS law from the start has made the relief fund possible,” the industry group tweeted. “We are grateful for this work.”
And White House spokesman Andrew Bates sarcastically expressed his gratitude for Republicans who began to tout elements of Biden’s revival.
“The American people – a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans – have long been firmly united behind the American bailout,” Bates said. “So it’s heartwarming to see Republicans in Congress crossing the aisle to endorse it, even retroactively.
The politics of the Republican position are complicated.
The GOP ultimately benefited politically after uniting against the massive economic stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009. Republicans scored massive gains in the House and Senate the following year. While the GOP is optimistic it will take back a majority in the House in 2022, it is far from clear whether the stimulus vote will help it achieve that.
Polls suggest the Biden stimulus is hugely popular. Two in three voters consistently backed the $ 1.9 trillion package in a recent poll, while individual items like the $ 1,400 direct payments to individuals are even more popular.
And just three months after the bill was signed, the Republican opposition is just beginning to be tested.
The Democratic National Committee has already launched “digital takeovers” of local news websites in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania to thank Democrats and highlight the Republican obstruction. The White House’s political arm also set up billboards in 20 states calling on Republicans and focused on the Republican opposition in training Democratic officials.
“Until next year’s midterm elections, we’re going to make sure every voter remembers how Republicans tried to block this economic boom and our return to normalcy,” the door said. -speak of the DNC, Ammar Moussa. “And you can count on Democrats to call out Republicans for their hypocrisy when they try to tout the same programs they voted against.”
Beyond funding restaurants, Republicans have also touted millions of dollars in health care grants allocated to their districts in the latest stimulus package.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, RN.C., at the end of March, highlighted millions of dollars in such grants on social media, saying he was “proud” to see taxpayer dollars coming back. in his district. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Representative Alex Mooney, RW.Va., issued a press release around the same time to promote more than $ 41 million spread across 12 health centers in his district.
“I am happy that this funding was obtained,” he said, forgetting to mention how it was obtained.
The four-term Republican congressman defended his decision to highlight the grants this week in a statement.
“Despite what anyone claims, all the money that is appropriated by Congress comes from the taxpayer, not from President Biden,” Mooney said. “Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is spent, especially since it affects their cities and communities.”
Malliotakis, who took office in January, promoted more than $ 3.7 million in Biden Stimulus health care grants among his accomplishments in a self-published “First 100 Days Bulletin.”
“These grants were part of the 9% of funds spent on COVID-19 aid that I have always supported,” Malliotakis said in a statement. “Whatever the vote, I will help individuals, small businesses and nonprofits get the funding they are entitled to.”