Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-New York, said it was difficult for her to vote against the $1.9 trillion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
However, in the weeks that followed, the first-term Republican issued a news release hailing more than $3.7 million from the package as one of her “achievements” for community health centers in her district. She boasted about “bringing federal funding to the district and back into the pockets of taxpayers.”
Every Republican in Congress voted against the massive pandemic relief bill signed into law by President Joe Biden three months ago. However, Republicans from New York and Indiana to Texas and Washington state have promoted elements of the legislation they fought to defeat since the early spring votes.
Republicans’ favorite provisions are a sliver of the massive law, which sent $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, extended unemployment benefits until September, increased the child tax credit, provided housing assistance to millions of low-income Americans, and expanded health care coverage. Republicans attempted to negotiate a smaller package, claiming that Biden’s plan was too expensive and did not address the nation’s health and economic crises adequately.
Democrats have promised to make the pandemic relief vote — and Republican opposition to it — a central part of their political strategy as they defend precarious House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterm elections. And there are early indications that Republicans may find it difficult to justify their opposition to the popular legislative package, which was intended to protect the nation’s fragile economic recovery in the aftermath of the worst public health threat in a century.
Republican lawmakers have been particularly enthusiastic about promoting the rescue plan’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which has committed $28.6 billion to the struggling industry. This week, applications for the program became available.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was among at least eight Republicans who urged constituents to apply in recent days. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Greg Pence, R-Ind., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, and Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, were among the others. Wicker’s office stated that while he voted against the entire package, he was instrumental in ensuring that the restaurant relief was included.
And, sarcastically, White House spokesman Andrew Bates expressed gratitude to Republicans who have begun to tout elements of Biden’s stimulus package.
After uniting against President Barack Obama’s massive economic stimulus package signed into law in 2009, the Republican Party benefited politically. The following year, Republicans made massive gains in both the House and Senate. While Republicans believe they will retake the House majority in 2022, it is unclear whether the stimulus vote will help them get there.
According to polling, the Biden stimulus is overwhelmingly popular. In recent polling, two-thirds of voters have consistently supported the $1.9 trillion package, while individual components such as the $1,400 direct payments to individuals are even more popular.
And the Republican opposition has only just begun to be tested three months after the bill was signed into law.
To thank Democrats and highlight Republican obstruction, 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. In addition, the White House’s political arm has placed billboards in 20 states criticizing Republicans and has focused on the Republican opposition in training for Democratic officials. Republicans have touted millions of dollars in health care grants allocated to their districts in the latest stimulus plan, in addition to restaurant funding.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina, posted on social media in late March about millions of dollars in such grants, saying he was “proud” to see taxpayer dollars returning to his district. A request for comment was not returned by a spokesman.
At roughly the same time, Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., issued a news release promoting more than $41 million spread across 12 health care centers in his district.
In a statement this week, the four-term Republican congressman defended his decision to highlight the grants.
In a self-issued “First 100 Days Report Card,” Malliotakis, who took office in January, touted more than $3.7 million in health care grants from the Biden stimulus as one of her accomplishments.