Maryland's GOP governor talks up scholarship money from relief bill he opposed

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Gov. Larry Hogan is launching a scholarship lottery to get more Maryland teens vaccinated against COVID-19.

Maryland's Republican governor announced on Wednesday that he will institute a lottery offering $1 million in college scholarships for adolescents who get COVID-19 vaccines.

The money for the scholarships will come from funding allocated under the federal pandemic relief law Gov. Larry Hogan fiercely opposed.

"We are now turning our efforts toward getting more of our young people vaccinated against COVID-19," Hogan tweeted on Thursday. "Marylanders age 12 to 17 can get vaccinated now for a chance to win one of 20 $50,000 scholarships to the college of their choice."

"Promotions like this are just one more way that we are reinforcing the importance of getting every single Marylander that we can vaccinated against COVID-19, especially our young people," he said in a statement posted to his official website on Wednesday. "If any of our 12- to 17-year-olds or their parents needed another good reason, then now they can get vaccinated for a chance to win a $50,000 college scholarship."

"These scholarship funds are being provided through funding from the American Rescue Plan," Hogan acknowledged in a press conference announcing the "VaxU" lottery. "So, federal dollars."

The American Rescue Plan was President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, enacted in March after passing both houses of Congress without a single Republican vote in favor. It provided $1,400 relief checks for most Americans, an average 2021 tax cut of more than $3,000, unemployment benefits for those out of work due to the pandemic, and $350 billion for cash-strapped state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.

But while Hogan is now happily spending Maryland's portion of the funds, he was a vocal opponent of the law.

Although he had begged Congress in April 2020 to help out state and local governments with billions of dollars in grants, when Biden and the Democratic majority pushed to do so in February 2021, Hogan toed his party's line.

He attacked Biden's plan for not being "bipartisan" enough, releasing a one-minute ad through the No Labels super PAC he co-chairs calling for a different COVID-19 relief plan with "both parties at the table offering their best ideas."

After the law passed, Hogan was directly asked by Politico if he would have voted for it. "I don't think I would have," he replied.

A Hogan spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Last November, the Washington Examiner published an opinion piece written by Hogan backing the reelection of right-wing Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia runoff Senate elections scheduled for the coming January. Framing himself as opposed to "gridlock, extremism, and dysfunction," he asserted that keeping Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Senate majority leader would "uphold America's mandate for moderation and compromise," despite McConnell's long record of blocking key bipartisan legislation.

Georgia voters ignored his advice and elected Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate.

McConnell, now the Senate minority leader, is reportedly mounting an aggressive push to recruit Hogan to challenge Democratic Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen in 2022 as part of his attempt to regain a majority in the chamber. The state's term limits prohibit Hogan from seeking a third term as governor next year.

On Tuesday, McConnell told constituents that Kentucky would soon receive $4 billion in American Rescue Plan funds while acknowledging his own opposition to the law.

"So you're gonna get a lot more money," he said. "I didn't vote for it, but you're gonna get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to seven or eight hundred million dollars."

More than a dozen other House and Senate Republicans have claimed credit or promoted programs paid for under the American Rescue Plan that they voted against.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in March that their attitude was "vote no and take the dough."

Zach Hudson, a spokesperson for the Maryland Democratic Party, told The American Independent Foundation:

It's the height of hypocrisy for Governor Hogan to take credit for funding he vehemently opposed. If Larry Hogan and Mitch McConnell had their way, the American Rescue Plan would not have passed and Maryland would not have the funds to pay for this program. Thankfully, Hogan and McConnell were unsuccessful in blocking this legislation that continues to provide shots in the arms and money in the bank to families across Maryland.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.