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GOP lawmakers now celebrate COVID relief they voted against in March

Congressional Republicans are making the case for key provisions of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill — after voting against it.

By Josh Israel - April 29, 2021
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)

Not a single Republican in Congress voted for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. But many have since highlighted the importance of its programs.

In addition to providing $1,400 relief checks for most Americans and expanding unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 pandemic, the law includes a significant investment in supporting state and local governments, helping keep restaurants in business, and funding health centers.

The legislation provided $350 billion in direct aid to cash-strapped state, local, territorial and tribal governments. It offered $28.6 billion in Small Business Administration grants through a Restaurant Revitalization Fund designed to offset pandemic-related revenue loss. And it provided $8.5 billion to rural health care providers; $70 billion for coronavirus testing, vaccination, and safety; and about $9.1 billion to support the public health workforce.

Despite its enormous popularity among voters, Republicans attacked the plan in a number of ways. They’ve said it’s a “blue state bailout,” insufficiently focused on actually curbing the pandemic, not necessary, and somehow “socialism.” It became law anyway, thanks to unified support by the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

But now, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, more than a dozen GOP lawmakers are publicly extolling these programs — despite voting against them:

Roger Wicker

Mississippi Sen. Wicker praised the Restaurant Revitalization Fund on March 10, tweeting, “Independent restaurant operators have won $28.6 billion worth of targeted relief. This funding will ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic by helping to adapt their operations and keep their employees on the payroll.”

Troy Balderson

Rep. Balderson tweeted Tuesday, instructing restaurants in his Ohio district, “Mark your calendars to apply for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.”

Madison Cawthorn

North Carolina Rep. Cawthorn tweeted March 30 that he was “happy to announce that NC-11 was awarded” American Rescue Plan health center grants and “proud to see tax-payer dollars returned” to his district.

Andrew Garbarino

New York Reps. Garbarino and Lee Zeldin claimed credit in a March 9 joint press release after two local transit systems canceled planned service cuts.

Garbarino wrote:

I applaud the MTA’s [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] reversal of their recent service cuts decision. It is in the best interest of employees, riders, and our community to have the timetable restored, and I am glad that the MTA and LIRR [Long Island Rail Road] listened to our calls to ensure the safety of our constituents on their commutes to work.

But the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority explicitly told a local news outlet a day earlier that the service cuts were being avoided “as a result of this federal funding in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, and we also will avoid layoffs and furloughs of thousands of our colleagues.”

Anthony Gonzalez

Ohio Rep. Gonzalez wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page, “Starting on May 3, the U.S. Small Business Administration will be accepting applications for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help the food service industry recover in the wake of the pandemic.”

Diane Harshbarger

Tennessee Rep. Harshbarger highlighted, in an April constituent newsletter, the “important information” that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund “will provide funding to help restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep their doors open.”

Jaime Herrera Beutler

In a Tuesday tweet to restaurant owners in her district, Washington Rep. Herrera Beutler announced: “The Small Business Administration will be hosting a national briefing tomorrow, Wed. April 28th @ 10AM PST, about the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help ensure restaurants get the capital they need during this difficult time.”

Doug LaMalfa

“As I have seen and heard throughout my Congressional District, there is no question that many restaurants have suffered during the pandemic, and the Small Business Administration may be able to help,” California Rep. LaMalfa wrote on Facebook last Thursday, encouraging interested constituents to consider applying for Restaurant Revitalization Fund emergency assistance.

Nicole Malliotakis

First-term New York Rep. Malliotakis gave herself a “100 Days Report Card” on April 13. Among her “achievements” were two American Rescue Plan health center grants for her district, totaling more than $3.7 million.

Alex Mooney

Rep. Mooney put out a March 31 press release celebrating $41,596,186 in American Rescue Plan grants to 12 health care centers in his West Virginia district. “Our healthcare workers and medical centers are on the frontlines daily ensuring the well-being and health of West Virginians,” he wrote. “As we continue to fight against COVID-19, these funds will assist these organizations in continuing to serve the medical needs of West Virginians.”

Troy Nehls

Texas Rep. Nehls will host a webinar on Friday to help constituents apply for Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants to help them “keep their doors open.”

Claudia Tenney

“If you think you qualify for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” New York Rep. Tenney tweeted Thursday, “you are encouraged to create an account through the SBA’s application portal that opens three hours before the RRF at 9 am ET.”

Beth Van Duyne

Texas Rep. Van Duyne tweeted on Wednesday to promote the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as “a program that provides emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19.”

Lee Zeldin

Zeldin, liked Garbarino, tried to take credit after planned service cuts were averted at two local transit systems — thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s funds for state and local governments.

“The MTA’s decision to reverse course on recent service cuts, which led to infrequent and overcrowded LIRR trains, is great news for riders and workers alike,” Zeldin wrote.

“Ensuring that commuters can return to work safely and efficiently, will help us emerge from the outbreak of coronavirus stronger than ever,” he added.

Several more GOP lawmakers also have highlighted the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, including Reps. Jack Bergman of Michigan, Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota, Greg Pence of Indiana, and Elise Stefanik of New York.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mocked them for trying to “take credit” for funds they opposed, saying at a press conference that Republicans often “vote no” but then “take the dough.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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