Maddow: Shameless Republicans Take Credit for Rescue Plan Relief
House Republicans are starting to realize the liability that comes with voting against putting vaccines in arms, money in pockets, people in jobs, and kids back in school.
Last night, Rachel Maddow looked at the rough spot Republicans find themselves in as they try to take credit for popular parts of the American Rescue Plan they fought to block.
Read the Daily Beast's run down of Republicans voting no but taking the dough.
- “Help is not on the way,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy said in March about the final COVID bill that included the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. “Help is not on the way.”
- It’s not hard to see why promoting the $29 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund has been a bipartisan exercise among members of Congress. Created to help hard-hit restaurants, it’s a clear example of Capitol Hill providing a lifeline to a COVID-stricken country.
- But there’s a minor problem for some of those lawmakers touting the program: they voted against the bill that created it.
- The idea of setting up a program to benefit restaurants struggling during the pandemic has been popular among Republicans and Democrats. But it was a key plank of the so-called American Rescue Plan, Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID response package, and not a single GOP lawmaker in the House or Senate voted in favor of that bill back in March on the grounds that it was too expensive and misguided.
- In the last week, however, at least six of those “no” votes have encouraged their constituents to apply for restaurant relief funds, including Reps. Greg Pence (R-IN), Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), and Claudia Tenney (R-NY).
- Some of these members joined most Republicans in backing funds for restaurant relief. But all of them slammed the final COVID bill when it came up for a vote. Pence, for example, was far from enthusiastic about the package, calling it “hyper-partisan.” But the Indiana Republican declared in a Wednesday tweet—complete with siren emojis—that “help is on the way for those in the food and restaurant industry.”
- This is the exact opposite of what the House GOP leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), said about the legislation during floor debate in March. “Help is not on the way,” he said. “Help is not on the way.”
- Asked how Pence reconciled his tweet with his opposition to the bill—and if he could be perceived as taking credit for it—spokesperson Hannah Osantowske told The Daily Beast that Pence “is always looking for a silver lining hiding in a big lump of shit if it helps out his constituents.”
- ...these Republicans’ dance on the COVID bill showcases the party’s larger political bind when it comes to Democrats’ top achievement so far this year. The GOP may have uniformly rejected the relief package and criticized it in the harshest terms, but it became law—and became broadly popular with the public. Now, constituents want a piece of the pie, and their representatives want to be seen as helping to dish those slices out.
- But the GOP’s criticism of the legislation that created the restaurant fund makes their mundane promotion of the program back home more jarring. McCarthy and other Republicans said the legislation was essentially a “Trojan horse” for socialism; the GOP leader challenged Democrats to look their constituents in the eye and explain why the spending was necessary.
- They argued that only 9 percent of it went toward real pandemic relief. Their basis for that figure is the plan’s $160 billion allotment for testing, tracing and vaccine distribution—a sum that does not include the billions in restaurant relief they say they wanted to support.
- Some Republicans, like Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), predicted in March that the public would be “outraged” when the public found out more about the legislation after its swift passage. That outrage has not materialized, and even GOP insiders have admitted they struggled to land a punch on the COVID bill. Republicans have seemed more eager to move on to topics like immigration, and Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan, as they quietly facilitate the continued roll-out of the COVID bill back home.
- The Democratic backers of the COVID package couldn’t be more amused at the development, and they’ve accused these Republicans of trying to have it both ways. Democratic lawmakers have piled on the tweets from Republicans promoting the restaurant relief program, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has highlighted them in her own press releases.
- “Every single House Republican voted to block the relief that’s helping neighborhood restaurants stay afloat and survive this pandemic,” said Robyn Patterson, a spokesperson for Pelosi. “When their communities needed them most, House Republicans put politics over helping small businesses keep their doors open. They should tweet out apologies, not victory laps.”