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 for a country hit by COVID.
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 ââsetting up a program to benefit struggling restaurants during the pandemic has been popular among Republicans and Democrats. But it was a key part of the so-called US bailout, Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion COVID response package, and not a single GOP lawmaker in the House or Senate voted in favor. of this bill in March on the grounds that it was too. expensive and misguided.
Over the past week, however, at least six of those “no” votes have encouraged their constituents to ask for relief funds for restaurants, including representatives. 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 those members joined with most Republicans in supporting funds to help restaurants. But all criticized the final COVID bill during the vote. Pence, for example, was far from excited about the package, calling it “hyper-partisan.” But the Indiana Republican said in a tweet on Wednesday – with mermaid emoticons – that “help is on its way for those in the food and restaurant industry.”
This is the exact opposite of what GOP House Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said about the legislation during the floor debate in March. âHelp is not on the way,â he said. “Help is not on the way.”
When asked how Pence reconciled his tweet with his opposition to the bill – and whether it could be seen as taking credit for it – spokesperson Hannah Osantowske told The Daily Beast that Pence ‘ is still looking for a silver liner hidden in a big piece of shit if that helps his constituents.
It is not uncommon for politicians to pass aspects of a larger bill that they did not support. But these Republicans ‘dance on the COVID bill shows the party’s biggest political connection to the Democrats’ biggest 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 widely popular with the public. Now voters want a slice of the pie, and their representatives want to be seen as contributing to the distribution of that slice.
âI don’t mind a bit,â Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) said of his GOP colleagues promoting the restoration fund. “Bragging about a program you voted against just says it was good policy and honors those who had the courage to do what is right, rather than what is politically expedient.”
Usually, members of Congress see it as an obligation to share information about government programs, and much of their job at home is helping them navigate their way. This fact forms the basis of most explanations from GOP lawmakers for their promotion of restoration funds.
âThe MP is using her platform to educate her constituents about federal funds and the resources available to them,â said Karoline Leavitt, spokesperson for Stefanik, who encouraged voters to ask for the funds in a tweet Thursday. âShe 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.
But the GOP’s criticism of the legislation that created the restoration fund makes their banal promotion of the program at home more jarring. McCarthy and other Republicans have said the legislation is essentially a “Trojan horse” for socialism; the GOP leader challenged Democrats to make eye contact with their constituents and explain why the spending was necessary.
They argued that only 9% of that amount was for real pandemic relief. Their basis for that figure is the plan’s $ 160 billion allocation for vaccine testing, tracing and distribution – an amount that does not include the billions in restaurant reliefs they say they want to support.
Some Republicans, like Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), predicted in March that the public would be “outraged” when the public learned more about the legislation after its rapid passage. This outrage did not materialize, and even GOP insiders admitted they were struggling to get 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 rollout of the COVID bill at home.
At least one GOP senator, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, was quick to praise the restaurant’s funds after the COVID bill was passed. âIndependent restaurateurs have won $ 28.6 billion in targeted relief,â he tweeted. After coming under scrutiny, Wicker told CNN that “a good provision in a $ 1.9 trillion bill doesn’t mean I have to vote for the whole.”
Democratic supporters of the COVID package couldn’t be more amused by the development, and they accused those Republicans of trying to have it both ways. Democratic lawmakers have piled on tweets from Republicans promoting the restaurant relief program, and President Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has highlighted them in her own press releases.
“Every Republican in the House has voted to block relief efforts that are helping neighborhood restaurants stay afloat and survive this pandemic,” said Robyn Patterson, spokesperson for Pelosi. âWhen their communities needed it most, House Republicans preferred to help small businesses keep their doors open. They should be tweeting apologies, not victory tricks. “
Republicans say they would be derelict in their duty not to inform voters about the program, even if they did not vote for it.
Craig Wheeler, a spokesperson for Herrera Beutler, called the Democrats’ attacks “stupid, cynical and hypocritical”. He explained that the Washington Republican had amplified information about the program “because it is now the law and the taxpayers in southwest Washington that she represents deserve to know the program for which they are. pay. “