Republicans praise money in Biden relief bill they voted against

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At first blush, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine doesn’t look like some flaming hotbed of liberalism.

With a picturesque view of Lake Erie and scenic Presque Isle State Park — as well as campuses across the country — it bills itself as “the nation’s largest medical school,” and the “most applied-to medical school in the country.”

And last month, Republican Rep. Mike Kelly, who represents the Pennsylvania school on Capitol Hill, was only too happy to trumpet the fact that it was the recipient of a $2.2 million, “Kelly-backed grant,” that would “aid healthcare workers during the pandemic.”

The school is a “great community partner whose staff is among those in our district who can benefit from this funding,” Kelly said in a statement posted to his official website. “These funds will greatly impact our front-line heroes who have given so much to our country and their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Great cause, right? So where’d the money come from? If you guessed the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan package, give yourself a star.

And if you guessed that Kelly opposed the COVID relief bill and dismissed it as being packed with “left-wing projects,” give yourself one more star. And if you guessed on top of that that the veteran Erie pol backed a failed effort to topple Biden’s Pennsylvania victory in 2020, take the rest of the day off.

With that one gesture, Kelly placed himself in the growing ranks of Republican lawmakers who have gleefully filleted Biden, opposed his agenda, and then taken credit for its benefits to the folks back home.

One of the more recent public examples, Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, was roundly criticized after she slammed the White House’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, and then boasted about the $829 million in funding for lock and dam upgrades it would bring to her constituents.

Kelly isn’t even Pennsylvania’s only example of this kind of GOP reality-distortion. Rep. Glenn Thompson, whose 15th District sprawls across the rural north-central part of the state, urged local fire companies last month to apply for a $46 million grant program that received an injection of pandemic relief money.

Of course, Thompson called that relief package “a wish list of the progressive wing of the Democrat party (sic)” and voted against it. But the firefighter grants included in the bill? That’s the good stuff.

“As a volunteer firefighter, I know there is an overwhelming need for additional resources to help first responders better protect our communities,” Thompson said in the Jan. 18 statement his office issued. “I stand ready to assist and provide support for any company in the Congressional District looking to pursue these opportunities.”

In an email, a spokesperson for Kelly said the northwestern Pennsylvania lawmaker “wrote a letter of support” for the medical school “which was seeking grant funding made possible through the American Rescue Plan.”

In an email, a spokesperson for Thompson said the GOP lawmaker has supported the emergency services grant program for years, and that the pandemic relief money had provided a $10 million infusion to a $46 million program already in the federal budget.

“The American Rescue Plan totals $1.9 trillion, and this supplement translates to .00052 percent of the total package,” senior Thompson aide Renee Gamela said. “While Congressman Thompson supports the FP&S grant program, he could not support the bill in its entirety.”

Kelly isn’t the “first to try to take credit for the product of bills that he voted against,” Chris Borick, a pollster and political analyst at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said. “But apparently he thinks his constituents either don’t care or don’t know about the disconnect between his positions.”

During an appearance in Cleveland last May, Biden played to the crowd, pulling out a list of Republican lawmakers who opposed the pandemic relief bill.

“My Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the rescue plan,” Biden said, according to the Independent.

Democrats already are vowing to use these pivots against the GOP in this November’s all-the-marbles midterm elections.

They’re not going to find themselves wanting for material.

Copyright 2022 John L. Micek, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.