Just hours after Congress approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Wednesday, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) took to Twitter to praise part of the bill, despite voting against it.
Wicker tweeted that “independent restaurant operators have won $28.6 billion of targeted relief” due to the approval of the big spending measure, which will likely get Biden’s signature by the end of the week.
“This funding will ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic by helping to adapt their operations and keep their employees on the payroll,” he added.
Wicker and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) authored the bipartisan amendment that would provide the $28.6 billion for restaurants that struggled to stay open during the pandemic. The grant program offers debt-free support to bars and restaurants and helps cover common expenses like payroll and rent and utilities.
The inclusion of the amendment in the final draft of the bill, however, wasn’t enough for the Mississippi lawmaker, as Wicker ultimately rejected the legislation.
“I’m not going to vote for $1.9 trillion just because it has a couple of good provisions,” he told reporters.
Wicker received pushback for his tweet, with social media goers accusing him of taking credit for the bill’s passage and success, as he was part of the GOP effort to vote against the package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted such an instance earlier in the week, insisting that Republicans will reject the package and then champion their credit for it.
“In any event, all of it excellent. All of it fair. All of it an opportunity for us to grow the economy by investing in the people for the people,” Pelosi said at a news conference, referring to the legislation. “And I might say for our Republican colleagues who—they say no to the vote, and they show up at the ribbon-cuttings or the presentations.”
Conor Dowling, an associate professor of political science at the University of Mississippi, noted that “members of Congress often engage in ‘credit claiming,’ especially for legislation—or aspects of legislation—they had a hand in. In this case, Senator Wicker was part of the bipartisan effort for the Restaurants Act, so I assume his office wanted to make sure his constituents didn't lose sight of the fact that he played a role in that aspect of the relief package even though he didn't vote for the relief package in its entirety. This might come across as opportunistic or hypocritical, but it seems Senator Wicker's office felt any potential blowback was worth the risk.”
Dowling also pointed to public opinion polling that indicated that a significant amount of Americans, including some Republicans, have voiced support for Biden’s relief plan, and that “there’s likely more bipartisan support for the relief package—or at least specific aspects of it—than is reflected in the final vote in the House and Senate.”
“No Republican member of Congress voted for the relief package, which signals that it was a party-line decision to not support it on final passage. I would think many, perhaps most, Republican members of Congress support certain aspects of the relief package—and might even indicate their support publicly at some point in time like Senator Wicker. If they do so, they'll be making the calculation that they can claim credit for what they like about it, but still be able to claim [or] signal they were opposed to the legislation overall,” Dowling said.
Several Democrats condemned Wicker for his tweet since he voted against the measure, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, who said, “Seriously? Seriously?! Y’all have no damn shame! Senator, YOU voted against the bill! Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt!”
And at one point “You Voted No” started trending on Twitter.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.