Republicans Hope to Convince People Relief Bill Cutting Child Poverty in Half Is the Devil’s Work

On Thursday, less than two months after taking office, Joe Biden signed a historic $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill and shortly after that, a fresh round of stimulus checks will go out in the mail. In addition to direct cash payments—as well as aid to states and municipalities, health insurance subsidies, money for small businesses, $125 billion to bring kids back to schools, and $14 billion for vaccines and testing—expanded unemployment benefits and a 15% increase in food stamp benefits will be extended through September. Local and state governments will receive $20 billion to help low-income households with rent assistance, $10 billion to aid homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, and property taxes, and $5 billion to assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness, plus another $5 billion for those currently experiencing homelessness. Crucially, the legislation expands the child tax credit to $3,600 for each child under six and $3,000 for each child under 18, money that families will be able to receive monthly instead of as a lump sum once a year, in order to make it easier to pay bills. (For people without children, the bill nearly triples the earned income tax credit for workers and extends eligibility.) All in all, the bill will do a hell of a lot of good for people who’ve struggled both during the pandemic and before it started, and, according to experts, may cut child poverty in nearly half just on the basis of the expanded child tax credit. Which explains why it received exactly zero Republican support and why the GOP is hoping to convince people the legislation is the worst thing to happen to America since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

USA Today reports that Republicans—who, let’s be honest, are nostalgic for a time before child labor laws prevented robber barons from making soot-covered, malnourished five-year-olds sweep their chimneys from dusk till dawn—are preparing to make their opposition to a bill that, again, will lift millions of kids out of poverty, a major part of their 2022 pitch in congressional elections. Previewing the kind of lines they’ll trot out, Rep. Liz Cheney said this week, “This bill does far more harm than good, and the damage it does will only make our recovery efforts more difficult,” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the bill “a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic.” Conspicuously absent from their condemnation? The fact that (1) a majority of Americans—and nearly half of Republican voters—support the bill and (2) it is expected to disproportionately benefit their constituents. Per Reuters:

States that voted for former President Donald Trump in the November election are due to get a larger amount of education and child-care aid per resident than those that backed Biden, according to estimates from two congressional committees. Residents of Republican-leaning states, which tend to have lower household incomes, also are likely to get larger stimulus checks and tax breaks as well, according to an independent research group. That would be enough to offset the smaller share of state and local aid Trump-backing states are due to receive compared to states that backed Biden, which is calculated on a different basis. Overall, Republican-leaning states would get a net $3,192 per resident from these provisions, which account for slightly more than $1 trillion of the bill’s $1.9 trillion cost. Democratic-leaning states would get $3,160, according to a Reuters analysis.

Much of the aid is targeted at lower-income Americans who have suffered disproportionately during the coronavirus crisis. That helps low-wage, Republican-leaning states including Louisiana and Mississippi more than those in higher-income, Democratic-leaning states like Maryland and New Jersey…. Democrats have urged Republicans to back the bill on those grounds. “I call upon my Republican colleagues to stop their March madness and still have compassion for their constituents who are less than wealthy,” Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn said on Wednesday. But every Republican in the House and Senate voted against the bill, viewing it as overly expensive and poorly targeted.

Yes, voting against a bill that will do a significant amount of good for the people they represent seems like a strange strategy for Republicans but at least one GOP senator already has a plan for the inevitable questions re: why his party voted against things like expanded unemployment and enhanced child tax credit: bald-faced lies. Mississippi’s Roger Wicker knows what we’re talking about:

Before the House gave final approval to a $1.9 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday without any Republican support, Speaker Nancy Pelosi admonished Republicans for their opposition to the measure, declaring, “It’s typical that they vote no and take the dough.” As if to make her point, Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, tweeted approvingly just hours after the bill passed about the $28.6 billion included for “targeted relief” for restaurants. His post did not mention that he had voted no.

“I’m not going to vote for $1.9 trillion just because it has a couple of good provisions,” Wicker later told reporters which, yes, sounds exactly like what someone might say after getting caught trying to claim credit for something he voted down.

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