Republicans called Biden plan to build roads and bridges “socialism.” Then they said they needed money.
Republicans called Biden plan to build roads and bridges “socialism.” Then they said they needed money. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican from Minnesota, said that the newly passed infrastructure law was “President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar socialist wish list” in a statement he made last November.
Then, in June, Emmer, who was leading the attacks on Democrats for supporting the law as a House Republican campaign chairman, quietly put in his own wish.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Emmer strongly backed a grant of several million dollars to fix up a section of Highway 65 in his district. Emmer said that the work was important not just for the people in his district, but for people all over Minnesota. Accidents were killing people. There were huge delays because of all the traffic. Emmer also said, “This grant is also meant to promote social justice.”
CNN got Emmer’s letter when it asked for public records. It was one of many, including one from Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who changed his tone from saying that the law “uses fuzzy math and IOUs to hide the real cost” to telling Buttigieg, “As a former mayor, you know better than anyone how much time and money it takes to apply for highly competitive grants.”
Some of the people who wrote the letters are well-known critics of government spending, and others are in tight reelection races. For example, Florida Rep. Mara Elvira Salazar and California Rep. David Valadao, who, like Emmer, criticized the Biden law in public but then asked for money from it behind the scenes, are among the people who wrote the letters.
Most members haven’t talked about the letters they sent to the bill they didn’t like asking for money from it. When CNN asked many of them about their requests, they either didn’t answer or insisted that their requests were in line with their criticisms of the law.
In a statement from his office, Emmer used this argument to criticize the infrastructure bill for not spending more money on roads and bridges. He also said, “We’ll always answer the call to advocate for real infrastructure improvements in the Sixth District as part of smart spending practices.” (It wasn’t one of the grants that were given out last month.)
Some Republican members who opposed the law have already been criticized for praising projects made possible by it. These letters went a step further by going out of their way to argue for even more spending at home.
All of the letters are typed on the standard blue and white letterhead for the House and Senate. They are full of the graciousness and politeness of official government correspondence and don’t say anything about how they voted against the infrastructure law.
None cite “socialism” or “radical spending.” No one wrote a paragraph about how House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the law “rushed and irresponsible” or how Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called the Republicans who voted for it “traitors.” Members of the House and Senate often use the same words that they criticize Democrats for using, like “economic growth” and “sustainability,” in the letters they sign.
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona is one of the most vocal critics of Vice President Joe Biden. He voted against what he called a “phony” infrastructure bill and said in a statement, “This bill only serves to advance America First’s socialist agenda, while completely lacking fiscal responsibility.” Between March and July, he wrote three letters asking for projects in his district. Gosar wrote that they would make life better. They would make traffic less bad and help the economy. They would get rid of bottlenecks and make life in rural areas better.
Republicans in close re-election races want money for building roads and bridges.
Salazar signed two letters with other Democrats from the Miami area asking for more money to fix up the city’s ports. Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Republican, also signed both letters. He, like Salazar, did not vote for the infrastructure bill.
Valadao wrote a letter in favor of giving grants to five different projects. He said that these projects would make the economy more stable and reduce harmful emissions. Both of them were against the law on infrastructure. Both are running against strong Democrats in November.
Valadao turned down an interview request, but a spokesperson said that Valadao didn’t have to choose between opposing the infrastructure bill and asking for money from it for his district. The spokesperson said that Valadao wasn’t trying to get attention for this, but was just trying to help groups in his district.
“There is money. That’s the world we live in,” the spokesperson, who didn’t want to be named, told CNN. He blamed his vote against the bill on inflation and Democrats who failed in their attempt to link the infrastructure bill to President Joe Biden’s larger Build Back Better spending bill (some provisions of which were later included in the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August). “Was everything bad? No. But that was how things were at the time.”
Salazar pushed for some of the money that has been given. So far, none of the grants Valdao wrote about have been given.
Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson has been pushing for even more money. She has already been criticized by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for promoting the $829 million that went to locks and dams along the Upper Mississippi. She did this after calling the infrastructure law a “socialist spending spree.” Hinson sent seven letters to the Department of Transportation asking for grants. In many of the letters, she said that the grants were “vital” or “essential” and that they would affect the daily lives of everyone in the community.
“We’re not going to try to be jerks about it,” said Buttigieg.
Oregon Rep. Pete DeFazio, who is the chair of the House Infrastructure Committee and one of the Democrats who worked hard on the bill, didn’t like hearing about the letters.
“They’re riding on our backs even though they don’t agree with these things. And I think that should have consequences,” DeFazio told CNN outside the Capitol last month, comparing the letters to Republican members who talked about how the American Rescue Plan helped small businesses in their districts, even though no Republicans voted for it. “But, like the Obama administration, the current administration is too fair.”
Buttigieg said that he and other officials were doing what the President told them to do, which was to make sure that politics and votes didn’t affect how the money was given out.
Buttigieg said, “We’re not going to try to be jerks about it.” “We also won’t be shy about letting people know who was on our side and who was against us.”