Republicans are touting benefits of $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill despite voting against it

Madison Cawthorn
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina) speaks on the House floor.

  • Republicans are touting benefits of the COVID-19 relief legislation they opposed in Congress.
  • Mitch McConnell said Republicans would have a “talk” with Americans about the bill’s issues.
  • Meanwhile, funding for healthcare and restaurants is being praised by some GOP members.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For months, Congressional Republicans have been unanimously opposed to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that was backed by President Joe Biden and signed into law in March.

The stimulus package, which included $1,400 direct stimulus payments for individuals, funding for state and local governments, $300 in federal unemployment aid through September, and an expansion of the child tax credit, among other measures, did not receive a single GOP vote of support in the House or Senate.

After the bill’s passage, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky slammed the legislation as “a classic example of big-government Democratic overreach in the name of Covid relief” and “one of the worst pieces of legislation” he’s seen in his 36 years in the Senate.

He also said the GOP would “talk repeatedly” to the American public about the true contents of the bill in the coming months.

However, some Republicans are now touting popular elements of the bill they railed against on Capitol Hill.

Conservative freshman GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina pointed to health funding in his district in a tweet last week, including nearly $2.5 million for the Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers and $4.6 million for Western North Carolina Community Health Services that was part of the legislation.

“Happy to announce that NC-11 was awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,” he wrote. “Proud to see tax-payer dollars returned to NC-11.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison took note of Hawthorn’s tweet and blasted the congressman and the GOP.

“Come’on man,” he wrote. “@RepCawthorn is trying to take credit for the grants HE VOTED AGAINST. Republicans have no shame.”

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

Cawthorn spokesman Micah Bock told NBC News in a statement last week that the congressman uses his social media account “to post information relevant to his constituents in NC-11.”

“Oftentimes this means providing relevant federal information on proposals that the congressman does not support,” he said. “There are portions of the American Rescue Plan that benefit NC-11, however, bills are not passed in portions, they are passed entirely or not at all, and this bill does significantly more harm than good.”

GOP Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi praised the billions in targeted funding for the restaurant industry that he championed – it was part the final package that he voted against.

“Independent restaurant operators have won $28.6 billion worth of targeted relief,” he tweeted after the bill passed. “This funding will ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic by helping to adapt their operations and keep their employees on the payroll.”

When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju why he didn’t support the full measure, Wicker said he didn’t have to accept the full measure and was critical of the questioning.

“Just because there’s one good provision in a $1.9 trillion bill, doesn’t mean I have to vote for it … I think it’s a stupid question. I’m not going to vote for $1.9 trillion just because it has a couple of good provisions in it.”

Congressional Republicans have currently found themselves boxed into a corner on the issue.

A Pew Research poll released shortly before the bill’s signing showed 70% of US adults backing the legislation, with only 28% of respondents opposed to the measure.

Even 41% of Republican or Republican-leaning respondents, a significant minority, backed the COVID-19 relief bill.

National GOP leaders have pledged to use the bill as a campaign attack against Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections, but nearly three dozen Republican mayors across the county, from David Holt of Oklahoma City to John Giles of Mesa, backed the legislation.

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New Trump rule could cost waiters more than $700 million in lost wages, allowing employers to take more of their tips to pay other workers

GettyImages 1225593339
A new Trump administration rule could cost tipped employees more than $700 million in lost wages each year.

  • A new rule published by the Department of Labor on Tuesday would allow restaurant owners to take employees’ tips to pay “back-of-the-house” workers, such as cooks and dishwashers.
  • An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that change could cost workers more than $700 million in lost wages.
  • The regulation also allows employers to required tipped employees to perform more “non-tipped” labor, such as cleaning.
  • “It’s really, really clear this is about the interests of corporate executives and shareholders,” Heidi Shierholz, an economist at EPI, told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new regulation rolled out in the final days of the Trump administration will allow restaurants to pull tips from their waitstaff to pay cooks in the back, putting more cash in the pockets of ownership while forcing front-of-the-house staff to do more work for less money.

Employers, to this point, have been allowed to pool tips and share them among employees who typically receive them; for example, servers giving a share of their earnings to hosts and bussers. The 148-page regulation put out Tuesday by the Department of Labor would expand that, allowing restaurants to pay the wages of prep cooks and dishwashers with money earned by those waiting tables.

The rule also does away with a so-called “80/20” rule: previously, tipped employees – who can earn as little as $2.13 an hour in wages from their employer – could not be asked to spend any more than 20 percent of their shift performing non-tipped work, like rolling silverware or cleaning the workplace. The new standard is “reasonable time” spent doing such things.

“It’s totally ambiguous and makes it extremely difficult to enforce,” Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the center-left Economic Policy Institute, told Business Insider.

The Trump administration’s stated purpose for rule is equality.

Cheryl Stanton, administration of the wage and hour division at the Department of Labor, said the rule “could increase pay for back-of-the-house workers, like cooks and dishwashers… reduc[ing] wage disparities among all workers who contribute to the customers’ experience.”

But this achieved not at the expense of those running the business but at the cost of others employed there.

In a 2019 analysis, EPI estimated that allowing employers to pocket workers’ tips would save the former more than $700 million a year – and cost the latter the same amount. That, and doing away with the “80/20″ rule,” would also encourage those employers to rely more heavily on tipped labor. Why pay cleaning staff the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour when tipped employees, who cost a fraction of that, can be asked to perform the job instead?

“It’s really, really clear this is about the interests of corporate executives and shareholders. Like that is what’s driving this,” Shierholz said. 

“If there really was a strong interest in reducing inequality and raising the wages of the lowest-paid workers, they would be pushing tooth and nail to raise the minimum wage,” Shierholz added.

Indeed, “there is a direct way to do this,” Shierholz argued, “instead of saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to raise the wages of the lowest-paid workers by taking from the wages of the second-lowest paid workers.'”

It is notable that it was not advocates for labor but rather their bosses that lobbied for the change. 

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president’s family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider

“The foodservice industry supports the department’s proposed rule,” lawyers for the Restaurant Law Center and the National Restaurant Association said last year when the change was being developed. They billed it as an act of deregulation – and end to bureaucrats “trying to micromanage restaurant work.”

The new rule, however, does not take effect for another 60 days – that is, until the next administration. It is possible, but not clear, that President-elect Joe Biden and his team could postpone its implementation while working to rescind it.

A spokesperson for the Biden-Harris transition team did not return a request for comment.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider