Republicans have intensified their attacks against President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as they seek to establish a foothold against Democrats' first major win heading into 2022.
Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan on Thursday and the first batch of $1,400 checks began to go into people's bank accounts on Saturday.
GOP lawmakers, who voted in unison against the bill, are now gambling that they can tamp down the legislation’s popularity in the long term despite polls showing it garners approval, including from their own voters.
Republicans are trying to focus on provisions in the bill they hope will be damaging to Democrats and, at the same time, are seeking to accuse their opponents of attempting to take credit for an economic recovery they say began by the administration of former president Donald Trump.
“I’m not surprised that the American public's initial reaction to this, before they know what’s in it, would be positive. The thought of many Americans getting a $1,400 check, why would they not like that?” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during an interview with "PBS NewsHour."
“What they do not know is how much of the bill has nothing to do with the pandemic,” McConnell said. “The economy is just going to have a fabulous year. It has nothing to do with this massive Democratic wish list of items.”
According to a poll from Morning Consult and Politico, 75 percent of registered voters, including 59 percent of Republicans, support the legislation.
A Pew Research survey, on the other hand, put the support among Republicans lower, at 41 percent. It found a divide within the party showing that only 30 percent of conservatives support it in comparison with 61 percent of self-identified moderate or liberal Republicans.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the polls “a joke,” saying, “I mean, public polls are only as accurate as the people doing them, the methodology they use and all that stuff.
“There's a lot of, a trillion dollars of non-COVID stuff. When people find out about that, they're going to be outraged.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), also called the relief bill “a historic waste of money.”
The bill “not only puts our economy at risk of inflation but also reflects the increasingly liberal priorities of today’s Democrat Party,” Scott said in a statement.
Republicans’ criticism of the bill comes as the party will need to defend 20 Senate seats in 2022’s midterm elections, including two in states won by Biden, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.